It seems like the ultimate betrayal, and it may well be. When you discover your spouse has had an affair, it’s devastating. You feel shock and disbelief. Anger. Grief. This is the kind of deep hurt that can take several years to recover from, let alone forgive. Some people don’t ever manage it.
But many do move on and learn to forgive and rebuild the relationship. And most of them go through phases before they can be healed.
Phase One: Chaos. Everything you depended on in your world seems to be exploding. Since you found out your partner is having an affair, your confidence is shaken to the core. You can’t believe this is happening to you. Your head is swimming with the terrible betrayal of it all.
You want to take the children and go to your mother’s. Or you want to kick your partner out of the house. Or you want a revenge affair yourself. You put the most notorious divorce lawyer on speed dial.
But don’t do anything drastic yet. You need time to get used to the idea. Your partner, of course, has known all along about her infidelity so you two will not be on the same page. She is farther along in the process and may beg you to take her back, but you aren’t ready yet.
You need time to process, too. This is hard to do if you’re used to talking about your problems with the very person who has now caused your problems. You will probably feel upset and lonely. Now is not the time to make any major decisions.
Phase Two: Grief. Once it hits you that the life you have been living is over as you knew it, you will feel all sorts of emotions. One of them is grief, as if you are grieving a death. Which you are—the death of the dreams and hopes you had about your relationship. Things can never be the same.
If you are to have a future together, you must first mourn your past. This takes time and the straying partner must have seemingly infinite patience if she wants to get back together. The aggrieved partner needs patience, too—to let the grief process proceed through its course. There are no shortcuts. You have to let go of your old vision of your relationship before you can even begin to think about forging a new future.
Phase Three: Deconstruction. This phase takes place when you have moved past the initial anger and confusion and are able to look at your situation calmly and rationally. You can begin to deconstruct what happened and why. You may still not be ready to reconcile, let alone forgive, but you can understand the reasons your partner strayed.
Phase Four: Healing. Once you’ve understood what happened in your relationship you may see a change in how you feel. Perhaps there was a dynamic that contributed to the affair. Perhaps there is some responsibility for the infidelity with both parties. Perhaps your partner isn’t wholly evil and you are not wholly angelic.
If you can let go of the hurts of the past, you can move on. You can decide whether it’s feasible or even desirable to stay together. Certainly professional counseling will be helpful. Once you’ve gone through all the phases you can heal. Then you can create a new future together.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact