Affair healing Blog
In Recovery Room podcast #502, counselor Jennifer Gingras and I discuss issues related to someone who has had repeated affairs. Let's focus on just one questions: If a marriage has any hope for healing after repeated infidelities, what is the one thing that matters most? What is the best predictor of genuine, lasting recovery (assuming the betrayed partner decides to stay)?
First, let me list some circumstances that are not most important in relationship recovery from multiple affairs. Although these may all be part of the recovery process, they will not matter if the one thing is missing.
The essetial, necessary change is this: The involved partner's sincere passion to take responsibility for personal and relationship healing and their desire to work on change that happens from the inside-out.
There must be an obvious, recognizable difference in the way the unfaithful partner confronts their affair behavior. There needs to be a real difference in the way they work on recovery now in contrast to their efforts after previouse affairs.
The inside-out change means they are driven by a personal passion to do what is necessary in pursuit of lasting change. Not because they're being forced to do it. Not just because they fear the consequences if they don't. Not because it's what's "expected." It needs to be an almost desperate desire to figure out the pattern and to follow a different path in the future.
This shift is the greatest predictor of long-term healing.
For more information about this "inside-out" motivation, I'd suggest listening (or reading the transcript) to podcast #501: "Satisfying Choices, Lasting Change."
Following an affair, the recovery of the marriage is not the only option. But partners who decide to heal together will take different steps toward that goal.
The vertical pairing of the steps listed below depicts how partners are connected to each other’s experiences and actions. Discovery should be met with disclosure. One partner’s trauma should lead to the other’s remorse which, in turn, can shorten the traumatic ordeal. Empathy should be offered to pain. Honesty needs to be met with acceptance. Atonement encourages forgiveness, and both partners must take the vulnerable risks necessary to reestablish trust.
If either partner fails to take the necessary steps, the journey stops. If they remain stuck, then complete relationship healing cannot occur.
Having already reviewed the steps of the Involved Partner, let's consider what steps the Injured Partner must take if a couple chooses to heal their marriage...
The healing of a marriage/relationship after an affair is not a passive process. There is no recovery conveyor belt to carry you from one stage to the next. The only way to reach your preferred destination is by walking the right path, step by step.
Couples who hope to heal together can expect to stumble. A lot. They will need to frequently adjust their footing to get back in sync. Knowing their desired destination can only be reached by taking the difficult journey together, both partners must cooperate in their efforts.
Consider the steps the Involved Partner (the one who had the affair) must take to help their relationship heal...
Jacob sits at one end of the counseling couch, downcast, head in his hands, elbows on his knees. His gaze finally lifts from the space between his feet to settle on his wife, Cara, curled up in a tight ball at the other end of the couch. "How am I supposed to believe you?" he asks.
She hesitates, obviously frustrated with her inability to convince her husband. "Whether you believe me or not, I'm telling you the truth."
"You told me that before and I found out you were still lying. This whole affair was about making me believe one thing while you were doing something else. So how how can I believe you're being honest now?"
Cara remains silent. Jacob shakes his head, then turns to me as I sit in witness of their struggle. "Do you think I should trust her?" he asks, somehow hoping my counselor's insight will provide him with assurance one way or the other.
Unless otherwise noted, articles are written by Tim Tedder, a licensed counselor and creator of this site and its resources.