In the intricate dance of love and commitment, couples may find themselves facing the tumultuous aftermath of infidelity. The discovery of an affair can shatter the very foundation upon which a relationship is built, leaving both partners grappling with a plethora of emotions. However, it’s important to recognize that an affair doesn’t necessarily have to be the end. Many couples have managed to not only survive but thrive after navigating the storm of infidelity.
Your individual beliefs about infidelity may be influenced by how you were raised, where you are in your life, the people you have known who have gone through a similar experience, the reason for the affair, and many more factors. You may have had an opinion about affairs before your own experience and may discover that you feel differently than you thought you would. You might not know how you feel until you reflect and explore; this can take a long time.
Is This The End?
Discovering that your partner has been unfaithful is undoubtedly one of the most painful experiences a person can endure. The initial shock, disbelief, and heartbreak can make it seem as if the very fabric of your relationship has been irreparably torn. However, it’s crucial to understand that an affair doesn’t automatically signify the end. While the road to recovery may be arduous, many couples have emerged stronger, having used the crisis as an opportunity for growth. Ultimately, whether or not this event ends your relationship depends on what you both want and what you learn through the process of unpacking the situation.
3 Ways to Heal as a Couple After an Affair
1) Seek Couples Therapy:
Our seasoned Gottman’s couples therapists aren’t here to take sides and be part of the blame game. When you are looking to attend couples counseling, it is important to find someone with whom both you and your partner are comfortable. This will be someone who shapes this period of your life together through structure and support. Marital counseling uncovers the underlying issues that contributed to the affair, assists in rebuilding communication, and offers tools to forge a stronger, more resilient relationship. Couples therapy provides a safe space to explore what happened and what is still happening. It is a neutral zone where you can determine if there is a way forward, what that way might be, and where you hope to end up.
You may have attended couples therapy in the past, or it might be your first time. If the two of you have never benefited from relationship guidance before, you may discover that you learned things about your thoughts, communication styles, values, priorities, fears, goals, and insecurities that you were never aware of. You may each, as individuals, realize truths about yourselves that you didn’t know before and, therefore, couldn’t have shared with one another.
Throughout your time in couples therapy, you will focus on the relationship and yourselves as individuals. You may see a separate therapist for individual therapy. You may need to confront issues, triggers, traumas, and self-talk outside of your relationship to bring your most open and honest self to your relationship. When attending therapy with your significant other, you must be able to share your experiences and also learn about their point of view. Anyone who seeks to clarify their stance through individual therapy and brings their discoveries back to couples therapy is still doing the work. No matter what kind of relationship you are in, your relationship with yourself will play a major role in how that relationship works.
While attending therapy together, you may discover that one or both of you have felt isolated in your dynamic, or you may have the opportunity to confront and express this feeling for the first time. Many of us have experience with wondering if we’re in a one-sided relationship at one point or another. Perhaps we felt as though we were doing more work, sacrificing more, communicating more, or that we loved the other person more than they loved us. The affair may have solidified those ideas. It is possible that the other person feels or has felt that way, too. In couples therapy, you have the opportunity to explore the behaviors and patterns that caused you to feel that way, and your partner has the opportunity to address them. This is about both of your past actions. If you pulled away because you felt insecure, that is important information for you to know. If you were 100% present with your partner and the affair happened anyway, that is important information for you to know. This is not about assigning blame or making excuses but about developing a deeper understanding of the dynamics at play when the affair happened. This is what gives you permission to determine if this relationship is the best thing for you. You deserve to make that choice, and your partner deserves to know that you have made a conscious decision to forgive and stay together with all the information at hand.
2) Rebuilding Trust Through Transparency:
Rebuilding trust is a gradual process that demands transparency from both parties. Rebuilding trust is a mutual effort, and both partners must be willing to work together to create a new foundation based on honesty and integrity. This is a time when you are honest not only about the relationship and the dynamics within but also about things that are seemingly not connected. The smallest deception can plant seeds of distrust. Is it worth lying about something small, like what you had for lunch, if being found could cause your partner to wonder what else you’re not telling the truth about? Of course not. Sometimes, we keep things private as a means of assuring ourselves of our autonomy and independence. Other ways to achieve that confidence include taking on a personal challenge or learning a new skill.
Part of that transparency means unpacking what led up to the affair. This is not about making excuses; instead, it is about uncovering explanations. You may reflect on the time leading up to what happened and recognize red flags in hindsight; that doesn’t mean that you were responsible for your partner cheating on you. These warning signs were indicators of issues that needed to be resolved to heal the relationship. You may be surprised by some of them; perhaps you two never argued, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. There is no “hiding the truth because it will hurt you”; there is only finding a way to express the truth productively. In this case, the truth is whatever is relevant to exploring the relationship.
The accountability taken by the partner who cheated can be a determining factor in the continued success of the relationship. It is up to that partner to be honest and direct. It is up to the other partner to provide a safe emotional environment in which that can happen. This is facilitated by both partners working hard to express their feelings and experiences rather than assigning blame or making accusations.
A genuine apology for the infidelity is an imperative step in rebuilding trust. The apology is how you communicate that you know you did something wrong. A strong apology uses language that displays an understanding of what happened; “I’m sorry for what I did” doesn’t cut it. An apology that is made when you are both calm, when there is time and space to process, and when you are both prepared to move forward is going to make more of an impact than one made during a state of heightened emotions, such as panicking about the future. A thorough apology outlines not only the actions taken but also the perpetrator’s understanding of the repercussions, as well as a promise for the future. “I had an affair, and that hurt you and undermined your trust in me. My actions caused you to feel that I didn’t value you appropriately and that I did not desire our relationship. I apologize for my infidelity. I will never be disloyal again, and I will do whatever it takes to rebuild your truth in me and your knowledge of how much I love and appreciate you. I want to remain in this relationship; I want to be with you and only you.”
3) Cultivate a New Relationship Narrative:
This involves acknowledging the mistakes, learning from them, and actively working towards a shared vision for the future. Setting new goals, creating positive shared experiences, and fostering a renewed sense of commitment can help shift the focus from the affair to a brighter, more hopeful tomorrow. You may feel that you need to rewrite your story from the affair onward but discover that you need to rethink ideas that pre-date that specific event as well. This doesn’t mean you deny the past; it means you acknowledge that the past is behind you and are focused on moving forward.
Quality time together can help you to build your new story. How well do you know one another; how does your knowledge show up in your love languages? Are there things you always meant to get around to but never prioritized? Now is the time to put your connection first. This means that there is a designated time in your relationship when you are not being interrupted by other people, when you follow through on the plans you made, and when the other person has your attention. A key facet of your quality time may be that you make a point of dating one another again.
Dates are important. Most relationships start off as a series of dates, and then the dates become fewer and further between as the commitment deepens. Many people feel that dates are a way to spend time together before you live together, but that isn’t true. Dates are an opportunity to get to know one another. Continuing to date means that you acknowledge that you are both still growing and changing as people. Dates also put you in situations where you can see or experience things outside of your routine. Trying something new together can teach you something new about yourselves and one another; sharing that experience deepens your mutual understanding.
Your relationship may have been plagued with pushing issues, a lack of self-advocacy, denial, and avoidance in the past. Establish boundaries so that your relationship has parameters and guidelines. If, in the past, you held your tongue when you were uncomfortable or when a need wasn’t being met, it’s time to re-write that rule. “In our relationship, we provide one another with the information needed for happiness and trust.” You may not feel that this comes easily at first. But any narrative about your relationship that states that you don’t have boundaries with one another isn’t a helpful one. Set aside times and means of communication. Communication styles, how they differ, and how to navigate those differences are something our clients benefit from when they see us for couples therapy in Woodland Hills.
The other relationship narrative that you are leaving behind is that yours is a relationship with infidelity. No, you cannot erase what happened. But moving forward means you no longer exist in a relationship where affairs happen. You focus on what is happening in the present and what you both want to happen in the future. “We have a relationship of fidelity, honesty, and trust.” Whether you adopt that as your affirmation, or if you as a couple choose an affirmation to say to one another, it is essential that both of you are of the same mindset. This mindset helps you to make choices that align with what you want your relationship to be. It helps you to build and maintain aspects of your relationship that support that goal.
Healing after infidelity is like healing after any major trauma. Progress is not a straight line; there will be hard times of varying lengths and significance. You will experience milestones that feel monumental and some that you barely notice. The key is to stay present throughout them all. Rebuilding the relationship isn’t about arriving at a place where you are both happy and secure again, though that is the end goal. The important part is what you go through while rebuilding, the things you learn about yourself, your partner, and your dynamic as a couple. You cannot cut corners or skip steps; you can only go through it at whatever pace works for you. Sometimes, you might wonder why you are bothering. Other times, you will feel like the process is easy and straightforward. There will likely be a lot of time spent in between. Regardless of what point you are at, honesty with yourself and one another is the key. That is how you know what is going on, how your relationship is doing, and what you are fighting for.
Couples Therapy In Woodland Hills
There are so many challenges in relationships, no matter the stage. How to communicate better, trust each other, compromise, and negotiate are all skills you can learn to thrive in your relationship. No matter the challenges that cause the disconnection in your relationship, our Couples Therapy in Woodland Hills, CA, helps you learn relationship skills to help you and your partner be more vulnerable, emotionally open, and flexible. Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Admin Team today!