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Tuesday Feb 11, 2014

Discovering an affair is a life-changing event and it can be traumatizing. You wake up one day and realize that your relationship has been changed forever.

But it doesn’t have to mean the end of a relationship. In fact, it may very well be the beginning of a new, more satisfying and fulfilling one. Here are some thoughts on how to heal after the discovery of infidelity.

Seek help
The first stage of discovery is shock and disbelief. It takes a little bit of time to settle into your feelings. Your first inclination may be to want to end it. Don’t rush to make such a life-changing decision. Give yourself time. Talk to a professional who can help you understand your feelings and decide how best to move forward.

Have and embrace all of your feelings, but don’t act on them
Any and all feelings are perfectly acceptable. And it’s really important to identify them. Acting on them is not, especially if your desire is to make the relationship work.

As angry and disappointed as you may be, acting on those feelings will only make matters worse. Do everything you can to express your feelings but direct that expression in a safe, productive way. Talk to friends, journal, see a therapist, exercise to vent your frustrations and disappointment.

You are going to want to communicate your feelings to your partner, not demonstrate them. It’s important to be able to talk about them in a way that is absent of judgment and threats.

Don’t blame yourself or your partner for what happened. Look at this experience as an opportunity to learn and grow in the relationship.
At first glance, this may sound insensitive to what you are feeling. It’s difficult to NOT want to blame your partner for being unfaithful. But chances are there are underlying reasons for why it happened. The affair may be a symptom of some internal struggle that your partner is experiencing or it may have to do with the relationship itself.

In order to heal and move forward, it is necessary to step outside of the affair and focus on what will make the relationship more satisfying and more fulfilling.

Find a path to forgiveness
The most difficult part of moving on after infidelity is being able to forgive. It’s difficult to let go of the very feelings that keep us from moving forward, like anger, resentment, feeling abandoned and betrayed. In some way we believe that to forgive is to condone. Forgiveness is not saying that what you did is okay. Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.

It is giving yourself permission will let go of those feelings that don’t serve you well and that prevent you from moving on and being happy.

Regaining trust takes time. Be patient with yourself.
It’s not uncommon to become hypervigilant about your partner’s behavior and activities right now. Establishing trust again takes time. This is one of the most challenging aspects of healing.

Trust is an action, not just an idea or a promise. It requires open communication, patience, and encouragement. Having faith in yourself and rebuilding your self esteem is critical to reestablishing trust. Knowing that no matter what happens, you will survive and even thrive after this and knowing that you have the strength, support, and resources you need to heal is key to your recovery.

If you don’t feel that way now, focus on developing it. This will serve you well, whether you stay together or decide to part. The question I am often asked when working with couples who have experienced infidelity in their relationship is, “Can we get past this?” The answer is a resounding YES! If you want to, you can. It takes time, patience and a commitment on both your parts.

Infidelity does not have to mean the end. It could very well mean the beginning to a better, happier, more fulfilling relationship.

Dr. Laura Richter is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist who works with individuals, couples, and families. Her specialties include: surviving infidelity, improving communication, beginning again after divorce and effective co-parenting after divorce. She is also a trained mediator, qualified parenting coordinator and collaborative law mental health professional. For more information, please call or text us today at 561-715-6404 to schedule a consultation to see how we can help.