Are you concerned that you may not be able to heal from infidelity? Is your affair recovery on hold?
If you’ve been going through affair recovery for a while now, you may be asking yourself these questions and others. When you find it difficult or even impossible to move past the pain, you start to doubt your ability to heal as a couple. If this continues for months or years, you may seriously consider ending the relationship altogether.
You might be experiencing a worsening of the situation as you are months after D-day and you feel worse than you felt before.
Before you lose hope, I want you to pay attention to this content. Chances are you’ve been missing some steps in the healing process that are crucial to your ability to heal as a couple.
Let’s see what these are.
The question below represents the concerns of many of you who struggle with affair recovery. Your worry may vary from “we’re six months after the infidelity or the revelation of the infidelity” to “we’re twenty years after the revelation”. But one thing keeps repeating and it’s the fact that instead of things getting better with time, they become worse and worse.
Here’s the question I relate to in this blog post:
“Hi Idit. My case is a little different than most in this group. I was cheated on five years ago and stayed with my husband. Lately, I feel that instead of time doing its own thing and helping me with the healing, the exact opposite is happening. It’s been five years and I feel the pain worse than ever. I can’t seem to get over it and seriously considering leaving my husband. It would mean leaving a marriage of nineteen years and three children. I feel helpless and unable to resurface this with my husband as it has been so long and he doesn’t understand why all of a sudden it became an issue. What is going on? Isn’t time supposed to heal the wound?”
The 3 Components of Affair Recovery
Let me try to answer this specific question, but I think it will give an answer as to why people can’t seem to heal after infidelity. As I see it, there are three components that make a difference in the ability to heal after infidelity.
- Following a Healing Roadmap: If we’re talking about time as a healing factor, I believe time does heal, but, it really depends on what you do in this time. Just waiting for things to heal does not help. Actually, it might make things worse. So sometimes you seem to be able to heal, but then BOOM it resurfaces. And when it resurfaces, it’s usually a very strong feeling to the point that people feel like, “I don’t know if I can continue being in this marriage.
- Unfaithful Partner’s Part: This component is the ability of the betraying partner to take a big part in the healing process.
- Staying in Full Context: The ability of the couple to view the infidelity as one aspect of their relationship in the context of other things, other aspects and layers in the relationship. It’s a very specific way of looking at things. This usually applies to cases where the unfaithful partner takes responsibility and becomes part of the healing process.
Following a Healing Roadmap
The way I see it, and I don’t think it’s just the way I see it, it’s the way most therapists who specialize in helping couples after infidelity see things. We see the healing as a 3-phase period. So the three phases of healing the way that I relate to them and call them are: rebalance, reattach, and restart. And I will talk more about each one in a second. But the one thing that you have to do if you want to be able to heal is to understand that there is no skipping. Many couples who haven’t been able to heal are those who we later find out they skipped phase one and two and jumped all the way to phase three. Usually it was way too soon.
Let’s see what the phases are.
Phase 1: Rebalance
Basically, in this phase we rebalance the crisis and that’s the first stage right after you find out about the infidelity. Definitely this phase is a crisis phase. This where all the feelings are all over the place: conflicting feelings like “I love you” and “I hate you”, or “I want to save this relationship, but I also want a divorce”, “I’m hopeful, but I have no hope”, “I know you, but I don’t know you”, and so on and so forth.
Basically, what we’re trying to do in this phase is to balance the crisis. Certain things need to happen in this phase that will help rebalance and one of them is ending the affair.
Many people say, “Oh, yeah, I ended it. It’s not happening anymore,” but when we go in to check, “what did you do to end the affair?” we see that it wasn’t done in a responsible meaningful way to both partners. So just erasing the affair partner from your social media and blocking them on your phone usually doesn’t do the trick, at least not to your partner. And if you want to hear more about how to do that, you should absolutely listen to episode 12 where I talk about how to do that and there is also a freebie in that episode that will take you through the stages of ending an affair in the right way.
Another step in the rebalance phase is learning or relearning to trust again. I’m not talking about full trust. If there would be 100% trust, which, by the way, would never exist or shouldn’t, but let’s say we have from 0 to 100 and it went back all the way to 0 after the revelation of the affair, then i’m talking about gaining 5%-10%. Certain things need to happen so you’ll be able to trust a little bit to be able to continue. Regaining the trust continues to happen throughout all the three phases. It’s not a one time thing.
Another step in this phase is expression of remorse by the unfaithful partner. It may sound simple, you know, you’ve said “I’m sorry,” but it usually doesn’t work like this. If you want to learn more on how to express remorse, go to episode 44. I think you will find out that expressing remorse may be a little bit different than what you initially thought it is.
Phase 2: Reattach
This phase has its own steps within, but the basic idea is to be able to reconnect or communicate in a way that allows certain conversations to happen. You need to communicate in order in order to make sense of why all of this happened. Actually, many hurt partners who are stuck being unable to heal often say “I don’t understand why. Why he/she did it,”. This is where I say, “You probably skipped the reattach phase.” And if you want to learn more about how you can understand why then you should look at episode 39 which is all about understanding why and asking the right questions.
Phase 3: Restart
This is the restart button phase, the closing one chapter and the opening of a new one. This is where you create new rules, you regain intimacy, and you prevent relapse. So many going through affair recovery and they’re in the crisis phase, the only thing they can think of to solve the problem is moving on. They say “Let’s close that ugly chapter. Let’s put the past in the past. Let’s forgive and forget and move on and open a new chapter,”.
This is great, but if you don’t go through all the steps and phases and you just jump or zoom through everything expecting to restart, you are not going to be able to fully heal, unfortunately.
So, the number one difference between those who can recover and those who can’t is skipping. Those who can recover go through the healing phases and steps without skipping. And those who can’t recover usually find that they skipped at leas one phase in the process.
Unfaithful Partner’s Part
Let’s talk about the second component of why couples can or can’t recover.
Couples that can recover, usually, the betraying partner will understand they have to carry a large load, responsibility, of the relationship’s healing. They usually are the partners who understand and believe that the healing should be done together.
So, those are the partners that once they realize that they’re a big part of the healing process, will suggest either going to therapy together, or reading a book about healing together, or doing an online course together. As you probably noticed, the together is there and the responsibility is there.
Responsibility Is Huge
And I’m even going to take one step beyond and say that those who take more responsibility for the healing than their partners usually do better versus those who can’t seem to heal.
On the other end, we have the betraying partners who see the hurt partner’s pain as something that they can’t help with. They see it as something beyond their ability to understand, be present with, and heal. And usually, they will be the ones that send their hurt partners to figure it out alone.
PTSD Is Real After Infidelity
I can’t tell you how many hurt partners call me and say, “I’ve been cheated on and I’m experiencing all these crazy symptoms of PTSD and my partner is telling me that I have to do something about it. they’re really concerned about me. Can you help me?” And when I say, “I can help you. Would you come in with your partner?” They say, “No, my partner said that I need to be in therapy and do something about it,” as if there’s a pill or as if there is some relaxation exercises that you can do to get rid of those things.
This is usually not evil thinking, it can make sense if I’m thinking as a person who is going through this. If you’re the betraying partner and you see your partner going through hell. They are exhibiting symptoms of PTSD and those can be having awful dreams, intrusive thoughts, being hyper vigilant, etc. So you see you partner really suffering. And whatever you’re doing isn’t helpful to them because for some reason, you feel like, “I can’t help my partner. It feels like it’s bigger than me.” And then, the first thing that you think, “I can’t see that anymore. It’s really terrible. Let me send them to someone who can help.”
Why it All Makes Sense
So this is usually where it’s coming from and I know it usually doesn’t come from a place of not wanting the healing. I think it comes from a place of wanting the healing, but hoping that your partner can fix the problem with outside help. And this is where the mistake is. If this is what you’re experiencing, then just know that sending your partner away to heal most likely will not solve the problem. In certain cases, it may solve it for a while, but then it may resurface in an even worse way.
Again, I really believe that people don’t do that because they are bad or mean to harm. I think that both skipping through the stages of healing and sending your partner to be healed by themselves come from a very logical place. It’s very hard to be in crisis mode and there is so much time you can handle being in it. And for the betraying partners, it makes perfect sense to tell their partners, “Let’s leave the past in the past. You know, it was a mistake. Let’s close that chapter.” It also sensible to the hurt partner to do the same thing, so they usually will go along with it because in their mind they say, “How long am I going to be in that stage? How long can my body take this pain? I need to do something to make it go away.” Therefore, the first thing they think of is, “Let’s close that chapter. Let me stop thinking about it or let me go to a therapist and do some individual therapy to get rid of these intrusive thoughts.”
Staying in Full Context
The third component talks about couples who are able to see their relationship and their partners in full context and not only through the eyes of infidelity. Usually, it doesn’t happen immediately after the revelation. After the revelation, or in the crisis mode, or at least in the beginning of that crisis mode, I don’t expect people to see anything but the infidelity. But then, once we go into the second phase, this is where I look for people to see the rest of the of relationship, the richness of it, and the rest of their partner’s components other than being a cheater.
Normally, those who are able to recover, are those who pretty quickly are able to see that there is more to the relationship than what happened to you. And again, in these cases I only include infidelity cases where there is no emotional abuse or lack of remorse. I’m not talking about the serial cheaters because that would make it very difficult for any partner to see anything but that. It’s a total breach of trust.
The Holistic View Is Key
This component has to do with how the hurt partner is able to see the relationship. Are they able to see their unfaithful partner’s other characteristics? Are they able to see the wealth of their relationship not only through the eyes of mistrust, infidelity, cheating, and breaching trust? Those who are able to see that as well as the infidelity are more likely to recover versus hurt partners who seem to not be able to relate to anything not through the eyes of infidelity.
Some of what hurt partners tell their betraying partners in these cases sounds like this: “I cannot trust anything that comes out of your mouth,” or “I don’t know who you are anymore.” And if this keeps on happening after a while, there is a chance that this couple will not be able to heal as expected.
I hope these three components make sense to you and I’m sure that at this point you have some questions. One can be “How do you make sure to go through all the stages and the steps? First, I think that after reading this, you are more aware of it which I think is most important. Being aware that there is a roadmap you can follow. Secondly, if you do go to therapy, now that you are more educated about the phases, make sure your therapist informs you of their way of working with infidelity. Make sure you’re working with someone that is able to tell you their plan of helping you with your affair recovery journey.
Another thing you could do to make sure that you are going through the stages is educating yourself. You could educate yourself through books and there are a lot of self help books that talk specifically about healing after infidelity. One really great book that has a lot of these components is called ‘After the Affair’ Janis Abrahams Spring.
Taking a coaching Program
Lastly, I know that there aren’t many out there, but online affair recovery programs are a wonderful solution. Especially for those who still want to make sure they go through the phases and steps, but need a hands-on solution. I’ve been researching the market for healing after infidelity online courses because I noticed that it is a needed element. Sometimes, people don’t want to do therapy for infidelity for their own reasons. Others simply can’t find the exact support that they’re looking for in couples counseling or even in a a book. That is why an infidelity recovery program can be the perfect solution.
I took it upon myself to create and offer that solution to couples who are committed to staying together and healing from this crisis. My infidelity recovery program It’s Okay To Stay® offers full support through an 8-week coaching program. You can expect an effective healing roadmap that gets you the result you need – a loving and trusting relationship.
Visit my Infidelity Recovery Program page to learn more and apply for a complimentary 45-minute Zoom consultation with me.