8 Signs Your Relationship Can Recover After An Affair
There are many types of crises that a marriage will experience. All of them test the strength of the relationship. Learning that your partner had an affair is one of the hardest to live through. It's like setting off a bomb in the relationship. The aftershocks will reverberate through the relationship for years to come.
There are two basic types of affairs: physical and emotional. The type does not determine the effect on the relationship. An affair that involves inappropriate texts can be as damaging as one that included sex. Lying that covered up the affair can be as harmful as the affair itself. How the affair was uncovered adds another layer to the difficulties in recovering. The injured spouse usually gets to define how damaging the breach is.
Deciding whether to split up or stay together is a hard decision even without the stress of an affair. When you add in the complication of an affair, it often gets harder, not easier. The decision is not only about you and your partner. It also affects the kids, extended family, friends, careers, future plans, etc. You must consider these other factors when making the decision.
You might be surprised to hear that more couples stay together after an affair than split up. This goes against the conventional wisdom that most people can't forgive or move past an affair.
After an affair, a couple who decide to stay together go into "affair recovery." During this period, they make sense of why the affair happened and how to repair the relationship. To move on, both partners must do the work to clean up the mess and deal with the problems that led to the affair.
The worst case scenario is when a couple just moves on. They sweep the affair under the rug and pretend it didn't happen. When they do this, it often rears its ugly head whenever there is a problem. Unresolved relationship injuries erode the foundation that the relationship is built on.
Over the last two decades, I've sat with many couples who were trying to decide whether their relationship could be salvaged after an affair. They asked whether their relationship can recover.
If any of these apply to your situation, your husband believes that you do the extra work because it you want to. They might phrase it differently, but it is really what they believe.
These are the factors that I have observed are the most important in deciding whether to fix it:
It is painful to work to build trust in the relationship. If the affair has not ended, any repair work is built on a foundation of sand. The next crisis will wash away the tentative trust and you will start again. It is hard enough for the injured partner to trust again. It becomes almost impossible when they are competing with another outside person. Just when they start to build the trust, new injuries destroy it.
2️⃣ Your partner is genuinely sorry.
After an affair, it's not enough to apologize. If you had an affair, your apology needs to reflect true and genuine regret for hurting your partner. A good apology 1) takes responsibility for the affair, 2) acknowledges the partner's pain, and 3) makes specific promises that it will never happen again. You will need to repeat the apology as new aspects of the relationship injury are processed and healed. If the apology includes blaming the hurt partner, the apology is harder to accept.
The apology must be more than words. In order for the relationship to heal, observable change must go with the apology.
3️⃣ Your partner can hear your pain without getting defensive.
One of the ways to speed the healing process is to wholeheartedly listen to your partner's pain. It is uncomfortable to sit with their raw emotions. But, it helps them feel heard, acknowledged, and validated. It is a red flag in the recovery process for the partner who had the affair to repeatedly defend their choices and blame others for their behavior.
4️⃣ This starts an era of openness and transparency.
Part of the process of rebuilding trust after an affair is openness and transparency. Affair recovery often begins with re-evaluating and re-writing he agreements between the partners. Most couples change the rules around privacy, social media, friendships, and sharing plans.
5️⃣ You are able to forgive hard things.
To forgive, you need to know what the injuries were and make sense of them. As you learn new details, it is necessary to forgive again. Forgiveness becomes a daily practice.
This is even more true in affair recovery. If it's hard for you to forgive other kinds of relationship problems, it might be harder to forgive an affair. If you know in your heart that you will always hold this against your partner, forgiveness might not be possible.
Forgiveness doesn't usually mean forgetting. Once a relationship is affected by an affair, it becomes part of your history as a couple. Forgiveness requires you to accept what happened and make the changes to heal the relationship. It doesn't mean pretending it never happened.
6️⃣ You both manage your feelings so you can bring up the issue kindly.
To heal, most couples need to talk about the affair frequently before they can move forward. This is one of the hardest challenges of affair recovery, especially immediately after the affair is discovered. Most couples have the worst arguments of their relationship immediately after affair discovery. To heal, you both must be able to feel upset about what happened, but still talk about it in a productive way. One strategy is to frequently take breaks to remain calm.
7️⃣ You can imagine a time in the future when you might be able to look at the affair in context.
Once an affair is discovered, it changes the relationship forever. That doesn't mean you can't return to having a good relationship. In fact, many couples experience some of their best growth as they recover from an affair. To move forward, you must understand that the affair happened within the context of other problems.
8️⃣ Your partner doesn't blame you for having the affair.
The affair may have happened in the context of challenges in the relationship. Yet, that does not give either partner the freedom to have an affair. Both partners had to deal with the stressors in the relationship. They needed to cope in ways that did not break the boundaries around the relationship. The hurt partner is not to blame for the affair, even if they weren't perfect. If your partner blames you for the affair, this is a red flag that it will be hard to recover from.
Remember that your relationship is a work in progress. You don't need to have every one of these to save the relationship, but some are more important to you than others. As you read through the list, you will know which ones absolutely must be present to move forward.
Once in affair recovery, many couples realize that they need to create a new marriage. That means they will create something different from the relationship before the affair. This often is good news because you can fix the problems that you previously ignored.
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