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Recovering from an affair

Recovering from an affair isn’t easy. In fact, it’s one of the hardest challenges a married couple can face. But the good news is that it can be done. There is hope for you, your marriage and your future.

Couple recovering from an affair

It’s impossible to express the shock and pain of discovering infidelity. Being betrayed is an emotionally traumatizing event that’s filled with pain. And once it’s discovered the path to saving and restoring your marriage can seem hopeless. Unless you’ve been betrayed, you can’t comprehend the pain associated with infidelity.

This article will be discussed with the assumption that the affair has been discovered and confessed and that you are seeking advice about how to recover from infidelity. If you haven’t reached that stage yet I suggest reading Signs of an Affair first and coming back to this article afterwards.

Infidelity is having a romantic or sexual relationship with someone other than your partner. Infidelity can be an emotional attachment that doesn’t include physical intimacy. Many partners report that the betrayal felt from an emotional affair can be just as intense as a sexual affair. In either case, trust is broken, and the emotional trauma of the affair is devastating.

If your partner is the one having the affair you’ll likely have many questions and concerns. The loss of trust and pain of being betrayed can be overwhelming once the infidelity is discovered.

Common questions when recovering from an affair

  • Is our marriage over?
  • Is the marriage relationship worth saving?
  • How can I ever forgive my partner?
  • Why did this happen to us?
  • Is the affair really over?
  • Do I know everything or is there more to this?
  • How can I ever trust my spouse again?
  • Should I tell friends and family about the affair?

After discovering (or revealing) an extramarital affair, you’re probably uncertain how to proceed. But be assured that many couples that recover from an affair often end up with a stronger relationship than they had before the affair. Here are a few valuable insights to help you move forward in the recovery and healing of your marriage relationship:

Steps for the faithful spouse to recover from an affair

Spouse recovering from an affair

Take care of yourself in the following areas:

Emotionally:

– Identify and journal your emotions
– Seek guidance from a mentor, counselor or pastor to help process your thoughts and emotions about the betrayal and affair
– Forgive your spouse – you can’t change what they did but you can decide how to respond
* If you need help forgiving, go to this great resource: How to Forgive Someone

Physically:

– Eat a balanced diet of nutritious foods daily
– Exercise
– Make adequate sleep a priority  

Intellectually:

– Find resources to learn about relationships and recovering from an affair
– Develop or pursue a hobby or other positive activity that interests or energizes you
– Get involved as a volunteer in a church or community organization

Spiritually:

-Make the decision to forgive your partner regardless of how you feel
– Ask God’s help to soften your heart and change your feelings toward your spouse
– If you’re a Christian ask God to help you forgive them as He has forgiven you

Don’t make an impulsive decision to end your marriage

When first discovering the affair, it may seem that divorce is inevitable. Trust is lost and there’s no marriage left to save. Or you no longer care enough to try to save your marriage relationship. Infidelity is brutal and hard to recover from. But don’t lose hope. Many couples not only survive an affair but actually become stronger after rebuilding the relationship.

Get help to recover from the affair

You’ll almost certainly want help working through your feelings about your partner having an affair and the pain that being betrayed brings. You should consider a good marriage counselor, pastor or trusted mentor to assist you in working through the issues necessary to restore your personal health and the marriage relationship.

Setting appropriate and reasonable boundaries with your partner will be an important element of your success. A skilled counseling professional is a great source for both you and your spouse when it comes to determining what a reasonable boundary is. They will also provide other valuable resources to bring healing and recovery to the marriage relationship.

Don’t let intense emotions control or overwhelm you

Intense emotions in these circumstances are normal. You can expect to experience a wide range of emotions from anger, devastation and extreme depression to days or moments of hope and optimism. Don’t lose hope, this is a normal step during the recovery and healing process.

At some point during recovery, you’ll likely want to lash out at your unfaithful partner for their betrayal. In extreme cases, you may even consider having an affair of your own to show your partner how it feels to be betrayed and disrespected. Be aware of these pitfalls and do your best to manage your emotions as you heal. Don’t let your anger cause you to do something you’ll regret later.

Analyze the reasons for the affair

An important aspect of recovering from an affair is understanding what led to it. Although you’re in no way responsible for your partner’s affair, it’s essential to understand what precipitated the infidelity. Is there anything that you could have done better? Remember, engaging in this type of healthy self-reflection isn’t the same as excusing your spouse’s choice to act out.

Was the partner that committed infidelity feeling physically or emotionally neglected in the relationship? Were there feelings of insecurity that caused them to reach out to someone else? Did they feel like they weren’t being heard at home? Did they feel disrespected or unloved?

Answering these types of honest questions will help you to gain insight into what happened and to guard against the same thing happening in the future. Both partners will have different views of why it happened, but these should be addressed and resolved with mutual understanding, compassion, and empathy.

Go Deep in your faith

It’s normal to feel rejected and inadequate as a spouse after discovering the affair. This can lead to your self-image taking a hit and thinking less of yourself because of your spouse’s infidelity. It’s important to focus on what God has revealed in His word about how He sees you and the value that you have to Him. Your spouse doesn’t define your worth God does. Rest in His love and the truth that He will never leave or forsake you. And that you are His child whom He loves dearly.

Honesty and transparency with your spouse

At some point in the recovery process, it will be important for you to share how your partner having an affair has made you feel. You likely feel hurt, angry, betrayed, and have doubts that things can be made right in your marriage. But be careful not to slip into unbridled rage and accusations as you vent your feelings. This will only make things worse.

Let your partner know that you’re willing to work on the marriage if they are. But you’ll need them to be committed, honest and transparent with you moving forward. This may include giving you access to their phone, online accounts and history. And providing you with a more detailed disclosure of their schedule outside of the home while they are rebuilding trust. 

The two of you should also develop a plan to deal with any unexpected contact from the person they were having an affair with if they contact your spouse in the future. A good counselor can help design a recovery and accountability plan for you and your spouse that’s healthy for your own recovery and mindset as well as protecting the marriage.

Ask your spouse any important questions you have about the affair but keep in mind that having too much information might cause you to dwell on unwanted thoughts and images that you would be better off without.

Listen carefully to your spouse’s perspective, heart and emotions. Try to understand how they ended up vulnerable to an affair. You’ll have to fight the tendency to hear what they share as simply excuses to do what they wanted to do. And sadly, that may be the case. But showing compassion and a genuine interest in their perspective will open the door to a much more candid and probably humble level of sharing that both of you will gain insight and healing from.

Forgive your spouse

Forgiveness is a difficult topic when recovering from an affair. Infidelity is a very personal and deep betrayal of trust and your commitment to each other. Hopefully by now your spouse has confessed their sin and transgression against you, as well as terminated the extramarital relationship, asked for your forgiveness, and expressed a heart-felt commitment to working on your marriage relationship.

Forgiveness is a crucial component to recovering from an affair but it’s not easy. If you’re struggling to forgive, here’s an excellent resource to help you through the process: How to Forgive Someone.

Should I tell friends or family about the affair?

Confiding in a family member or friend can be helpful but it has inherent risks. Sharing what’s happened with others might provide you with emotional support and sound advice. But it can also damage the relationship they have with your partner.

Unless you have a family member or friend that you can trust is mature and trustworthy enough to handle the information in confidence, I’d highly recommend confiding in a good counselor or pastor to work through your healing. They’re skilled in helping couples heal after infidelity has hurt their relationship. And they know the steps to recovering from an affair.

Steps for the unfaithful spouse to recover from an affair

Unfaithful spouse recovering from an affair

Don’t make an impulsive decision to end your marriage

Now that your spouse has discovered the affair, it may seem that divorce is inevitable. Trust is lost and your partner will never forgive you. Or you may still have a strong attraction to the person you’ve been having an affair with and you’re not sure you’re willing to end the relationship.

Infidelity is hard to recover from. But many marriages not only survive an affair but actually become stronger after rebuilding the marriage. Give yourself time to process your feelings, clarify your thoughts and work on your marriage before making this lifechanging decision.

End the affair immediately

If you haven’t already, end all contact with the person you were having the affair with. Regardless of what happens in the future you owe it to yourself, your spouse and God (if you’ve taken your vows before Him), to make every effort to save your marriage.

Maintaining this inappropriate relationship will destroy any chance of rebuilding your marriage. This step is non-negotiable if you want to save your marriage and honor your commitment. It doesn’t matter if they’re a co-worker or an old friend. The relationship needs to end.

This might be as simple as un-friending the person on social media or could be as complicated as moving, changing jobs or finding a different church or group of friends.

Be very direct with the other person when ending the affair. Stop all forms of contact with them. If they contact you, let your spouse know right away and how you handled it. This will help in rebuilding trust and healing with your spouse.

Understand what led to the affair

You need to figure out how you ended up in an affair. Was there something missing in the relationship with your spouse? Was it something in the relationship itself or was it something that needs to be addressed inside of you? Maybe it was both. Once you’ve identified likely reasons that the affair occurred you can seek healing and safeguard yourself in those areas.

Understand the difference between infatuation and love. Infatuation can bring a rush of sexual attraction and excitement. But this type of intense attraction fades with time and the daily responsibilities of life regardless of who the relationship is with.

Love is built over time through shared experiences, core values, mutual respect and commitment to each other. Love isn’t just a feeling. Feelings ebb and flow. Love is a decision and commitment to action to build, protect and honor the relationship. Love grows far deeper and richer than infatuation ever could. Beauty fades. Love increases.

Accept full responsibility for your unfaithfulness

Admitting your unfaithfulness isn’t the same as taking responsibility for that choice. No matter what factors contributed to your infidelity, you need to hold yourself 100% accountable for your choices and actions. Your spouse isn’t perfect, and neither are you. Working through relationship issues is a normal part of every couple’s marriage.

There will be an appropriate time to share your concerns and grievances with your spouse about problems and deficits in the marriage but NEVER use those to justify your actions. You have hurt them deeply and this is a very important step to their healing.

As odd as it may seem, you will need to grieve the loss of the other relationship. As wrong as it was, there was something you received from that relationship that was meeting a need or desire. That will be gone and letting go emotionally will be important to your healing. You need to fill that emotional gap with something positive. You might pursue a new hobby, establish new fitness goals, or volunteer with a community organization or cause.

Listen to your spouse

Your spouse is hurting and angry because of your choice. You can’t make them love you, forgive you or be willing to work on the marriage. The fact that they are willing to be vulnerable or invested enough to share their feelings with you is a good sign no matter how difficult it may be to hear.

Listen and give feedback with empathy, care and concern for them and realize the horrible position that they are in because of your choices. Give them all the time they need to process and work through the grief associated with infidelity. This is an important step in their healing.

Don’t fall into the trap of becoming defensive by reminding them of their shortcomings or past failures. Those conversations are necessary, but not until they know you’ve accepted full responsibility for your actions and empathize with the pain that you’ve caused them. Once that’s achieved the line of communication is open to discuss your other concerns in the relationship.

Your spouse is choosing to fight for your marriage despite your bad choices and their pain. This is a difficult sacrificial love filled with grace and mercy. Be sure to tell and show them how much you appreciate their willingness to work on your marriage relationship.

Seek forgiveness

If you’re a Christian, you need to confess your sin to God. 1 John 1:9 states: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Asking for forgiveness is an important step in the healing and restoration process. Confessing your betrayal, expressing sincere sorrow for the pain you’ve caused your spouse, and communicating a commitment to change your behavior to safeguard the marriage is crucial.

Keep in mind that forgiveness is a process. It may take a while for them to decide to forgive you. Once they do, it will take even longer for their feelings to follow that decision. Additionally, forgiving you after hurting them so deeply will require them to forgive you again each time they remember the infidelity.

Go Deep in your faith

After the affair is discovered by your partner, it’s common to feel embarrassed and to be racked with guilt and condemnation. It’s healthy and appropriate to feel convicted of your sin and unfaithfulness, which hopefully leads you to repentance and recovering from the affair. But wallowing in condemnation will destroy you and your will to fight to be a better person and have a better marriage.

You can’t change the past, but there is hope for your future. There will be consequences for your past actions, but God can redeem you and bring healing to your marriage if you submit to Him and follow His word.

It’s important to focus on what God has revealed in His word about how He sees you and the value that you have to Him. Your sin doesn’t define your worth God does. Rest in His love and the truth that He will never leave or forsake you. And that you are His child whom He loves dearly. Trust and follow Him. 

Take care of yourself

Facing the consequences of your infidelity from your partner and losing the extramarital relationship will result in a wide range of emotions. You need to take care of yourself emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually. You’ll likely feel drained and taking care of yourself may not seem like a priority but you’ll need to be your best to navigate through these difficult steps of recovery.

Work on building trust

– Be honest with your partner. Commit to being open and transparent.

– Be honest about what happened and humbly apologize for the pain you’ve caused your partner.  

– Allow access to your phone, email, social media accounts or anything else your spouse requests access to until trust is rebuilt.

– Share detailed information about your schedule when outside of the home.

– Work on developing better communication skills.

– Don’t be offended or defensive if your partner asks for occasional reassurances that you are staying loyal to them.  

– Alert your spouse if any attempt is made to contact you by the other person and how you handled it.

– Suggest going to a marriage counselor, pastor or trusted mentor for marriage counseling.

– Rebuilding trust takes time. Give your partner the time and space they need to grieve, forgive and heal during recovery.

– Give your partner time to heal before expecting them to be sexually or emotionally intimate with you. Be patient with your partner while they’re taking steps to recover from this devastating betrayal to the relationship.

– Regardless of your spouses flaws or inadequacies, you need to work on improving yourself.

Working together to recover from an affair

Working together to recover from an affair

Previously we’ve covered what each spouse needs to do to bring about healing and recovery from an affair. A couple’s relationship is best safeguarded when both parties work together to establish a solid basis of friendship, trust, love and respect.

Below are a few additional ways to make your relationship richer and affair-proof.

Other suggestions for improving your marriage

• Treat each other with love and respect.
• Promptly forgive hurts or misunderstandings.
• Focus on what you love and appreciate about your partner not their flaws.
• Discuss the affair when necessary to heal but don’t get stuck there.
• Do Not use your spouse’s affair as a weapon to manipulate them in the future.
• Set healthy boundaries and use mutual accountability.
• Maintain daily communication about plans, events, and share personal feelings.
• Learn and use effective communication and conflict resolution skills.
• Set goals together – health, marriage, family, financial etc.
• Take up a hobby or work on a common interest together.
• Be sure to date (even if you have children) and find ways to spend quality time together on a regular basis.
• Love, respect and serve your partner regardless of whether you feel like they are doing the same. That type of unconditional love is hard to resist! And it will bring out the best in your spouse no matter what has transpired in the past.

We hope you’ve found this article on Recovering from an affair helpful. You can find more great marriage resources on our Keeping Families Connected site.

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