Once an affair is discovered by a spouse, the impact of the emotional devastation can change the course of the couple’s life forever. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I assure you that although change is inevitable after such a betrayal, your marriage can recover! It is very important that the injured spouse does not continue to be harmed by the offending spouse’s actions.
Timing is critical to begin to implement steps to begin recovering from an affair.
One of the most harmful things an offending spouse can do is begin the process by defending himself or herself. Although there may be anger, bitterness and other perceived reasons by the offending spouse that led to the affair, now is not the time to disclose this. By responding in this way, the offending spouse is further harming the injured spouse by blaming them.
During this time the injured spouse will have mixed emotions ranging from extreme hurt and anger, shock, fear, confusion, anxiety and feelings of depression and shame.
To begin the process of healthy recovery from an affair, support your injured spouse with these helpful responses:
- Get outside help.
If the betrayed spouse is willing, immediately schedule to meet with a Marriage and Family Therapist to assist you both by providing a safe place to discuss very overwhelming and difficult feelings.
- Resist defending your actions.
Instead, sympathize with your spouse’s feelings of hurt and betrayal. This will allow the injured spouse to feel heard and understood, which is vital to the recovery process. The offending spouse will have an opportunity at a later time to be heard and understood.
- Let your spouse establish boundaries.
Give your spouse the freedom to set the tone and pace of the recovery process. This includes setting limits on conversations pertaining to the affair, time spent with you, and physical intimacy. Respect any and all appropriate boundaries that your spouse insists upon.
Porsha Williams, LAMFT
photo credit: celynek, Creative Commons