Extramarital affairs, as common as they unfortunately are, typically blindside both the spouse and the unfaithful partner. Most report that they would never have thought they could do such a thing, or that their partner would. It’s easy to miss the cue that we have an emotional void inside which leaves us vulnerable. Truthfully, we simply do not realize the extent to which we must guard and fight for our marriages and committed relationships.
The root cause for affairs comes down to one thing — looking for love in all the wrong places. It’s our natural tendency to reactively look outside of ourselves for fulfillment when it must originate from within. Paradoxically, when we nurture the relationship within ourselves first, this is when we attract and create the right relationship. Usually, we learn this through the school of hard knocks, which explains why I see so many crushed couples coming in after the revelation of an affair. It’s the WAKE UP CALLmany need in order to begin the difficult and exciting process of working on oneself and gaining wisdom on how to create love that lasts and grows.
There is hope for couples facing infidelity. The Key is EFFORT, HONEST COMMUNICATION, PATIENCE and WILLINGNESS TO GROW! When an affair becomes discovered it often serves as the beginning of a vital growing and healing process, for each individual partner and for the relationship itself. Many come out of the infidelity crisis stronger and more committed. While I don’t recommend affairs, a majority actually survive the affair.
You are not necessarily with the wrong person when you or your spouse have an affair.
IT’S ALL A MIRROR. The most important key to healing from an affair is to realize that whatever issues you each face in the relationship, whatever lack or challenge or frustration, these are a reflection of where you need to grow in order to be happier, more fulfilled, and the best version of yourself. We have an incredible and inherent capacity to heal, move forward, and start a new chapter.
That being said, not all marriages can survive the breech of trust, the hurt, and lies, particularly for those marriages where problems have been whittling away at the foundation for years. Sometimes it is just too late and/or there is not enough desire to put in the effort. Every person responds differently to betrayal.
Overall, it’s recommended for couples to: Talk openly and honestly, Be vulnerable with each other, Be willing to grow and change, Commit to a new and better relationship, Invest in and prioritize the relationship, Learn what went wrong, Understand their partner, Understand one self, Realize this pain is here as a wake up call to help you grow and be happier.
Healing from an affair: Dos and Don’ts
FOR THE UNFAITHFUL PARTNER: DO
- Take Responsibility and be accountable for the hurt you caused - in words and actions. Own it! Express your willingness to do whatever it takes. It’s tempting to blame, but now is not the time to point out your partner’s shortcomings.
- Feel the pain you have caused and show your remorse
- Allow your spouse to talk about the situation, ask questions, share feelings. Your spouse will always want to talk about it more than you will. Ask him or her what helps the most.
- Be patient. It’s hard to move on when you’ve been betrayed. It’s a huge loss, tends to turn your world upside down and take you on a roller coaster of emotions and racing thoughts. Don’t rush him/her. Encourage him or her to seek a therapist to help calm the emotional storm.
- Be willing to be honest - Often it is the lying that is more damaging than the sexual or emotional behavior. The willingness to be honest heals and restores trust and builds hope for honesty in the future.
- Allow full access to all passwords, phones, Facebook, etc.
- Get to know your self. Discover why you were so unhappy, what made you vulnerable to an affair, what fears and insecurities do you have, where did you conceal and not face your unhappiness, where do you need to grow.
- Seek individual and marriage counseling or spiritual guidance to help you with your inner struggles and growth, with your relationship issues and to explore your upbringing and how that may have impacted your view of yourself and expectation of marriage.
- Open up and be vulnerable with your spouse regarding what you are learning and realizing about your mistakes, your weaknesses and strengths, your fears and insecurities, your dreams and desires.
- Forgive yourself; overcome your guilt and shame. While feeling the pain you have caused is key, your continued guilt and lack of self forgiveness will only hold you back and keep your partner stuck. It’s good to show your remorse to your spouse and continue to do so, but internally be careful of holding on to the second stab of guilt. Okay, you made a mistake, a big one, that’s in the past. Now, NEXT …
- Learn to love and accept your self; be accountable for your own happiness. Learn how you might have been giving your power away, seeking something outside yourself, someone outside your marriage to fill an emptiness, whether that be needing validation or appreciation, from needing more attention to feel worthy, from a dependency on feeling sexually desired. Empower the most important relationship you have, within yourself. This will put you in the best position to receive the most from your restored relationship.
- Blame your spouse or circumstances
- Conceal your remorse or run from your pain
- Avoid talking and listening
- Rush or pressure to move on
- Keep hiding the truth when asked
- Protect your electronic privacy
- Stay the same
- Do it on your own
- Get stuck in guilt and shame
- Keep looking for love outside yourself
FOR THE ONE BETRAYED: DO
- Ride and calm your own emotional storm. Amidst the devastation and roller coaster of insecurities and emotions, it’s important to be as proactive as you can be to take good care of your self and to engage in that which soothes you as much as possible. Whatever practices you have that elevate you, center you, calm you - whether that be with your partner or not - now is the time to create a safe haven for yourself. No matter what happens around us or to us, the more we take responsibility for our feelings and our life, the more empowered and happier we feel - in the long run. Be of service to someone else. Even if just for 5 minutes a day. The best way to help yourself and connect to your essence is to help someone else. This will help you gain clarity in the process.
- Understand your unfaithful partner. Many become instantly obsessed with wanting to know WHY and HOW COULD S/HE (for which a rational explanation is often difficult to absorb or be satisfied with). While this compulsive thinking can be destructive, it can be helpful in healing to begin a process of understanding your partner. The sooner you can have empathy and understand what your partner is struggling with, or needs to overcome, the more quickly you will gain some detachment and perspective. The more we resist the pull of victim consciousness, the more we can lift ourselves out of the darkness and begin the healing process.
- Seek self-understanding and personal growth. We are built with blind spots. We are here to engage in a process removing that which blocks us from real love. Though you are not responsible for the actions of your spouse or mate, the sooner we can open ourselves to what this pain is here to teach us, then the recovery process accelerates in quantum measure. It’s important to understand what your attachment issues are, your insecurities and fears, and how they express themselves and block you in your life and relationship. Knowledge is the connection to our real selves and connecting to our real selves is our most important relationship.
- Make a wise decision. Typically it’s best to wait and not make a reactive decision. It’s hard to imagine when just starting the healing process how emotions can change and the dynamics can transform throughout the process. It’s hard to give a statistic of how many marriages recover, due to the variety of types of affairs, individual differences in how each person responds to betrayal, upbringing and values around marriage, and the foundation of the relationship at the time of the affair. That being said, more relationships survive than don't, and many grow stronger. Many factors come into play and there are some important questions to ask oneself.
- Embrace self-forgiveness and ultimately Forgive your unfaithful partner. We are here to make mistakes, to learn from them and grow. We also benefit from a mindset where we are never truly victims. Using whatever happens in our lives as a chance to grow afford us with the gift of living as an empowered and creative soul, versus the effect at the mercy of our environment. Forgiveness is not an easy task, but once the boulder of blame is removed from our back, the heaviness of many other painful emotions lifts as well.
DON'T, at least do your best not to ...
- Dwell obsessively on how you were wronged.
- Run from your pain.
- Blame yourself. This is different from taking responsibility.
- Think it's weak to ask for help, especially when the betrayal triggers old wounds.
- Keep your feelings inside.
- Ignore the emptiness inside yourself because it is too painful or you feel too weak.
- Talk to the wrong people about your woes. Better to not seek out those who keep agreeing with you and amplifying our resentment by egging you on.
- Idealize the past. Obsessing over the good times that are gone.
- Believe the ego voice when it says you are unworthy.