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The Healing Process After Your Spouses Affair: 3 Steps Toward Healing And Moving On In A Healthy Way
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People often ask me about the healing process after their husband or wife's affair.  Some of the most common questions that I get about this is how long it takes to heal, what the steps to healing are, and why the process doesn't seem to be linear or happen in a logical and predictable way. And, interestingly enough, people are often so quick to place the blame on themselves when healing doesn't go as well as they had hoped.  Sure, they have plenty of anger directed toward their spouse (and the person their spouse had an affair with,) but they also usually have a good deal of anger at themselves.

I often hear comments like: “it's been a while since I found about the affair, why haven't I healed by now?”

Another example is “I don't know what's wrong with me.  I was doing better and our marriage had started to improve.  My husband has really been trying to make this up to me and then out of the blue, I'm hit with such anger and sadness, I feel as though I just found out about the affair yesterday.  Why do I back petal this way?”

Here's one more example and then I will move onto discuss the steps and the time frame for healing, but another thing I often hear is something like: “I'm starting to think that I won't even be able to get over this.  My spouse is doing everything I ask, but the elephant is always in the room.  No matter how much work we do, the anger, the lack of trust, and the guilt always comes back to haunt us.  I guess we or our marriage just isn't strong enough to weather this.  We gave it our best shot, but I don't think we're going to make it.”

Hearing phrases like this makes me sad on a few different levels.  It brings back memories of my own healing process, but it also makes me feel for the people saying these phrases because often they are blaming themselves as though they didn't try hard enough.  This just isn't true.  Healing after your spouse's affair is a process.  For some, it can be a longer process than you might like.  People often ask me how long it should take to heal after an affair. Unfortunately, the answer is different for every one.  Honestly, I think healing comes when you successfully navigate all the steps toward healing.  I will discuss those below.

Step One Of Healing After Your Spouse's Affair: Shock,  Anger, Resentment, Pain, And Punishment:  It goes without saying that most people are absolutely floored and devastated when they learn their spouse had an affair.  This truly is akin to a grieving process.  You have lost something that was sacred to you and you begin to doubt your own ability to gauge your own marriage.

This process can go on for a while, especially when you're sometimes learning new things about the affair or thinking up more questions or scenarios.  Once the shock has passed, then typically the anger and resentment come.  Once you're no longer floored, you're furious.  And once you get past furious, then you become quite sad.  Eventually, comes the resentment when you start to wonder why you have to go through all this pain for something you did not even do. 

You did not make the choice to betray your spouse and yet here you are struggling just the same.  Eventually, many spouses get into the punishment phase where they withhold affection or sex from the spouse who cheated or harbor resentments.  This is normal and common. None of these things mean that you are a bad person or that you don't love your spouse or even want to save your marriage. It just means that you are struggling like most people do.  Please don't direct your anger onto yourself.  None of this is your fault and you're doing the best you can.

Stage Two Of Healing After Your Spouse's Affair: Going Into “Fix It” Or Decision Making Mode:  Eventually, many people get very tired of carrying about the anger and sadness.  This is a heavy load to bear and over time it brings you down, saps your happiness, and affects your additional relationships (sometimes even with your children) and can cloud your outlook on life.  There will usually come a day when you are just tired of feeling like this.

And when this happens, most people realize that they can't keep living this way and they must make a decision about what they are going to do.  Some decide that they just can't be happy or at peace with their spouse because too much damage has been done.  (In that case, they go into “fix it” mode on themselves.)  Others will decide that they do want to give their spouse a second chance (once that spouse has proven themselves remorseful, rehabilitated, and sincere) and they decide to try to rebuild the marriage.

However, whatever the decision turns out to be, most people eventually come to realize at some point they can not take another day of feeling so out of sorts and they want to see their path ahead of them.  This is completely understandable, but I have to tell you that this is the place where I see a lot of people rush through too quickly because they feel pressured.  It is so uncomfortable for them to examine what went wrong and what they now want that they might sometimes push themselves into a quick or rush decision that they may later regret.

It's very important to have a clear picture and a clear head. And when so many emotions are coming and going, this can be difficult enough without putting pressure or a time deadline on yourself.

Step Three Of Healing After Your Spouse's Affair:  Moving On In A Positive Way And Using What You Have Learned To Your Own Benefit:  Whether you decide to save your marriage or not, it's always possible to move forward in the healthiest way possible.  That's not to say that you won't wish the affair didn't happen to you or still feel some regret, but when true healing takes place, people generally do not want to keep looking back.  They want to look forward because they have laid a solid foundation for the future.

True healing after your spouse's affair means you have the distance and the perspective to look back and see this as something that you were able to weather and learn from.  There actually were some positive things that came out of my husband's affair.  Because of all the work we did together, our marriage actually strengthened. 

I became very proactive about rebuilding my self esteem and I eventually focused on my education and bettering myself.  I changed my appearance to feel better about what I was putting out there.  I'm not the same woman I was then and actually, that is a good thing.  I didn't think any of this was possible in the days after finding out about the affair of course, but sometimes you just have to keep your eye on the healing and accept nothing less.  You deserve to be happy again.  Don't allow this to change the course of your life because it doesn't have to.

Surviving The Affair is a blog I set up to share my own story of healing.  It's pretty personal and some of it was not my finest hour.  But, now that I have some distance, I can say that we made it through OK.  Our marriage is actually stronger than ever and, as I said, I actually like some of the changes I made to myself.  You can read more about it at http://surviving-the-affair.com.


Street Talk

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