One of the most devastating things to happen to a marriage is infidelity. Susan, a 30 year old stay at home mom discovered her husband's affair by an sms message received on his cellphone. Steve was a 32 year old teacher at the local high school and Susan soon found out that he was having an affair with a 17 year old student.
Today, 5 years later, they are still married. And surprisingly, the marriage is stronger than ever. But it was a long and bumpy ride to where they are now.
Healing from something as devastating as infidelity takes time. If your partner has cheated on you,you will learn (as Susan did) that the road to recovery after an affair is a 1 step forward, 3 steps backward process.
Divorce or separation may seem to be easier than staying, but it's really no less painful.Unfortunately, there's no escape from the pain. You have to work through it to get to the other side.
Michele Weiner Davis, who is a marriage and family therapist and author of several great books (and programs) on marriage offers this sage advice for rebuilding your marriage after an affair.
When you first find out about the affair, you will probably feel shock, rage, anger, disbelief, deep sadness and disillusionment. There will probably be lots of tears and wildly fluctuating emotions.
It's important for you to talk to your partner about your feelings, your hurt and your pain. You also need to decide if you really want to hear the details of the affair. On one hand the truth might not be as bad as you imagine it to be. On the other hand hearing the details might haunt you for a long time to come.
Your spouse probably just wants you to shut the door on the past and not talk about the affair, but he/she needs to understand that you're not ready to 'let it go' and you need to work on it.
It's very hard to listen to your partner without attacking him/her but you have to. This is the only way your partner will be able to tell you what you want and need to know.
It's also important to schedule pleasant time together where the topic of the affair is off-limits. Watching a movie together, taking a walk, having dinner together or participating in some activity that you both enjoy is all vitally important. And if any thoughts of the affair pop into your mind during this time (and it probably will) put it off until later. Spending pleasant time together may be the last thing you want to do, but it's vitally important to the healing process.
It's normal to feel insecure and afraid that your partner may resume the affair. No matter how tempting it may be, don't accuse your partner. Rather ask him/her for the reassurance you so desperately need.
It's only fair to be kept updated about your spouse's whereabouts but try not to be accusatory. Think about what you need from your partner and ask for it. Do you want him to say "I'm sorry" or "I love you" more often? Do you want your partner to hold and cuddle you more often? Do you want you partner to call you several times a day from work? Figure out exactly what you want and need and don't be hesitant about letting your partner know.
Once the initial pain and shock has worn of, find out why the affair happened. Although you are in no way to blame for your spouse's choice to be unfaithful, you need to know if there was anything lacking in the marriage to begin with. (But just because the marriage wasn't perfect, doesn't provide a justification to cheat!) This may be hard to do, but it can help you to prevent further infidelity down the road and will definitely strengthen your marriage.
Once you've worked through your negative feelings and things are improving, thoughts of the affair will still probably pop into your head from time to time. You need to learn how to stop those unproductive thoughts.
Michele Weiner Davis, in her excellent book, The Divorce Remedy,
teaches you a step by step process to take control of your thinking and stop negative thoughts from destroying your life and peace of mind.
Forgive your partner. This may well be the hardest thing you've ever had to do. Holding onto anger, hurt and pain only punishes you and robs your life of peace and joy.
Forgiving your partner doesn't mean that what he/she did is okay. What it does mean is that you let go of the hurt and pain associated with the affair.
Forgiveness doesn't mean that you forget either. You will probably never forget it, but by forgiving your spouse you reduce the power the affair has over you. Even though it may not seem like it now, you will recover and become a stronger person because of this.
I would highly recommend that you read The Divorce Remedy: The Proven 7-Step Program for Saving Your Marriage
as it will give you many valuable tools to help you recover from this devastating experience.