Is It Possible to Recover After an Affair?
The short answer is “yes”. Many relationships work through and survive an affair. Many even learn how to thrive after it’s over. However, in that time immediately after the affair, there can be a great deal of hopelessness and fear. In fact, without guidance, this hopelessness can even last for several years, seeping into discussions and emotions.
The following rules can help you move away from hurt, anxiety and fear, and towards a connected, close relationship.
Rule #1: Give yourself a break.
In so much of the work that I’ve done with clients, many struggle because they are struggling with the affair. It’s not only understandable to struggle…it’s standard. Don’t be hard on yourself in the struggle that you’re in. Give yourself time and space when you need it. You don’t have to make decisions today about whether or not you can stay in the relationship. Take care of yourself.
Rule #2: Both people have the right to boundaries.
Anger is an understandable part of the grief process. This doesn’t mean that there is free reign to hurt the other person as much as you are hurting. Here is where support, time, and space are critical. Also, this is where mindfulness is critical as well. Knowing how you are feeling, and taking responsibility for your feelings can help your relationship grow. Many times there is so much hurt by the one who has been cheated on that there is a fighting back with insults, name-calling, and even physical attacks. Although couples can, and do recover from these interactions, it’s best to stay away from them as much as possible. Remember, if you want your relationship to work, you need to have trust on both sides. Find healthy support systems to help you, so that you have a place to vent your anger and hurt. This will help you reach your goal of reconnection.
Rule #3: Remember what you appreciate about your partner.
This may come some time after discovery of the affair, but remember why it is that you’re staying in the relationship. There can be flashes of pain that is associated with the affair, which can come out of nowhere. Remembering the old connective tissue that held you two together in the past, can be extremely challenging. However, it can be extremely valuable as well.
Rule #4: Build dreams:
While time passes and the intensity of the wounds are healing, building life dreams is important. This brings back a sense of togetherness into the relationship. The following questions can help with this:
- What do you both want out of your relationship?
- What do you both want for yourselves?
- How do these things line up with each other?
You can then work together to make the overlap come true. This work promotes you working together again in your relationships, towards a common goal. Building dreams also brings some attention to positives in your relationship, when negatives can take center stage.
Rule #5: Build tolerance to vulnerability
Snooping and secret keeping are common for those who have been cheated on. The unknowing of what might happen in the future and if there is more hidden information to discover can make you feel like you’re crawling out of your skin. This is a difficult process for many. However, it can impede on you building true connection with your partner. This is not to say that it won’t take time to heal, but for those who report the most happiness in their relationships, they report learning to tolerate vulnerability. They recognize that they aren’t in control of their partner’s choices and behavior. And they feel somewhat liberated by giving this up.
Remember that recovering from an affair is a delicate process. Some days you’ll feel like you’re taking giant steps forward, and others you’ll wonder why you’re in the relationship that you’re in. Although it can take a lot of work, it’s very possible to rebuild after an affair.