Affair healing Blog
When a partner has been betrayed and carries the wound of an affair, they long for the spouse to feel their pain and accept responsibility for it. To do this, the unfaithful partner must be willing to move toward that hurt rather than away from it. But let's be honest: most of us aren't wired that way.
In the presence of such overwhelming suffering, often expressed in anger, the guilty husband or wife usually reacts in self-protective ways by either avoiding or attacking their spouse. When that fight-or-flight response is mixed with a strong desire to sidestep the shame of an affair, it's easy to understand why so many cheating spouses simply want to voice a confession and then move on to other matters.
Here's how one betrayed spouse described her dilemma in a forum post: "[My husband] says he won't be punished for his transgression. He has made no effort for transparency or full disclosure, in fact I'm not allowed to bring [the affair partner] up or he threatens to leave."
Moving on too quickly leaves the betrayed spouse frustrated, struggling to let go of resentment caused by an inadequate response to their pain. They want to know that their spouse feels a deep, genuine sorrow, unfiltered by self-protective motives, for the affair. They need to believe their spouse really "gets it" and is not just looking for an easy pass back to normality.
When a betrayer genuinely understands the consequences of their affair and has an empathetic reaction to the pain they've caused, they experience an internal shift. They stop trying to self-protect or control outcomes and, instead, offer raw expressions of regret and sorrow. They start accepting responsibility for repairing the damage they caused.
This personal brokenness is usually a powerful turning point in the healing process.
Not everyone experiences this in one grand moment. For some, it comes in a series of insights. But whatever the process, this brokenness is something that should be embraced, not avoided. Without it, the wounded spouse will have a harder time moving toward forgiveness and trust. In fact, they may never be able to reach them.
If you are a betrayed spouse and your partner has not expressed a sense of brokenness, what can you do?
First, consider what you cannot do.
If you have committed an affair but have not experienced brokenness, what can you do?
What does brokenness look like?
Here's what one betrayed woman wrote about the eventual response of her wayward husband:
"When he walked in the door, I saw a broken man. He sat and sobbed on the couch next to me. I had never seen him cry, ever. I was sad, angry and hurt beyond words, but in that moment my heart broke for him, too.
"What came across in his letter was a man who believed he wasn’t deserving of forgiveness. He knew his infidelity was a deal breaker and he came clean as a way of absolving me from any blame I might be tempted to put on myself... As we sat facing each other on the couch, I told him I didn’t know if I could ever get past this but I also didn’t know that I couldn’t."
His brokenness, over five years ago, was the beginning of their healing.
Unless otherwise noted, articles are written by Tim Tedder, a licensed counselor and creator of this site and its resources. Twitter: @TimTedder