What is infidelity? Is it to realize that your partner is having a sexual affair? Is it to discover that your spouse is romantically attracted to another person? Or is it to find out that your partner is actively participating in sex chat rooms?
Infidelity can play out in different ways, and it may have different meanings for each of us. What all unfaithful acts have in common is that an underlying promise is broken. The promise of remaining emotionally or sexually faithful to the other person in the relationship.
So, what happens once that promise of faithfulness is broken and our trust towards the other person is crushed? Is there a way to recover from the damages of infidelity and save the relationship?
This article will explore the underlying causes of betrayal and how we can rebuild the trust in your relationship.
Can You Recover From an Affair?
Infidelity can be a devastating and even a traumatic experience. Many relationships cannot survive a betrayal, and the consequences of these acts can extend far beyond the couple and touch their children, family members, and close friends.
Infidelity is the tip of the iceberg to other underlying and unresolved issues. Sometimes, it is not until cheating happens, that partners may start to wonder about the “why” behind those behaviours.
For many betrayed people, one of the most pressing questions that come to mind is “will I be able to recover from this infidelity?” “Would I be able to trust my spouse or partner again?”.
On the other hand, the unfaithful person may wonder whether his or her partner would be able to forgive and trust again.
If you would like to know whether recovering from an affair is possible, that the answer is a “YES, but…”. This “but” is important. Healing emotional wounds is not a quick nor an easy process, it requires work.
Many couples want quick fixes for their relationship, and when these do not occur, they give up. So, yes recovering from infidelity is possible, but please be aware that both people have to be committed to work in the relationship and respect their own times.
The Underlying Issues Must Be Addressed
One of the key elements to start healing from infidelity is understanding the root cause that led one partner to cheat. Affairs do not happen “just because,” instead, it is always the result of an unaddressed relational or, sometimes, personal issue.
Let’s explain these two aspects a little bit more.
Sometimes couples go through a rough patch, in which the initial love spark fades away, life gets busier and messier. Partners start to divert the attention from the relationship into more “pressing things”: work, children, friends in need, colleagues, other family members, etc.
Indeed, it is unrealistic to meet another person’s emotional needs or sexual desires 100% of the time. Still, when this dismissive practice becomes a daily habit extended over a prolonged period, it is common for a marriage or a relationship to stumble.
Partners may start to harbor feelings of anger, bitterness, dissatisfaction, frustration, or vengeance. This tends to escalate into ongoing fights or emotional disengagement.
While some people may use healthy coping skills to deal with these emotions, others may resort to unhealthy coping methods, such as substance abuse, gambling, or cheating.
There are times in which infidelity is the response to an underlying personal issue, such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, or a personality disorder. In these cases, the situation becomes trickier for the betrayed partner, as people experiencing these types of mental health issues usually become more self-centered, irritable, and judgmental.
Meeting the high and demanding needs of a person experiencing mental health issues may feel like an impossible task to accomplish. This situation may push either partner to seek other people to meet their emotional needs or sexual desires.
Helpful Steps To Heal From an Affair
Believing again in your partner after they cheated is far from easy. Whether you are thinking of putting an end to a relationship or trying to make things work, healing from an affair is essential. Otherwise, you may find yourself carrying grudges and open emotional wounds that not only may affect your relationships but other areas of your life.
Below we want to offer you affair recovery steps that can start implementing right now:
Remember, cheating does not happen in a vacuum. It occurs out of deep frustration, disappointment, anger, unmet needs, change of priorities, or failed expectations affecting the relationship. Unfortunately, many couples choose to live in denial. Instead, they may engage in blame games over minor details (i.e., who does the dishes, picks up the kids at school, earns more money, etc.).
Recovery requires putting aside all this cycle of petty blaming and creating space to have honest, deeper, and raw conversations about the relationship.
For example, have you or your partner’s expectations about the other person changed? Is either of you having different priorities in your life? Are you or your partner’s emotional needs not been met? Are you or your partner no longer interested in your sexual life?
Words are not enough when they are not followed by actions that back them up. Sometimes, the road to rebuilding a marriage or a relationship is hindered when the unfaithful partner does not change his or her behavior. In these cases, trust is broken and over and over again.
For a genuine apology to occur, the unfaithful person needs to be willing not only to apologize but to display behavior consistent with the apology. Likewise, the betrayed spouse needs to be opened to forgive and trust again.
Depending on each case, forgiveness and repairing the damage that has been done can take a while. It is normal that at the very beginning, the betrayed spouse may feel skeptical or suspicious about her or his partner until s/he does not start to see real change happening in the other person.
Couples Therapy (Marriage counselling)
Relationships are complex. Regardless of our best intention to “fix things,” it is hard to know how to overcome painful circumstances. We have been discussing the underlying issue of infidelity and how to heal relationships after an affair. But often, couples do not even know where or how to start this process.
You may be wondering, “how can I forgive my spouse if I cannot even be close to that person?” “How can I talk to my partner without triggering a fight?” “How can I express my needs without been silenced?” “How can I create space of communication if that is not usual in our culture?” Sometimes it is hard to find answers to these questions.
Seeking professional help from a couple therapist or a marriage counsellor can be a great resource to receive guidance, support, and insights into how to rebuild your relationship.
Healing & Moving Forward
Earlier in this article, we raised the question of whether you could recover from infidelity? While the answer is Yes, this does not mean that you will erase the past and act as if nothing has happened. That is not true healing.
As with death or grief, an infidelity is an event that may shake our stability and worldview more profoundly. The person who was supposed to love us, protect us, and make us feel safe, becomes the person who stabbed us in the back. That is a type of loss. It is common for the betrayed person to grieve the loss of the loving relationship that existed in the past but has become strange and harmful.
As with death, we cannot “delete” infidelity. We cannot erase the past, but we can learn to integrate challenging events into our lives in a way that allows us to move forward. The key to achieve this is forgiveness.
Reconnection and Acceptance.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, but accepting that cheating was a past experience, and now it is time to focus on the future. For some couples, that would imply starting to spend more time together away from work and others. For others, it would mean to begin to have fun, playful, or even adventurous experiences. And, for others, it may imply creating better boundaries to have quality time as a couple and time to develop personal interests.
Every couple’s journey is different. While some couples may need more quiet time to relax, others may need more adrenaline to revive the relationship. The essential aspect of healing is to find what makes you regain intimacy with your partner and regularly cultivate those practices.
Remember, while some circumstances may encourage a person to betray their spouse or partner, infidelity is always a choice. You should not be blaming yourself for being betrayed nor minimizing your partners’ unfaithfulness. Infidelity is harmful, but there is always room to grow as a couple and repair the damage that has been done.
If you are going through a rough patch in your relationship and you want to work things out, couples counselling may be a great option for you and your partner. This is especially beneficial for couples who want to make progress but are getting nowhere despite their efforts, or do not even know how to begin their healing journey.
If you want more information about how we can help you, do not hesitate to book a free 15-mins phone consultation with us.
*Final Note: please be mindful that the purpose of this article is to offer guidelines for marriages or couples who want to recover from an affair, but are not involved in abusive relationships. On some occasions, infidelity occurs along with physical, sexual, or psychological abuse. if you are being abused or threatened by your partner, please seek immediate help by reaching out to your local emergency phone number, or a domestic violence hotline number!
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