There is nothing more devastating to a marriage than an affair, including an emotional one. Discovered or not, it forever changes the relationship prior to the affair. If it goes on in secret, the straying spouse is not looking at home to get his or her needs met. The marriage becomes a charade, losing any shred of authenticity. When it is discovered, it can feel like a tornado has ripped through the home. Both partners feel that nothing can ever be the same. And they are right. It can get better.
This is hard to imagine if you’re the one who has been betrayed. Rage, recriminations, and trauma are the normal emotional reactions to the discovery. Once the ground has settled and the shock has been processed by both of you, you may want to try to work things out and stay together. You have a history. You have children. You have a life you’ve built. And the truth is, you may feel as if somewhere deep inside you still love each other.
The cheating partner has to experience true repentance
Perhaps you can do this yourself, or you may need a professional counselor to get you through this. For things to get better the straying spouse needs to be truly remorseful, empathetic and understanding of how you feel, listening over and over until you believe he or she gets what it feels like.
Bring the hurtful truths on the table
But after a while, there comes a time to give up shame and blame. No attack and counter-attack as that will lead you straight to the divorce court. Both spouses will need to share hurtful, but none-the-less honest feelings that should have been said long before the affair started. Things like:
- I don’t feel comfortable having sex with you. I don’t feel you really want me.
- I’m overwhelmed with my job and resent all the money you spend on unnecessary things.
- I lay next to you at night, staring at the ceiling, and feeling so lonely.
- I feel like you always put the kids before me, and it hurts.
- I want to feel like when we first got together…remember?
These are the kinds of things that need to be explored by both partners, in order to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself. Rather than recoil from the uncomfortable truths, the both of you need to process them and empathize with each other. Learn from each other. Learn how to give what you didn’t know he wanted. The obvious victim here is the betrayed spouse, but there is a lot going on for the cheater as well. He or she often feels shame, guilt, grief, and self-disgust. He or she needs empathy and validation as well, two key components to heal from the affair.
The communication glitch
Lack of communication is really what started the whole thing and frayed the connection until it broke. You became strangers. If you’re willing to throw pride to the winds and communicates your needs on the deepest possible level. You can learn from the pain, stretch into the truth, and grow stronger both as individuals and a brand new couple.