Affairs are certainly hazardous to your relationship health.
The deception of the unfaithful partner drives a wedge into the relationship. The resulting effects of infidelity do such damage that the faithful partner is left confused, reeling, uncertain of the future and questioning every detail of the relationship’s past.
The pain is a crater between them. The fallout stretches far and wide.
Any couple who has had an infidelity grenade drop into their relationship knows the kind of destruction, loss, and grief that can overwhelm the connection they once had.
Are you and your partner suffering these common effects of infidelity?
A faithful partner often blames themselves for the affair or affairs of their partner. They want to know what characteristic or behavior drove their partner to someone else.
“Was I too fat or too old?”
“Did I spend too much time at work or make too little money?”
“Did I nag too much or not say enough?”
Self-esteem is often linked to performance. Believing that your partner cheated in response to something you did or didn’t do misses the point. Your partner decided to cheat rather than deal with your relationship problems.
The responsibility for that decision (as well as their own character issues) lies with them. Not with you.
The unfaithful partner finally comes clean and tells the truth, oftentimes expecting to have his or her apology accepted and then simply move forward. That’s a tall order for the faithful victim of the affair.
The faithful partner first must play relationship catch up. The relationship did not exist as they believed it to exist. Thus, they can’t trust their own feelings or the person they thought they knew.
They doubt their own judgment of character (who is my partner?), the people around them (did everyone know?), and the world in general (what else am I missing?)
It’s a lot to overcome, whether your relationship survives or not. It’s vital that trust issues are dealt with via therapy sooner rather than later. Otherwise, the loss of trust can morph into a distrustful perspective that infects everything and limits your happiness.
As the infidelity cards are laid on the table, it feels as if the bottom dropped out of the life both partners knew. The realities of the affair hit the cheating partner. The shock of the disclosure knocks the faithful partner back.
Security, normalcy, and peace of mind fade away.
Finding stability requires support both from safe, trusted others as well as from internal resources that may take time to locate and draw from consistently. Until then, learning to survive and cope is enough as you develop the tools to steady your world again.
The awareness and implications of infidelity reveal themselves first like sudden blasts to your life and then as aftershocks of various related revelations and realizations.
There will be “this is impossible” moments and “we can make it” days. Crying, yelling, sulking, and silence too. Expect it all.
Partners benefit by accepting that the heavy blow of infidelity creates persistent tremors of emotion that demand attention.
Don’t deny, ignore, or bury the impact. This only leads to trouble down the line. Instead, find ways to safely, legally, and productively express what you’re feeling. It’s generally best to seek counseling to cope with the effects of infidelity.
As the effects of infidelity ripple through your relationship, perception of your life in total may be affected too. Your options may seem generally dissatisfying. Your plans for the future may seem meaningless. It’s natural to feel this way but not necessarily helpful to follow that line of thinking.
Relationship experts, grief counselors, and therapists specializing in anxiety, depression, and affair trauma agree that making major changes in significant areas of your life is unwise while managing the distress of post-affair fallout.
Infidelity does powerful damage to the faithful partner, the relationship, and the character of the unfaithful partner. The effects of infidelity are so life-changing that building a new future will take the support of loved ones, professionals, and anyone trustworthy to move forward successfully.
But it can be done. A surprisingly high proportion of relationships affected by affairs do survive, and even thrive. With the desire to make it work and the willingness to do the hard work, you can end up in a far better place than before.
Are you ready to take the first steps toward repairing your relationship now? Have a look around this web site and get a sense of what’s offered here. Your recovery, as well as genuine happiness, are possible again.
After the affair, the most common result is deep emotional pain.
Affair recovery seems far off. Even impossible. A relationship bomb went off in your life and you’re right to be dazed, justified in your disappointment.
But you’re not alone in your devastation.
The impact of infidelity is harsh and many couples know that pain. And now you’ve got to weather the fallout.
You’re supposed to move forward, but standing in the ruins of the relationship you thought you had, you may feel stuck, wrestling with questions about your future and wondering if anyone else has ever felt as lost as you do now.
You and your partner must now decide how you will pick through the secrets and betrayal that feel like shrapnel in your connection.
What does that healing process look like? Can you stand to go through it? How long will it take to feel good again?
First, things first.
Before we look at how most couples are affected by infidelity and attempt affair recovery, take a breath. Recognize that this is the time to reach out. It’s imperative that you find solid, steadying help.
No one survives an affair quite the same way. And, while commonalities in experience exist, there are vital steps to take with a counselor to ensure productive communication. The one thing successful survivors share is the presence of mind to seek help. A calm, knowledgeable, safe person can make sure healing remains the focus instead of the hurt.
Next? You accept the affair recovery process and you get to work. Now.
If you wait too long, the fallout will spread. Let’s look at what you can expect and how to cope.
There’s nothing exact or universal when it comes to post-affair healing. And that’s okay. Allowing the uniqueness of your marriage to guide your understanding, progress and recovery keep you both honest and the process authentic from the start.
Disclosure of infidelity is often traumatic for the betrayed partner. From the moment they know for sure to the subsequent alarm and grief that colors everything, the word “crisis” describes it all best.
Neither you nor your partner can offer much comfort or clarity at this point. Yet, somehow, you may feel a strong urge to make some sort of major declaration (“We need to put this behind us!)” or a life-altering decision (“I want a divorce!). Resist the urge.
Choose instead to slow down, breathe, be still.
Your body and mind are shell shocked and likely tense or sick with anger, disbelief, sorrow, and shame. To cope, you’ll need to get grounded enough to find your bearings. Professional guidance and self-care can make the recovery process more bearable. Fluctuating moods and roiling emotions needn’t take you down if you do what you can to shore up your strength. Try some of the following:
To aid trauma recovery and foster healing during this initial phase, all couples must face facts at this point.
It’s time for the unfaithful partner to accept that their right to secrets has come to an end. Full disclosure must occur and a complete break with the affair partner is a good first step towards healing and repair. For some, that’s a tall order where ambivalence is strong.
For the faithful spouse, focusing on healthy self-perception matters. Nothing about you, your personality, or who you are as a person is worthy of betrayal. Don’t allow yourself to sink into a pit of self-blame. Your partner’s choices are their own.
When the crisis calms down, the betrayed partner questions everything:
Who? How? How often? When? Where? Is it love? Is it over? How could you do this to me? Us?
Can I ever trust you again?
The impulse to make sense of the affair is strong, and utterly natural. It is one of the most common effects of infidelity. You hate that you’ve been left out of so much of your own relationship story. So you dig for answers and demand the truth.
And if you were unfaithful? The relief you felt at giving up your double life may be replaced with shame, grief and overwhelm.
Some couples can become flooded with emotion at this juncture. The highs and lows of your moods, memories, and interactions can be confusing and disorienting as the reality of their core issues starts to become clear. Some surround themselves with negative influences and part ways, sadly never really getting to the heart of their issues. Never gaining insight or getting to the “truth” they really wanted: what does this affair mean for us?
Other couples want to know more about the realities of their relationship or how they ended up in post-affair fallout. That comes from a more in-depth investigation.
Working with your therapist and devoting time looking at your relationship through a wider lens is crucial. Then, you can gain the kind of perspective you need to make big relationship decisions with fewer regrets.
This phase is about forgiveness, growth, and learning core relationship skills.
Couples who arrive here have weathered the furies of their initial crises. They understand their true needs and motivations far more than before, and they see and understand their partner with clearer eyes.
When conflicts arise each one tells the other what’s important to them without making the other feel bad or look bad.
Their dance together is smoother, more satisfying, more fulfilling than it ever might have been. They find ways to dance together with love, friendship, enjoyment, and mutual support.
Transformed couples have found, in a manner of speaking, the pot of gold at the rainbow’s end. They come to embody what Terry Real calls “relational esteem.” They value and cherish their relationship in spite of any flaws or imperfections. In doing so, their life together is richer in so many ways.
The effects of infidelity like shock, grief, disbelief, and distrust are common post-affair reactions. We all expect them and they definitely have an appropriate place in the recovery process. But is important to recognize that, for many couples, the effects of infidelity are not wholly destructive.
You can learn to cope with the pain, accept a new normal and become a functioning couple again. The affair fallout can become ground zero for a period of rebuilding in some areas of your relationship and complete reconstruction in others.
If you choose a path forward as a couple, pain and trauma can be healed. Differences can be bridged. Needs met. Motives clarified. The relationship skills you need in order to restore compassion, trust, and respect for each other (however imperfect you may be) can be learned.
Of course, not everyone will choose that path. Some may stay together but never get past the affair and remain stuck in a purgatory of hurt, anger, and desperation. Some will separate, but then come back together later. Some will let the relationship go entirely.
But, whether you travel together or go your separate ways, you can both move forward healthier, wiser, and at peace with your decisions. Good relationship therapy can help you calm troubled waters, sort things out, and get clear on the direction your heart wants to take.
Dennis Daupert's specialties are trauma recovery, and couples therapy for infidelity. His style is client focused, respectful, attentive, flexible, non-judgmental, collaborative, deeply committed to healing and positive change.