There is hope, your relationship can survive infidelity. No, it is not always easy, and healing can take time.
The First Healing Steps After Discovering Infidelity
The first days and weeks after discovering that your partner has been unfaithful can be incredibly painful and distressing, and healing can feel impossible. But, with courage and strength, and a focus on how you manage your first steps in the process, you can begin working your way towards the reconstruction of your relationship.
Give yourself time – avoid sudden decisions.
Everyone reacts to traumatic events differently. Infidelity is an experience that often leaves partners in emotional shock. Anger, resentfulness, betrayal, hurt, and numbness typically side up with shock. One moment, a hurt partner can feel like striking out in anger, and in the next moment, he or she might feel tremendous grief. All these reactions are normal.
If any of this describes you, it is imperative to allow yourself time to just breathe. Give yourself time to process what has happened. While allowing yourself time, make no sudden decisions or take any actions that you cannot easily reverse.
Partake in self-care.
When dealing with pain and shock after discovering an affair, it is easy to go into behaviors that are detrimental to mental and physical health and can prevent or slow down the recovery of your relationship. The best way to avoid going into an unhealthy mode is to focus on self-care.
Self-care isn’t all about sitting in a warm bubble bath and drinking champagne every night. Self-care involves getting enough rest, limiting alcohol and caffeine, avoiding drugs, eating healthy, exercising, and partaking in things that you love (hobbies, movies, reading, etc.).
Give yourself some grace. Be kind to yourself. Recognize how harmful thoughts, like self-criticism, self-blame, or shame, can impact you. By giving yourself self-compassion, you can usher in growth and restoration, which can add a positive measure to the healing of your relationship.
Open up to a trusted person but use caution.
From time to time, we all need someone to talk to about our feelings. It is not healthy to internalize everything that we deal with.
When talking with someone about infidelity in our partner, however, we must use caution to avoid:
• creating a rift between the person that you confide in and your partner
• receiving unsolicited advice that could lead you in the wrong direction (away from healing your relationship)
• creating rumors (that can be difficult to snuff out)
Choose the person that you share with carefully. Ensure this is a trusted adult friend that has your well-being in mind. Otherwise, seek out a licensed social worker, counselor, or therapist who will give you guided advice and sets you in a healthy direction.
Having the Talk with Your Partner
Before you talk with your partner:
Analyze the facts.
You might not know every single fact about the affair, but you must base your discussion on facts vs. hunches. If your suspicion of infidelity turns out to be mistaken, you could easily destroy any hopes of restoring your relationship.
Decide what result you want.
Do you want to repair your relationship? After learning the truth about the infidelity, will you be able to regain trust in your partner? Are you willing to try? Are you ready to work with your partner and rebuild your relationship? Are you prepared to look dysfunction in the eye and fight fairly to eliminate it from your relationship?
You may decide to talk with a therapist first. You might feel that you aren’t ready to talk with your partner yet. A professional will help you determine what you really want, and they will help you ask the right questions when you are ready.
Avoid being the detective.
Being the detective is snooping. As much as you might want to know the exact truth, snooping can cause more damage than good in relationships. Being the detective can also be damaging to your mental health. Snooping can be addictive. The more you dig up, the more you want to look. Resisting the urge to spy can become very difficult.
If your suspicion of infidelity turns out to be mistaken, you could easily destroy any hopes of restoring your relationship. Even if an affair is proven, rummaging through your partner’s phone, laptop, social media, or spying on their every step, can deter damage repair at any level. Having an open conversation with your partner is preferable.
When you do have the talk with your partner:
Talk in a private setting.
Avoid any distractions.
Ask for the truth.
It may be painful to hear your partner’s words, but you do want the honest facts. Recovery is much easier when the truth is told upfront.
Allow your partner to speak.
Do not interrupt their sentences. Avoid using a threatening tone or words. Use words and gestures that display compassion to keep the conversation open.
Avoid accusations or actions that are led by anger or pent-up emotions. Keep calm.
Ask questions based on facts.
Do not ask questions based on suspicions, feelings, or emotions.
Share the direction you want your relationship to go.
It can sound like this, “I love you despite feeling hurt. I want you to be accountable. I want a relationship with a deep connection – one that is nurturing and free of crisis and pain. I am willing to put in the hard work to make this love work. Please tell me the direction you want our relationship to go.”
Related: Take a Deeper Dive to Heal Relationship Conflict
Seek Help from a Professional
This blog is an outline of the fundamentals of what to do (and what not to do) if you discover infidelity. Remember that every relationship is unique, and sometimes it can be difficult to isolate and break through the issues that lead to dysfunction and infidelity.
When you have done all that you know to do and things are not getting better in your relationship, it might be time to reach out for help.
“I Just Discovered Infidelity” is Part 2 of a three-part series. Part 1 is “What to Do If You Suspect Infidelity,” and watch for Part 3, “Moving Forward After an Affair – the good, the bad, and the healthy way to move forward.”