Is It Possible to Make a Full Recovery After an Affair?

It may not be a surprise to find that the answer to this question is yes. If it weren’t possible, there would be no need to write about it (or it would prove to be a fairly short article). What may actually be surprising, however, is learning that the couple who stays together after an affair is closer to the rule rather than the exception. Many people expect an affair to result in divorce or a break up more often than it actually does.

However, when couples stay together after an affair they do not always make a complete recovery. There are many reasons a couple might choose to stay together after an affair without ever recovering the intimacy, trust, or connection that they once enjoyed. Their relationship may more closely resemble a business partnership than a loving relationship. This “business partnership” may continue indefinitely or at least until their children are launched. Make no mistake about it, however, this is not an example of a complete recovery.

What is a full recovery?

A full recovery involves regaining the complete trust and the intimacy that was once enjoyed by the couple. It is much more than simply “staying together,” and it does not necessarily equate to simply getting back to how things were immediately before the affair. For the clear majority of couples, the relationship prior to the affair, was in a very unhealthy place that greatly contributed to the infidelity. To make a complete recovery, couples either need to regain the spark and connection that once existed or, alternatively, learn to establish the spark and connection that they never experienced.

What steps must be taken to fully recover?

 

1. Both Partners on Board?

In order to achieve this, both partners need the motivation and willingness to work towards a full recovery. Once this has been established, the next obvious, but critical, step is that the affair must end if it hasn’t already. It is important that the affair is ended in a way that is commensurate to the emotional connection that was established in the affair. In other words, the ending of a one night stand would be very different from an emotional affair that has lasted a long time. An emotional affair needs more closure than simply cutting off contact. It is important to have a full and complete ending in order to establish a new beginning with your partner.

2. Witness the Pain

The next step is for the unfaithful partner to bear witness to the injured partner’s pain. They need to really work at trying to understand the full extent of how deeply they hurt their partner. Both parties, however, will need to accept some level of responsibility for the affair. The unfaithful partner will typically own the lion’s share, but it is important for the couple to recognize that both partners contributed to the unhealthy dynamic that led to the affair.

3. Transparency is Crucial

In addition to motivation, time, and patience, the full recovery of a relationship requires transparency and openness to rebuild the lost trust, especially from the unfaithful partner. This transparency and openness will likely take many forms. It includes the actual transparency of sharing email passwords, text messages, and bank account information, to the emotional transparency of openly and honestly answering whatever questions the injured partner has about the details surrounding the affair. This process requires the immense patience of the unfaithful partner since it is not uncommon for the injured partner to want to ask these same questions repeatedly. These questions need to be answered patiently and honestly, as many times as they are asked.

4. Get Professional Expertise

Seeking professional help after an affair is very important. The clear majority of couples cannot fully recover without the support of a mental health professional. Fortunately, most people realize that the state of the relationship after an affair requires the help of a professional. This very often holds true even if the couple does not want to try to save their relationship. A couple needs more than just professional help, however, in order to make a full recovery. The couple also needs patience and the understanding that it truly takes an extended time to fully recover from such a devastating blow. The time it takes to recover will obviously vary depending on the couple and the nature of the infidelity, but two or three counseling sessions is not nearly enough. Recovery time can take as long as a year, and sometimes longer.

5. Patience is Required!

As progress is made, couples sometimes make the mistake of ending couples therapy prematurely before trust has been reformed and cemented, and the intimacy has been re-established. This can be considered a “band-aid” approach, where the initial shock has been coped with, but all of the underlying issues have not been completely addressed. Unfortunately, while most of these couples will “stay together,” they will not make a full recovery.

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