Affairs are scary, and no couple wants to end up in that position. It’s even worse when one partner discovers texts or other incriminating information on a phone or computer that they just happened to notice (it often happens by accident). And a notch worse is when the ‘caught’ partner denies the affair when there is clear evidence to the contrary.
At this point, let me hopefully put your mind at ease just a little bit that statistically, about 80% of couples can recover from an affair, especially when they seek professional help.
That stat feels hopeful but when you are in the midst of it, whether as the injured partner or the one with the affair, it can feel very traumatic, scary, confusing, and awful, to say the least when you are in the first stages of trying to heal from it.
For one thing, the injured party will likely be furious, and understandably so. They also tend to feel hurt, betrayed, confused, shocked, and like their world has just been turned upside-down. The partner who had the affair likely feels shocked into reality, afraid of losing his or her partner, guilty and regretful, and generally confused.
Three steps I recommend for affair recovery:
1. The partner who had the affair needs to admit it when confronted, not deny.
2. That partner also should cut all ties with the affair ASAP.
3. The injuring partner needs to listen to the injured partner even if they are angry, be willing to answer questions honestly (there are likely to be many), and understand that the inured partner needs to talk and be listened to.
4. Get professional help in order to understand what led to the affair and fix the issue at it’s root.
Last piece of advice - don’t get defensive!!! You messed up - own it, listen with empathy, and be willing to show regret and a willingness to repair and heal. The injured partner will probably need to share many times over months or years his or her pain and fears, as well as memories of the betrayal - it can feel like PTSD. The injured partner needs to know that they are being listened to and understood no matter how many times they need to talk about it.
If you can do all those things, even with bumps (progress, not perfection), the affair can be healed. The affair is ultimately an ‘affair of the relationship’ because most often, there were difficult relationship patterns that led to disconnection and loneliness for both partners. These patterns need to be unearthed, understood, and healed in order to truly feel secure in a rebirth of your relationship. In the end, not to sound pollyannaish, but a healed affair can create enormous opportunity for a relationship to become more solid and beautifully connected than previously.
Katharina Sandizell, LMFT