Affair recovery takes more than time and intention. It takes the right approach.
First of all, don’t worry. You are normal. Whether you are the Betrayed or the Offender, I want you to know the thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing right now are normal. This is the most painful thing that happens between individuals in an intimate relationship. It sucks! And it results in some unprecedented thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
Both of you are in a world of pain; maybe in different ways, but you are each suffering.
While everything you’re experiencing and all the ways you’re trying to cope right now are normal, not all of them are helpful. It’s okay. That’s not your fault. Most natural responses when infidelity occurs, though common and understandable, cause more pain. To you. To your partner. And to the relationship.
You can make this worse. Much worse. You can actually do things to increase the intensity and length of the pain. But you don’t have to.
Affair Recovery Includes Three BIG things
No matter what, you need a way to manage your pain, your triggers, and feelings. The flavor of your pain makes a difference in how you manage it.
Some people are SO angry, they can’t see straight. The rage and hurt just bubble up and completely hijack their ability to concentrate, think rationally, or do anything productive (for themselves or for the relationship.) The question “how could you?” repeats.
For the offender, the ire of accusation, or the repetition of your partner’s response can feel heavy. You wonder how you will ever live having this thrown in your face again and again. As much as you know they are hurt, you just can’t handle hearing about it all the time.
Often, this much anger fuels high conflict between partners. The feelings are real and they may be justified, but mismanaging them leads to prolonged pain and suffering.
Some people have so much anxiety, they can’t sleep. Thoughts intrude. Maybe vivid imaginations interrupt peaceful thinking. Maybe you analyze your partner’s every move or facial expression. The question “why did this happen?” or “what is going to happen next?” keeps you up at night. You just want to hear something definitive from your partner about their commitment to the relationship. And if they can’t do that, well then, you just cannot live in limbo like this forever.
Don’t worry; you don’t have to jump ship just yet. And you don’t have to suffer in limbo either.
Still other people get swallowed up by shame. Offender or Betrayed partner, the intensity of the shame can be overwhelming. It can produce what Brené Brown calls a “shame storm,” a swirling vortex of feeling worthless. Most people have no idea how to get out of it and they either flirt with deep depression or struggle, teetering back and forth with their self-worth.
You’re in a storm all right. Like wandering in a blizzard, you’ll think you’re headed in the right direction, but it could lead to your peril. You or the relationship could freeze to death in the meantime.
Start with SKILLS
to help you manage your pain so that you are not bringing all that pain to your partner. Or your life. You don’t want the pain interfering with your daily life, or messing up your sleep. You don’t want your pain to get in the way of what you really want to experience in the relationship: empathy, feeling heard and understood, being seen accurately.
We don’t want mismanagement of your pain to cause more pain!
That just clouds judgment. First, you must find real skills that help you manage the pain so you can move forward. Next, you are going to need clarity in order to make your way through this.
Clarity for Affair Recovery
Make no mistake: ambivalence is PAINFUL. And since it’s a type of pain, you also need skills to help you manage it. Many people run from uncertainty instead of facing the issues correctly. They think anything is better than not knowing, so they try to force a decision, thinking that’s a solution. But they end up where they don’t want to be: in more pain, either because they’re out of the relationship or in more pain because they’re still in the relationship but nothing’s better. In fact, it’s probably worse.
It’s not a solution.
You have got to have a method that helps you clarify exactly what you truly want. You’re making decisions right now that affect the rest of your life. You also probably have family who will be affected by your choices forever, even for generations. This is no time to get it wrong.
It’s also no time to GET STUCK.
You need to clear the mental chatter and know what you want. You can’t just magically “figure it out” or analyze this to death and then decide. Lots of people try this and it just keeps them spinning and thinking and analyzing and wondering and in pain, sometimes for years.
You also cannot wait for your partner to decide or to “do the right thing.” This kind of waiting can be a ticking time bomb, a grenade that is likely to misfire and go off in your hands. This is YOUR life, so start there and don’t allow your partner to help you make this decision by default. It’s time to be proactive, not passive. And proactive in a way that actually helps.
Give yourself permission to consider exactly the kind of life and relationship you want. What is it you truly desire and value? What means the most to you? When you think of the kind of relationship you long for, how do you want to feel? What do you want to experience? Write it down. And let it be about what you want, not what you want from this current mate.
Some people spend so much time asking if the life they want is possible with the partner they married. And guess what? That’s not the right question to ask. Not only is it the wrong question, this is the wrong time to ask it, because given the recent history, you’d be hard-pressed to actually want the relationship you currently have. Am I right?
In fact, a more important question might be how you can heal from this. If you’ve read my book Healing for the Offender, heard me speak, or read other articles, you’ve heard me say that how questions will get you further than what or why questions.
How questions are focused on process and their answers will help you know what to DO. Getting that right is crucial, now more than ever. You absolutely need…
There must be a way to interact and talk about this that HELPS and doesn’t do more damage.
Many trained professionals (the vast majority in fact) will help you analyze the cause and nature of this affair. They’ll prescribe a complete cut-off with the Affair Partner, even before they will agree to see the two of you together. Even so-called “Affair Recovery Specialists” will encourage you to make a list of all the ways your trust has been violated and come up with a Highest Transparency Agreement. They’ll do a disclosure session where the Betrayed can ask anything and the Offender MUST tell the truth.
Sounds comforting on the surface, right? And yet it SOLVES exactly nothing between the two of you.
It does more damage. It intensifies resentments. In fact, it makes it ten times more likely you’ll divorce. Or, if you stay together, you’ll be even more miserable.
Individual sessions are even less help. Don’t pay good money to anyone who allows you to vent, diagnose, or otherwise complain about your partner. You can do that with your friends (if you want) but even that is just going to MULTIPLY your suffering.
Don’t get me wrong. I know people mean well. I know you’re trying desperately to DO the right thing. And you’re doing the thing that makes sense to you. Plus, there is an overabundance of these same directives ALL over the internet. So, really, it’s not your fault.
It’s just not helpful.
Commit to being responsible for your own triggers. Don’t expect yourself to engage in any kind of meaningful communication when you’re triggered. Just don’t do it. That never goes well, does it?
You know better than to try to reason with a drunk person, right? When people are triggered, they are every bit as altered. Including you.
Go away. Tend to the trigger and pain. (Use skills for tending your pain that you’ve developed in the first step.)
When you are CALM, come back to interaction.
I have a whole communication framework I teach people called Clean, Non-Blaming Communication (TM). We use it during Affair Recovery.
In truth, it’s so much simpler than the convoluted way most people go about “talking things out.” There’s no perspective arguing. There’s no need for defensiveness. It gets right to the heart of the conversation. It delivers the good stuff: connection, empathy, and mutual understanding when you practice it.
It’s NOT Complicated. In fact, every single part of this is simple.
Affair Recovery is Simple
That does not mean it’s easy. But I’ll tell you another little secret: it’s only seems hard until it’s easy. And that does not have to take a long time. It just takes the right attention and effort.
Don’t worry; you don’t have to do any of this perfectly. The important thing is that you drop what cannot help and do what IS effective.
I help people with this all the time. If you want to work with me and have the steps laid out for you in an easy-to-follow manner, reach out. Whether you alone are invested in Affair Recovery or both of you are interested, I have options for you.
You deserve good help.