Healing is a Process
One of the most challenging tasks for a couple where there has been cheating is rebuilding trust. Healing is not an easy process and affair recovery can take years of demonstrated trust. The betrayed partner often suffers from PTSD-like symptoms. The cheating partner often suffers from intense guilt and shame. The cheating partner can experience PTSD-like symptoms themselves. Healing usually needs to occur for both partners. The affair recovery timeline can range from weeks to months to years. Oftentimes it depends on the type of affair, how long it lasted, and the degree of deception.
Affairs are Usually a Symptom of Larger Problems
Much of our society tells us monogamy isn’t natural or that men, in particular, have evolved to cheat as a means to maximize the reproduction and survival of humankind. While there may be some evidence to support this, there is also evidence of how vital committed couples are for healthy family units. Most couples have been able to commit to one another without cheating. It is true that traditionally men have been most likely to cheat. Still, that trend started to even out when more women entered the workforce and were exposed regularly to more opportunities.
Most people long for connection. Having a strong emotional connection and bond with a partner is one of the most vital human longings. While not defending infidelity, it can result from years of both partners feeling neglected and developing poor communication patterns. Sometimes cheating results from sex addiction (which usually doesn’t have a solid emotional component). But, more often than not, it stems from a lack of connection to a committed partner. Professional couples who travel frequently and are exposed to long hours and late business meetings have extra temptation. Affair recovery can be as difficult as many other traumatic events, with many partners experiencing symptoms similar to PTSD.
“Because of the large average delay (six years) between couples first detecting that there is something seriously wrong with their relationship and getting any kind of help, many couples will have compounded problems.”– John Gottman
One of the best ways to prevent adultery is to work on issues before they become a severe problem, but statistically, that rarely happens. And again, without defending cheating, it does take two to tango, and there are usually changes both members of a couple need to make to obtain healing.
More and More Happy Couples Are Cheating on Their Partner
It often starts innocently enough. Someone is friendly to a member of the sex they are attracted to. They may have only positive intent. A healthy friendship can build over time. If the friendship stays healthy, there is nothing to worry about. However, if someone starts to develop romantic feelings, that can trigger an issue. Some people don’t realize that some of the most destructive affairs can be emotional. As explained below, when secrecy becomes involved, and strong feelings emerge, that may be time to end the friendship. Ending a friendship can be painful, but affair recovery is significantly more painful.
“When you compare your affair partner with your spouse, you are not really comparing two individuals. What you are comparing is how it feels to be in an idealized, romantic relationship with how it feels to be in a reality-based, long-term relationship.”– Dr. Shirley Glass
Rebuilding Trust Takes Time, but It Can Be Done
The most common scenario is that the betrayed partner wants to keep learning more and more about the affair. The partner who cheated apologizes and gets sick of answering the same questions. The couple comes to a standstill and becomes gridlocked on the issue. There are proven techniques that can help the couple recover, however. Each partner may have to go through their healing process, as the betrayed partner has often lost trust, and the cheating partner often feels tremendous guilt. The good news is that faith can be restored over time, and the pain of an initial affair can prevent it from happening again. The affair recovery timeline is different for everyone and can be different for you and your partner.
Common Questions or Concerns
Each couple should decide what is appropriate behavior for the relationship. In general, if there is lying, cover-ups, or sneaking around regarding any physical or emotional connection with someone a partner is attracted to, there is probably an affair. Some couples may decide that looking at pornography is perfectly fine or need to refine what they consider appropriate versus inappropriate images or videos. It may be OK for a partner to go to lunch alone with any co-worker, while others may have an issue with that. It may be OK for a partner to go to an occasional strip bar with friends, which could also be grounds for immediate termination of the relationship. Different partners have different considerations of what is unacceptable, but there should be a mutual understanding. For some partners, polyamory or an open relationship may be appropriate. A couple who is dating but has not committed to being exclusive may agree that seeing and sleeping with other people is perfectly fine. If secrecy is involved, that is often the key that indicates cheating. If your wife knows you have lunch every day alone with an attractive co-worker, that may be fine. If you would be comfortable if all your lunches were recorded (not that this is being suggested) and played for your partner, that is probably OK. Once secrecy exists, that is perhaps a sign that there may be at least an emotional affair. Check out the blog post on the slippery slope of emotional affairs for a quiz that may help you. What is infidelity? It typically depends on the couple and the degree of secrecy and deception.
Cardinal Point Counseling can help you find someone to help you recover from all types of affairs from emotional affairs to physical adultery. You can see a Columbus Ohio infidelity counselor or an affair therapist anywhere in Ohio through telehealth.
It can be helpful to ask a partner to think about and write down all their questions. The cheating partner owes a complete and honest answer to each question. While somewhat controversial, the cheating partner may need to ask the betrayed partner what they need to trust again… this may entail providing access to email, phones, text, or turning on permanent location services on a phone until the betrayed partner is satisfied.
Yes, but it is a process. Eventually, there needs to be mutual forgiveness and a commitment not to do it again. Continuing to work on the relationship and strengthen the bond only helps future incidents. Sometimes clients need individual counseling first or in conjunction with couples therapy to effectively move on.
There can be so many reasons. One is sex addiction. Another is wanting attention. While not excusing it, another reason is taking marriage for granted after a while and enjoying the excitement. Some do it for the thrill of sneaking around. Most develop emotional affairs slowly over time without intending to do so or realizing was is happening. Cheating in marriage is widespread, as good people can become too comfortable and make poor marriage choices.
For additional couples counseling questions, please view the site’s main frequently asked questions page.
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