How Do I Heal After Infidelity?
By Eva Timothy, Professional Practice Extension Assistant Professor
There are many misnomers that surround infidelity in committed relationships. One myth is that one party or the other must have done something to have caused it. Another myth is that after an affair comes to light, any possible future happiness in the relationship is impossible. Let’s look at the prevalence of extramarital relationships within our society before we move forward. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (2016) indicates that 35% of women and 45% of men engage in either emotional or sexual intimacy, or a combination of both, outside of their committed relationship. Studies show that infidelity is also one of the leading causes of divorce and marital counseling (Scott et al., 2013; American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy).
Given these statistics, it is likely that someone you know has or is going through a process of healing due to infidelity. Therefore, you are not alone! Consider this as you begin your journey toward emotional and relationship health. There are varying reasons for which infidelity in a committed relationship occur. The incidence of an affair is not limited to relationships experiencing strain but can also happen in those that are considered happy.
Forget all the statistics though. The fact of the matter is that the discovery of an extramarital relationship is devastating. There are a myriad of emotions and questions to deal with. However, the complexity that surrounds a partner’s adultery necessitates exploration and healing for both parties. Common questions after infidelity in a committed relationship comes to light are:
- How does one reconcile the mixed feelings that battle within?
- What steps should be taken after learning of a partners affair to overcome the trauma?
- What do I do to restore trust in my relationshp after disclosing an affair?
Despite the weight of these questions, please note that healing can take place whether you choose to stay in the relationship or not. However, mending the wound will take time. Healing is not a linear process and can require repeating some steps when triggers occur that bring up past feelings or concerns.
To find a place of emotional security in such situations, the couple must address the feelings of anger, betrayal, shame, depression, trauma, and confusion. There are various ways in which intimate partners can go about beginning their journey of healing. Some examples are turning to one’s higher power, seeking out a support group, confiding in someone close to you, or addressing your needs with a trained professional in a therapeutic setting. Studies on relationships after infidelity show that determinants of healing include one’s ability to establish safety, forgive, and separate the extramartital relationship from their sense of self (Heintzelman et al., 2014; DiBlasio 2000). Due to the difficulty of such a task, consider using these resources as you move forward:
- https://www.gottman.com/blog/what-to-do-after-an-affair/ and https://www.gottman.com/blog/reviving-trust-after-an-affair/
- American Association of Marriage and Family Therpay. (n.d.). Infidelity . Retrieved December, 2020, from https://www.aamft.org/Consumer_Updates/Infidelity.aspx
- DiBlasio, F. A. (2000). Decision-based forgiveness treatment in cases of marital infidelity. Psychotherapy, 37(2), 149-158. doi:http://dx.doi.org.dist.lib.usu.edu/10.1037/h0087834
- Fife, S.T., Weeks, G.R., Gambescia, N. (2008). Treating infidelity: An integrative approach. The Family Journal, 16(4):316-323. doi:10.1177/1066480708323205
- Heintzelman, A., Murdock, N. L., Krycak, R. C., & Seay, L. (2014). Recovery from infidelity: Differentiation of self, trauma, forgiveness, and posttraumatic growth among couples in continuing relationships. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 3(1), 13-29. doi:http://dx.doi.org.dist.lib.usu.edu/10.1037/cfp0000016
- Scott, S. B., Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., Allen, E. S., & Markman, H. J. (2013). Reasons for Divorce and Recollections of Premarital Intervention: Implications for Improving Relationship Education. Couple & family psychology, 2(2), 131–145. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0032025