Staying Together After the Affair: 14 Tasks for Each Partner
14 Tasks for the Betrayed Partner
- Express Feelings Constructively: Your feelings are valid but verbal, physical, or emotional abuse toward your partner is not. If the goal is repairing the relationship, finding a way to express what you are feeling without pushing your partner away is key.
- Establish Support: It’s important to know the difference between people you can share information with and those you probably shouldn’t. Even if your impulse is to isolate, support from someone you trust is very healing.
- Ask for Details if it Helps: What information do you, the betrayed partner, need to heal? Once you hear it, how will you feel? When is enough, enough?
- Ask for Reassurances Without Accusing: Even when you feel anxious or angry, work on approaching your partner in a way that will discourage defensiveness and encourage honest sharing.
- Identify What Might Help and Ask for It: Define specific, bite-size, observable behaviors from your partner that would help you to feel better (or not make you feel worse)
- Regain Positive Self-Concept and Access Sources of Resilience: Although the unfaithful spouse is an integral part of the healing process, some of this healing work must come from within. Reviewing your self-worth and how your self-esteem has been impacted after an affair is key.
- Identify Areas of Relationship Needing Improvement: Even if a marriage was on solid ground before an affair, betrayal changes that. Move beyond the crisis period, reevaluate the relationship from a more objective perspective and begin to rebuild and reconnect with your partner.
- Pay Attention to How Arguments or Difficult Conversations End: What is working? How did this compare to before? What can you compromise on?
- Thought Stopping and Mindfulness: Learn techniques to deal with triggering thoughts and rumination, which are common but can be distressing or debilitating
- Avoiding Mind Reading and other cognitive distortions: Learn techniques to deal with hypervigilance or false-interpretations and restructuring negative thoughts
- Gain Empathy for Partner: Real healing can’t occur until there is a move toward compassion and empathy for the unfaithful spouse
- Forgiveness: Finding ways to let go of some of the negative emotion for yourself and your relationship
- Acceptance: What if you can’t forgive? Seeking a sense of understanding of what happened and why.
- Learn Ways to Get Back on Track: Setbacks are normal. Getting stuck forever (arguing or not talking about it) is not.
14 Tasks for the Unfaithful Partner
- End the Affair: It is not possible to work on your relationship if there is a third party waiting in the wings
- Show Empathy: Even if you feel justified for the affair, are angry or hurt, it is crucial to understand the impact of betrayal on your partner and communicate this understanding in order to work through the crisis stage and begin the healing process
- Show Remorse: The acknowledgement that you are sorry and the behavior will not happen again is powerful and reassuring for your partner. Work on communicating this in a genuine and loving way.
- Share Details: Transparency is key to rebuilding trust and helping your partner understand and heal from the infidelity
- Be Willing to Do Whatever it Takes to Assure Partner: This may include access to passwords, personal accounts, social media, your work schedule, leisure time, travel dates, etc.
- Expect Ups & Downs: Recovery from an affair has been compared to an emotional rollercoaster. Expect the unexpected.
- Be Patient: Work on developing realistic expectations about the process of healing for yourself and your partner
- Identify Triggers: Create a plan to deal with temptations, possible run-ins with third party, triggers, etc.
- Examine Personal Reasons Affair Occurred: Gaining insight into the reasons for the affair are important for your understanding and your relationship future. What were your intentions? What were you hoping to get from this?
- Identify Areas of the Marriage Needing Improvement: What will make the marriage more loving, exciting and passionate?
- Identify Areas of the Relationship That Work: What drew you to your partner? Why are you choosing to stay?
- Discuss the Definition of Commitment: Does monogamy work for you? Find out your boundaries and what you want your marriage to look like moving forward
- Learn Ways to Get Back on Track: Recognize effective strategies for reconciling after rough times
- Forgive Yourself Often: The hardest person to forgive is often ourselves. Feeling compassion for your mistakes is part of the process of understanding and healing
Note: Although working through betrayal can and does yield positive transformations, affairs are destructive for relationships. The pain can be overwhelming at times and the road can be long and difficult for a couple in crisis. The healing process is lengthy, demanding, involves triggers and unpredictable emotion. You might ask yourself “Is it worth it?” A second question you might consider is the alternative—separating, withdrawal, or continued infidelity—and how that would make you feel. Whatever your decision, it is important to acknowledge you are not alone. With support and understanding, there is hope for a relationship after infidelity.
Click here for more information about Ciara Braun and her unique treatment approach for couples and infidelity.
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