Can my marriage be saved? Seven Things you Should Know About Healing After Infidelity

Posted On: Monday, August 24, 2015

The recent media coverage of the Ashley Madison debacle has left a lot of spouses reeling with fear and apprehension, as it punctuates how devastating the discovery of an affair can be. While infidelity is not new, the Internet provides endless "opportunities" for distraction; and as a result acts of betrayal are becoming more and more common every day. If you discover that your spouse or partner may be involved with someone else, here are some things to consider.

How Do I Know If This Is Infidelity?
Infidelity can take many forms. Becoming emotionally involved with someone other than your spouse can be just as devastating to a marriage as having an extramarital sexual relationship. If it feels like betrayal, then it feels very real to you; and you and your partner need to work through it.

How Do I Deal With The Hurt And Pain?
Once infidelity is discovered, it can leave you with a sense of inexplicable loss and confusion. Spouses often share that in that one instant of discovery everything they believed to be true is gone. The mind goes into shock as it attempts to make sense of this incomprehensible act of unfaithfulness.

When you first learn of an affair, the mind and the body need time to process what it has discovered. One becomes flooded with emotions that include rage, humiliation, hopelessness, and anxiety. This is NOT the time to be making any life changing decisions about your life or your marriage. It's a time to work through the powerful feelings you are having. This is not an ordeal you should go through alone.

Relationships can survive and even thrive after the discovery of infidelity. But in the aftermath, like any other injury you may sustain, the mind and the heart need care and time to heal.

First and foremost, seek help and guidance from someone who specializes in working with couples and infidelity.

Denial Won't Heal Your Relationship.
It's not uncommon for the partner who has had the affair to want things to return to "normal." They have made the choice to end the other relationship; and they want to move past it. Infidelity is often a symptom of other underlying problems either within the relationship or within the partner who has chosen to seek comfort and intimacy outside of the marriage. Hurt and pain left unaddressed will only create resentment and detachment. It's important to talk through it, acknowledge the hurt and pain it has caused, and make sense of how it could have happened.

The Mind And Heart Conflict.
Conflicting thoughts like, "I want him out of here" and "I love him so much" create confusion about what to do next. Friends are telling you to kick him to the curb. But they're not feeling what you are feeling. Partners oftentimes cycle through a multitude of fears and doubts. The most common ones are, "I will never trust her again. " Or, "Can our marriage survive this?" Or, "Do I want our marriage to survive this?" These feelings are all very normal. But you need time to work through them.

Can Our Relationship Survive This?
Studies of survival rates after infidelity vary; but most are optimistic. Some studies suggest that couples who seek marriage counseling for infidelity issues have the same probability of success as those who attend therapy for other marital conflicts that don't involve infidelity. The couples who are most likely to survive this are the ones who truly want to be together and are willing to do the work it takes to make their marriage whole again.

How Can I Ever Trust Again?
The spouse who has made the discovery often searches for some guarantee that this will never happen again. The idea of going through this kind of pain and anguish a second time can seem unfathomable. It's common to become vigilant and wonder if the other relationship is truly over. There appears to be nothing that your partner can say that can reassure you. But ... the couples who have the greatest chance of rebuilding trust and thriving after an affair are the ones who are willing to turn towards each other and do the work. This means being willing to look at the relationship and each other with introspection, reflection, and honesty. Honesty and transparency are key to re-creating trust and developing secure attachment and true sexual and emotional intimacy.

Sometimes Good People Make Bad Choices.
It's very difficult to look at your spouse in quite the same way after you've discovered that he or she has been lying and deceiving you. It's easier to make sense of an act like infidelity by demonizing your partner. The thought of turning towards someone who has hurt you so badly can sometimes feel like an impossible task. The truth is sometimes good people make very bad choices. It doesn't make them bad people; it just makes them human. Most of the time, infidelity happens because both of you have stopped taking care of the relationship. Caring and nurturing shifts to children and careers; and the importance of your relationship takes a back seat to everything else.

Sometimes it takes an event like infidelity to make you see how important you are to each other. So when, you ask the question, "How will we ever survive this?" Remember that sometimes from the most incredible pain, comes growth and happiness.

Dr. Laura Richter is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist who works with individuals, couples, and families. Her specialties include: surviving infidelity, improving communication, beginning again after divorce and effective co-parenting after divorce. She is also a trained mediator, qualified parenting coordinator and collaborative law mental health professional. For more information, please call or text us today at 561-715-6404 to schedule a consultation to see how we can help.