Affairs can be exciting adventures that can have detrimental effects on the primary relationship, as some readers might well know from previous experience. There is however hope for reconciliation if both partners do their share of the healing and forgiving.
In my practice, I encounter many couples that have been suffering as an effect of an extra-marital affair or another form of ‘breaks in trust’. I am continuously astounded at the resilience couples to have shown over the years. This is only partly due to the support I offer them and mainly to their own work and preparedness on dealing with the issue in a way that supports both partners.
In regards to the past affair, sufficient time for healing is needed during which various emotions might surface for both partners. For the ‘cheater’ these might include guilt, sadness, anger at self or even grief over the discontinued affair. For the ‘cheated’ these might include anger, rage, blame, disbelief, sadness or despair. All these emotions need to have their place, which might not necessarily have to be within the relationship itself. Consider confiding in a good friend, family member (not your children) or a therapist. Working with and through these emotions can take considerable time and it is important to know that you need to let your partner deal with theirs in their own time. Allowing and dealing with these emotions will assist the healing process.
Another important part of healing is forgiveness. In order to move past the issue, forgiveness is necessary sooner or later. For forgiveness to be more than just lip-service the time for healing the associated emotions need to come first. Allowing anything left unsaid to be spoken and meeting the pain, sometimes more than once, are unavoidable steps.
When is it dealt with?
The whole process happens over time, sometimes months or years have to pass until it becomes less and less of an issue. You need to remember that an affair cannot be undone and therefore the memories and related emotions can resurface at any given stressful time in the relationship.
Have patience and support each other in staying present to what is coming up and dealing with it constructively. Refrain from telling your partner to ‘just get over it’ – this will more likely alienate him or her as opposed to assisting the healing.