During the holiday season my clients often choose to:
1. overlook an affair that they know is occurring, or
2. come to a realization that the affair they are having either needs to stop or something needs to change in their relationship but decide to “table it” until the new year.
So here it is, January. The season for resolutions and re-evaluation.
Cheating can unleash devastating consequences on a couple. Yet over half of married couples decide to weather the damage together rather than split up. Unfortunately, the healing process doesn’t happen overnight, and even the most committed couples can get waylaid by hurt feelings, paralyzing guilt, and resentment. So, what are the steps for the future?
First, you must decide if you want to continue your relationship. It is possible to move on and rebuild after infidelity. The immediate response after discovering a spouse’s affair is commonly disbelief, anger, sadness, loss or grief. Or, you have had an affair and you are taking a look at “why” the infidelity occurred.
Start by getting the secrets out in the open. Telling the other partner what was lacking in the relationship might help explain why the partner strayed. In a survey of 1,083 spouses whose partners had affairs, trust,
an often underlying issue after an affair – was more likely to be rebuilt when the couple thoroughly discussed the situation.
Second, face the emotions and heal. If you were cheated on, try to face the pain and then move on. If you cheated, face the anger or restlessness and move on as well. It can take several years before the betrayed spouse is ready to even consider forgiveness, even if the partner who cheated begs for it.
Third, look beyond assigning blame, and evaluate the history of your marriage or relationship and to pinpoint the roots of the infidelity. During this time avoid making major decisions. Hold off, at least for a reasonable period. In my experience as a clinician I have never seen anyone fully recover from an affair in less than two years.
Next, is the time to make some decisions about staying together, or letting go and moving on. During this phase there can be mutual empathy for each other with either hope for the future if you decide you want to stay together or a decision to call it quits.
Research shows it takes an average two years to heal from the pain of an affair. Most people hate hearing this because the desire to want to feel better quickly is so powerful.
In the end you and your partner can fight for the relationship, learn and grow – or choose to become bitter and negative and ultimately divorce or leave. The situation comes down to choice, neither of which is an easy one.
Dr Lisa Webb is at the Body & Mind Consulting Associates Group: www.bodymindtn.com.
Her latest book:
“Boardroom to Bedroom, Using your Executive Success for your Marriage” is available at www.amazon.com