Let’s look at steps you and your spouse can take after the affair to promote healing and restoration in your marriage.
In dealing with infidelity, you suddenly realize your marriage license didn’t come with a manual to help you navigate through challenging marital troubles—especially those that are related to a spouse’s infidelity.
After the affair, you are faced with what may seem insurmountable problems. So, are you dealing with the infidelity, or trying to shove it away because the pain is just too great?
In this blog, you will learn the 3 phases you will need to work through to recover from—and survive—infidelity.
Devastated by the Affair, What Should You Do?
You just found out you are married to a cheater. It may feel as if the world just came crashing down upon you. Now what?
To find out about your spouse’s cheating is one of the most wrenching, emotionally-devastating events that can happen in a marriage—ranked up there with the death of a spouse.
A common reaction from the cheating victim is, “I don’t know what to do.” What should you do first in dealing with infidelity? Again, there was no marriage-help manual provided at the altar. But here you are, trying to pick up what can feel like the shredded remnants of your life after you’ve had the wind knocked out of you.
And infidelity truly shreds everything that was once whole: your relationship with and trust in your spouse, your sense of peace, your self-esteem, and your thoughts (as we looked at in the last blog). It can be extremely overwhelming, especially since you have more going on than just tending your relationship. No doubt you are trying to run your household, take care of family members, and work, too—while in excruciating psychological and emotional pain.
Most of us, when in pain, want a way to turn it off, immediately. But in the case of infidelity, the wounds run deep, and there is no quick fix. In an effort to escape the pain, you may have thoughts such as:
“I’ll pack a bag and leave tonight,” or,
“I’ll pick his bag and make him leave this afternoon!”
While this may seem a reasonable response to an extremely unreasonable set of circumstances brought about by your spouse’s cheating, it does not actually help you to heal from this pain.
After learning of the affair, you may not know exactly where to begin the healing process, but I want to give you a broad-based plan so you can break the process down into more manageable phases. Most people experiencing a crisis feel better with a working plan. It’s concrete, it’s logical—and it’s something solid to hold onto in an uncertain, emotionally-wrought time.
Here are the 3 phases you need to know to help you survive infidelity and heal from the pain.
Phase 1: The Cheating Victim: Your Pain Comes First
Healing in the marriage can’t come until you have looked after yourself first. As has been emphasized in previous blogs, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have an easy time taking care of anything or anyone else.
If you want to survive infidelity, you first need to address the onslaught of thoughts and emotions that are overwhelming you. If you don’t have a firm internal foundation, you will be unable to rebuild a firm foundation in your marriage.
As we have discussed in previous blogs—and will continue to address in future weeks—you have to deal with the negative impact of your spouse’s cheating actions. This includes effectively handling all of those negative thoughts and emotions, images of the affair, and self-doubts until you begin to feel some semblance of internal peace again.
Putting solid ground down internally will strengthen your ability to put one down externally in phase two.
Phase 2: The Couple in Crisis: Begin Working—and Healing—Together
This is as challenging a phase as the first one in which you work on yourself—perhaps even more so. In phase 2, you need to work on communicating effectively with your spouse.
No doubt, the early stages of this phase will feel very strained. You may have a lot of anger, and find yourself lashing out at your spouse, and your spouse’s response may be the silent treatment as retaliation for the discomfort he or she may feel over what they have done to your marriage.
It will take effort on the part of you and your spouse to work together on your communication skills, and for you as the victim, to feel some sense of trust that your partner is truly committed to this process.
There will be lapses into negative thoughts as you begin to work with your spouse, but it doesn’t mean your internal foundation is at risk—it’s just being challenged by the rawness of communicating after the devastation of the affair.
Phase 3: Rebuild Your Marriage
Once you and your spouse are in a place of being able to communicate again, when these talks can be characterized as more positive in nature rather than angry outbursts and recriminations, you are ready to begin rebuilding the foundation of your marriage.
It is in this phase that you will work on transparency and building trust again. In essence, you are wiping clean the way things have “always been done” in your marriage, and recreating a stronger foundation with very clear-cut, defined rules.
The work of a marriage never stops, so this phase will move from a period of rebuilding to one in which you are continuously solidifying. There will even be occasions where you step back into the first two phases, so don’t be thrown off your end goal, which is surviving infidelity.