The aftermath of an affair can be much like that of a house fire -- your life feels upended, and you experience the pain resulting from loss. Unlike a fire, the loss in this case is a loss of trust and esteem rather than belongings, which can be an even more painful experience. Regaining your peace of mind can come after you begin to accept the reality of the affair and actively work on the marriage.
Accept That it Happened
People who have suffered from an affair move through three phases, states Peggy Vaughn, founder of the Extramarital Affairs Resource Center. The first stage is denial, when you tell yourself, "This couldn't have happened to me!" The next is a questioning stage. You might ask yourself, "Why did this happen? What did I do wrong?" Finally, the third stage is when acceptance comes, in which you deal with the reality that the affair happened and what happened won't change. When you reach acceptance, you will begin to experience greater peace of mind, and you can now take action to improve your relationship.
Help Your Husband to Regain Your Trust
Let your husband know exactly what he needs to do in order for you to regain trust, recommends Janis Spring, Ph.D., in her book, "After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful." For example, if you need him to be home immediately after work on weekdays and to attend couples therapy with you, let him know this is what will help you to feel more secure in the relationship. Be positive and specific -- tell your husband that you would like to begin receiving the credit card statement, rather than saying, "Don't hide your credit card activity from me."
Address Prior Marital Issues
As painful as it may be, look at your own role in the affair. Many affairs begin because of unmet needs, poor marital communication and other unresolved issues. You can feel empowered in your marriage to make positive changes if you recognize your own role, says clinical psychologist and marriage expert Susan Heitler, Ph.D in the November 2011 "Psychology Today" article, "Recovery from an Affair." This is not to say you should blame yourself, but simply recognize previous problems and address them so that your marriage will be stronger in the future.
Realize that you can't predict the future. All you ultimately have control over is how you respond to the present moment. If you and your husband have a pleasant dinner together, enjoy that time and dismiss any niggling thoughts of possible future infidelity. Consider spending a 20-minute block of time each day meditating. Meditation can enhance relationships and create feelings of well-being, and may be beneficial in healing instances of infidelity, according to researchers Laura Cunningham and Yuleisy Cardoso in a 2012 article for the American Counseling Association.
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- "After the Affair -- Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful"; Janis Spring, Ph.D.
- Ideas and Research You Can Use -- VISTAS 2012: Loving Kindness Meditation and Couples Therapy -- Healing After an Infidelity
- Psychology Today: Recovery From an Affair
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.