Photo Credit:Golden Boat” by Abhishek Jacob is licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0.

Recovering from Infidelity

There are few things in a relationship so painful as the experience of infidelity. Reaching outside the relationship for physical or emotional connection can take many forms but all of them can feel overwhelming and devastating. In order to heal from these experiences, it often requires deep levels of understanding from both partners and help from a trusted & highly-trained professional.

In addition to things like apologizing and changing behaviors, there are at least three things that couples can expect to experience in the process of working to heal from infidelity.

1. EVERYONE EXPERIENCES INFIDELITY DIFFERENTLY

In any experience of infidelity, it’s important for partners to understand that the way they each feel about it will be vastly different from one another. Regardless of how the infidelity came to light, the partner that reached outside of the relationship will have lived with full knowledge of what happened. This means that this partner will have had time to process their decisions, to try to come up with reasons, and even to come to terms with their own pain. They will already have had time to grieve.

For the partner who feels betrayed, however, their experience of the infidelity will be quite different. It could be devastating and crisis-inducing. This was not a gradual reveal but a shock that impacts the entire system. It is brand new and these partners often have no suspicion of any unfaithfulness. Realizing this can be intense and traumatic.

Openly and honestly acknowledging the discrepancies in how partners experience infidelity is a vital first step for couples in working towards resolution.

2. GIVING PERMISSION TO FEEL

Just as both partners will experience infidelity differently, each will have a range of emotions that will fluctuate frequently. In the early stages, it is possible that this will happen many times a day. It is important that partners allow each other permission to experience these emotions. This can be harder than it seems. The partner who feels betrayed will experience a great number of difficult emotions. They are hurting and rightfully so. Sometimes they feel the need to seek revenge, to humiliate the person who hurt them so badly. Even if the partner who was unfaithful is apologetic, the betrayed partner often feels the desire to attack them. Such apologies may be genuine but can seem to have little effect. It is such a difficult tension to navigate.

More difficult still is for the partner was does feel betrayed to allow the unfaithful partner to experience their own emotions. Often, the unfaithful partner will feel guilt and embarrassment. It can be tempting to continue to heap on more of the same. While the betrayed partner sometimes feels a sense of momentary gratification, it is rarely helpful in the process of healing,

For both partners, granting permission for the other to feel whatever emotions that may be surfacing is an important step towards healing. There are no timelines or prescriptions in these situations. The emotions that surface are natural and shouldn’t be ignored. So, if you’re willing and able to in the face of infidelity, try to grant a little grace to one another. In the face of this dramatic emotional upheaval, resilient couples are able to see beyond the infidelity.

3. SEE BEYOND BLAME

Contrary to what many people think, blame is often not that helpful in resolving a problem — especially one as complex around infidelity. Again, it can take some time for the betrayed partner to be able to get to this place. Adopting a non-blaming stance, though, can be vital for partners working through their experiences. This is not to say that the person who was unfaithful to the relationship is off-the-hook. But to understand how all of this came to happen in the first place, it’s important to keep everything on the table. When working to heal from infidelity, everything matters.

As they embark on this examination process, many couples report that the infidelity actually started years before. Maybe there was a process of falling out of love or a slowly building sense of disconnection. Some talk about distractions from the relationship like intense demands at work or with the kids and how there was little time left to nurture the relationship itself. In some cases, couples even connect their infidelity to experience from their own childhoods that created some lingering or unresolved needs. Whatever you find out, in order to understand it and to keep it from happening in the future, it’s important to be able to talk about it in a non-blaming way

Healing from infidelity is hard work that involves commitment and trust. It involves simultaneously holding your own personal grief, pain, shame, or pride while working to understand the characteristics of your relationship. Often, it requires the guidance of a professional with specific training in working with couples issues.

This post was first shared on the Yetman Counseling Services Blog on June 18, 2017. Check it out for more posts about relationships, love, and improving your life.

Healing from infidelity is hard work that involves commitment and trust. It involves simultaneously holding your own personal grief, pain, shame, or pride while working to understand the characteristics of your relationship. Often, it requires the guidance of a professional with specific training in working with couples issues.