For many couples, adultery produces intense feelings of devastation and betrayal. Many do not see it coming. They may feel ashamed that they are not the one special someone to their spouses that they thought themselves to be. Couples may wrestle with decisions about rebuilding their relationships. According to Janis Spring, clinical psychologist and author of "After the Affair," the greatest roadblock to recovery from an affair is loss of hope.
Let's Work It Out
Spring says a couple can survive adultery as long as both people are willing to acknowledge the problems that led to infidelity and work through it together. This process can be long, may require therapy, and can feel like an emotional roller coaster. Both of you need to feel heard; the spouse who was cheated on feels betrayed, and the spouse who was unfaithful had reasons for cheating.
Strength, love, devotion and patience are needed during this time of healing and rebuilding trust. The unfaithful spouse likely has feelings of guilt and remorse and may want nothing more than for the whole thing to go away. The spouse who was cheated on may feel angry, resentful and betrayed and likely wants to wake up and realize it's all a bad dream. Both parties need to understand the intense feelings that will arise periodically over the course of their healing journey. These feelings need to be validated and understood with empathy. Putting themselves in each other's shoes and actively listening to each other can help the healing process.
Regaining trust will be slow and painful at times as the spouse who was cheated on will have doubts. Both need to understand the pain each feels. The spouse who had the affair needs to be understood as well. In her book "How Can I Forgive You?" Spring encourages acceptance instead of forgiveness when dealing with the overwhelming emotions following adultery. Some spouses may find it impossible to forgive yet they are able to accept what has occurred, work through their emotions and learn to trust again and remain married. Acceptance allows you to be true to yourself and express all of your thoughts and feelings regarding the adulterous act.
Through acceptance, you are able to look at the situation honestly, come to terms with how you would like to proceed with each other and forgive yourself for your part in the relationship's problems. Having a handle on where your feelings of mistrust stem from will help you develop the necessary skills to keep it from preventing your marriage from healing. Remaining together should be pleasurable; talk to your spouse when the feelings about the affair arise. Let it out but avoid ruminating, as that will keep you from moving on.