It's hard to imagine that anyone goes into a marriage thinking that they will one day be the one who strays, but it happens. Affairs can leave people feeling betrayed, exposed, and alone. It's natural to feel overwhelmed and uncertain about what the future holds.
Over the years we at Evolve Therapy have worked with many grappling with finding relief in their relationship right after an affair. In this article, we're going to share with you four strategies you can utilize in order to find relief in the immediate aftermath after an affair.
Whether or not you think your marriage or committed relationship can recover from the affair, it's important to take plenty of time to care of yourself. And this is important for partners on both sides of the affair. After exposing an extramarital affair, emotions are at perhaps an all-time high. Trust has been broken because the betrayal has been revealed.
If you're a couple that tends to fight it out, things are probably very intense. If you're a couple that falls into the pursue-withdraw dynamic, there could be a lot of things under the surface that aren't being addressed.
Practicing self-care will help you survive what stands to be one of the toughest times of your life, and it will give you moments of clarity along the way.
Practice self-care in the following area of your life:
Physically: give yourself opportunities to take care of your physical body. Go for walks, drink plenty of water, and if you enjoy them, get a massage or a facial. Taking time to get alone and tend to your physical needs will do wonders for your mental health too.
Emotionally: Everyone deals with trauma differently, but it's important to allow yourself to feel your emotions. We'll go into that more in a bit.
Psychologically: After an affair, either partner may choose to move forward with individual counseling. This is a traumatic time, and individual counseling will provide you with the opportunity to learn coping tools, be heard in a safe space, and address your mental health concerns that could layer into this intense time.
Intellectually: You may be less familiar with the term "intellectual self-care" but it's essential taking time to stimulate and grow your mind—from reading a book or listening to a podcast, to watching a documentary or TED Talk. It could be helpful to get some relationship education. Reading up on healthy marriages could help you put the affair into perspective and give you insight on how to move forward. Your therapist at Evolve will suggest some books that will be helpful.
Embrace Your Own Emotions
Returning to the idea of emotional self-care, it's important to allow yourself to embrace your emotions. No matter what they are, give them space and allow them to be. You could be experiencing delusion, grief, anger, devastation, guilt, or anxiety. Chances are the cheated-on partner will experience the 5 stages of grief.
Don't shame yourself for feeling any particular emotion. And don't feel bad if your emotions change as you heal. Seeing a therapist could help you work through your emotions, even if your partner is not ready for couples counseling.
Bottling up your emotions and refusing to feel or examine them can result in many more problems down the road. So as hard as it can be to accept your emotions, you will be better for it.
Lean On Your Support System
Affairs tend to be embarrassing and telling your friends and family about it brings on a whole other host of emotions. Will other people be judging you or your partner? Will they have advice you don't want to hear? Will they try to push you in one direction or the other?
It's fair to ask these questions, and important. But going through this hard time, you need to be able to lean on your support system, for your own sanity. To weed out the unsolicited advice, set up clear boundaries. You can say something like, "We're going through a hard time in our marriage and I am not ready to talk about it. But I could really use some help getting the kids picked up from school [or fill in the blank with your own needs] because [your partner's name] and I need a little space from each other while we work it out."
If you do trust that your family and friends are safe people to talk to, allow yourself to be vulnerable and talk about it. Sometimes a good conversation with a friend can be as enlightening as a therapy session. It's also just important to know that other people have your back while you are feeling so vulnerable.
Seek Professional Help
Marriages stand the best chance of recovering after an affair when you're able to seek professional help. A marriage therapist will be an objective third party that can help you work through the affair, or help you determine if you want to end the relationship. They'll provide a safe time and place to talk about the affair so that it doesn't have to be all-consuming in your day-to-day life.
Affair recovery is possible for two partners that are willing to work through it. If the breakage in relationship is too much, counseling can help you end things on amicable terms. This is especially important if you have children and will need to continue co-parenting. Family counseling can also help you navigate your new family dynamic with the children there as well.
An affair can be a fresh start for couples who want to rebuild their relationship from the ground up. A relationship that has been harmed by an affair can often be rebuilt to be stronger and more enduring than it was before the affair, just as a house that has been damaged by a disaster can often be rebuilt to be stronger and more enduring than it was before. It necessitates that all parties involved make a sincere commitment to do whatever it takes to re-establish trust, love, and intimacy.
See a Couples Counselor at Evolve Therapy
While there are many marriage and affair recovery resources available to you, seeing a therapist gives you the best chance to work through the pain and come out stronger than ever. Evolve Therapy can provide the support you need. We specialize in helping individuals and couples recover from infidelity and rebuild their relationships. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you heal and move on from this difficult time.