Are you hurting badly now and wondering whether infidelity pain will ever go away? Are you concerned about what life will be like after you heal?
This is not unusual. This, or some form of this line of thinking, is a concern both hurt and unfaithful partners share. This is particularly true for couples who are trying to heal and go back to normal.
Even that very word, “normal,” can be triggering. So many questions and concerns come up for couples:
- Will we ever go back to normal?
- Does the old normal even make sense anymore?
- Am I always going to have to be alert, even when things feel more normal?
- Are we always going to have that memory taint our relationship?
- What if we do go back to normal…
- Does that mean we’re not going to talk about it?
- Does it mean I’ll have to stop bringing it up?
- Does it mean my partner will feel it’s okay/he or she is forgiven/excused?
These are BIG questions, real questions.
So, to help get some answers, I talked things through with a guest therapist.
The Aftermath of the Aftermath: What to Expect from Life After Healing from Infidelity
To share her point of view on life after infidelity recovery, Yael Haklai-Neagu, a senior therapist in my practice, met with me again. A licensed marriage and family therapist on my team of experts, she specializes in couples therapy and affair recovery. Yael is also a certified hypnotherapist. She helps individuals recover from infidelity trauma using her hypnotherapy skills.
The last time I interviewed Yael, we specifically discussed how hypnotherapy helps reduce the symptoms of betrayal PTSD that interfere with individual and relationship healing. The response to that discussion was overwhelmingly positive.
Recently, Yael reached out to me to talk again. She noticed that questions about life after affair recovery kept coming up for our clients.
Essentially, clients were anxious about the unknown life after the healing process. Having worked through the infidelity coaching program, they’d grown accustomed to a sense of progress and productivity in their communication and relationship recovery. After the program or therapy was over, however, they began to succumb to the feeling of “now what?” It seemed that the process of working towards healing as a couple provided a sort of emotional security blanket.
I like to call this tentative point in a couple’s relationship “scary safety.” It’s likely you and your partner enjoyed a sense of safety and calmness in your relationship. Yet, you may also find that the calm and sense of progress you were making doesn’t last long.
Why? Often, difficult or negative feelings arise exactly when you think you’ve healed. This may happen because:
- You allow yourself to be vulnerable in much the same way you did in the past.
- You are not actively healing anymore, so you talk less about it.
- You feel a sense of “Is that it?” followed by even more worrisome questions like
- Now my partner feels they are forgiven?
- Does that make things okay? Are we really okay?
- Can I ever relax? Is this going to happen again if I’m not careful?
- Do I have to now be on my toes noticing everything?
With all of that in mind, I wondered what tips Yael could offer if partners worry about ending therapy, a couples’ program, or a support group? Fortunately, she had a wealth of helpful guidance to share:
Life After Healing from Infidelity: 3 Tips
1. Seek Appropriate Help:
If you decide to stay together after infidelity, don’t assume your relationship can be repaired by sweeping everything under the rug. Moving on and healing after infidelity is a multidimensional process. Seek professional help that specializes in repairing relationships in the aftermath of infidelity.
2. Visualize a Realistic Goal:
How do you define ‘healing’ in this context of infidelity? Think about the goal for your healing process. Yael notes that though many clients wish to erase their traumatic experiences and just move forward, in most cases, this is an unrealistic goal.
However, she shared that working with couples in the aftermath of infidelity revealed that the main change in their healing is an improved ability to communicate. They can talk about and deal in healthier ways with their relationship crisis.
By listening and speaking differently through conflict, you and your partner can learn how to communicate the pain, trauma symptoms, remorse, shame, and guilt productively. Your communication then enhances the bond in the relationship rather than driving you apart.
Yael notes that a more realistic goal is to survive infidelity as a team rather than simply move on. That aim can be achieved with the right guidance.
On that point, I think it’s important to say that it is very realistic to expect a full recovery.
In fact, one of our recovery program goals is to regain a loving relationship based on trust.
Moreover, in many cases, you will end up having an improved relationship. You are apt to be more connected and united around your needs and boundaries. Thus, how you define success is key.
- Do you define infidelity recovery as the ability to forget and never worry or think of it again? If so, chances are you’re not likely to feel successful unless you both get a case of amnesia.
- Or do you define success as reaching a point where the crisis subsides? If you and your partner are more connected, united, AND able to accept that the infidelity is not erased, you’ll fare much better.
Yael mentioned that relationship expert Esther Perel spoke to such post-infidelity outcomes as well. In her book, The State of Affairs, Perel defined the quality of post infidelity therapy in three main ways:
- Sufferers: couples who return to and remain in a state of “endless round of bitterness”, as Perel writes
- Builders: couples who move past the infidelity and revert to peaceful version of their relationship with no growth
- Explorers: couples who are completely transformed and improved
I agree with this. I also find that many times we have all three parts in us. I believe too, that our ability to heal is further connected to our upbringing, ability to grow from pain, our unique personalities, and the lessons we’ve learned in life.
3. Expect Symptoms After Healing:
It’s important to realize that, in some cases, experiencing a positive and successful healing process doesn’t mean that you would get rid of your triggers or PTSD symptoms completely. It’s actually pretty normal to experience them even after repairing your relationship, Yael noticed.
In my experience, that concern I hear from both partners is that the pain will always be there. You too may worry that it may come up or creep up when you don’t notice or aren’t prepared.
Hurt partners, most of all, fear that if the roadmap to healing is complete, there is no space left to recall the infidelity, express pain about it, or feel upset. Additionally, many hurt partners worry that their unfaithful partner will essentially be off the hook and move on, feeling that everything is forgiven and forgotten.
All of this is to be expected. As experienced therapists, we are very much aware that the healing phase doesn’t end abruptly. We know that even when the pain subsides and the relationship goes back to normal, some turbulence can occur.
So, What Suggestions Do We Have for You Going Forward?
When you have recurrent “waves” of insecurity, anxiety, or intrusive thoughts consider:
- In what context am I triggered? For example, some insecurity of concern may accompany recent changes in Covid policies, particularly if your partner is back in the office after locking down with you at home.
- How scary is it to be vulnerable again? Are you anxious about loving, trusting, and enjoying each other openly? That fear, which can lead to waves of symptoms, makes total sense, especially as you move towards healing.
- Do we have the tools as individuals and as a couple to manage these “waves” more effectively? A reasonable goal is to learn how to manage the symptoms (together and apart) in ways that help you feel safe instead of ignoring them or avoiding them.
- Are you accepting the complexity of the process? Healing after infidelity is rarely linear and that’s okay. It’s crucial to understand this as it will give you a better idea of what to expect when it comes to the pain.
Speaking of that complexity, this is something we help our couples deal with as part of our Infidelity Recovery Program.
The goal of our program is to prepare you for these periods. We want to equip you with tools to connect, reconnect, and maintain success. These tools will help you do several key things:
- you’ll know how to get out of dark moments.
- you’ll know how to ask and offer support from one another without criticism or lashing out.
- you’ll know how to prevent emotional build-up.
- you’ll know how to heal each other’s emotional wounds.
Our program is so thorough and supportive that we leave no emotional stone unturned. We want to make sure you know how to go on. We want to help you maintain the success you’ve achieved with us.
Yael is an important part of that effort. I truly appreciate her willingness to share and do such amazing work with our couples. A recent testimonial from one of Yael’s coaching clients, who wished to remain anonymous, said as much:
“This program, along with the podcasts, really helped my husband and I move along the healing path without as many “stalls” or “setbacks.” We communicate in a much different way. For the first time, in maybe our 16 year marriage, we finally hear each other. The affair was devastating and life-altering. For months we struggled to move through the devastation.
This coaching program gave us the tools we needed to dig ourselves out and not create damage in the process. Before this program, we would discuss the affair and our issues and I would walk away with MORE trauma.
Now, our conversations provide healing and comfort and have completely changed the path I believe we were on. I was looking for a pathway out of the pain. I wanted someone to tell me what I needed to do to feel better and this program, along with the roadmap, videos, and coaching calls, did that. Thank you, Yael and Idit.”
I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Yael as much as I did. You can find out more about her and her specialties here: Yael Haklai-Neagu, LMFT. We attempted to cover all the important questions you have regarding how long your infidelity pain will last. We know how tough it is to maintain affair recovery.
Please consider a 45-minute free consultation to see if my Infidelity Recovery Program can help you heal and grow. Simply visit here to pick a time to meet with me for an in-depth conversation via Zoom.