Dealing with infidelity

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

3 tags - 3 in a relationship

When you're dealing with infidelity (extramarital affair) you're very likely to feel hurt and angry... and if you had/are having the affair, probably guilty. This page has two lists of what to do to survive and heal.

My page Surviving Infidelity points you to the right page depending on wether you are the 'wronged' partner, the adulterer or 'the other' man or woman.

Can your relationship or marriage survive after an affair?

I want to reassure you that it is possible for your relationship or marriage to recover once the initial waves of strong feelings have begun to subside. I promise you - they will subside and you will feel better, but give yourself some time.

If you're both able to face up to what's happened (including the potential impact on your sexual health), there is every possibility that you can create a better - if different - relationship than before. However, you need to be patient. It will take time. You will be grieving for the loss of your relationship as it was before the affair.

Do also be aware that, however difficult it is for the ‘wronged’ partner and however much you may not want to be sympathetic, the one who had the affair may also feel bereft due to loss of the other person.

If your partner has had extramarital affairs before, all the hurt from the previous occasion(s) will immediately have been triggered again. If he or she has cheated on you before, you may need to consider if you really want to stay with this person.

10 Tips on how to deal with infidelity

To help you recover, I'd really like you to be prepared to:

  1. Seek help after the affair - couple counselling or marriage guidance can really help (or even speak, in confidence, to an online relationship expert right now)
  2. Stop blaming each other - it's totally understandable that you feel angry, but I'm afraid arguing isn't going to help you sort things out
  3. Confront the problems in your relationship - you may already be aware that there were issues in your relationship before the affair
  4. Confront yourself - take responsibility for your own recovery and your own role in what went wrong; challenge your behaviour, wronged or not
  5. Read my article: Anger Management Tips, if you know you have an anger problem
  6. Remind yourself of all that is (or was) positive in your relationship, however difficult - at least some of that provides a basis on which to try to rebuild your relationship
  7. Set time aside to talk - and agree not to talk about the infidelity during the rest of the day
  8. Negotiate and agree on a reasonable time limit on conversations about the affair - 20 - 30 minutes or so, or whatever works for both of you
  9. Read my tips on effective communication
  10. Accept it may take months to recover, step-by-step, with the first 2 - 3 weeks being the worst (if the affair has actually ended!)

Men and women usually deal with infidelity differently

Women are more likely to want to talk about feelings, and know all the details (but of course this may actually be completely the reverse for you).

Men more often want to leave it behind and concentrate on the future, which could mean either not talking about it, or a divorce! They do feel the pain, but have very likely learned not to allow themselves to feel.

3 thorns on a stem

Infidelity destroys all trust

Both of you will have difficulties with trust when you're dealing with infidelity in a marriage or relationship.

The wronged partner is likely to feel the need to check up on the other person constantly. The adulterer is likely not to trust that he or she will ever be forgiven. In addition the adulterer is more likely to suspect their partner of having an affair or being dishonest, as they haven't been able to trust themselves. Indeed the wronged partner may at some point in the future feel 'entitled' to having an extra-marital affair and being forgiven for their infidelity. I would so warn against that strategy - it really won't solve anything.

An affair destroys all trust and it can take a long time to rebuild this - months, perhaps even years. Nevertheless it may be possible, in the meantime, to rebuild a loving relationship and a rewarding and otherwise happy marriage. You dealing with infidelity becomes part of the tapestry.

How do you start healing infidelity?

If your partner has been having an extramarital affair, they will need to give you lots of reassuring messages. When you're dealing with infidelity, you can help your relationship to survive by...

... sharing attention
... talking
... getting to know each other again
... going on outings
.... changing routines
and so on.

Tackling long-standing problems head-on must now also be on the agenda. I'd really urge you to do whatever you can to deal with any underlying problems.

There's plenty of information on my site to help you start doing this and one of the best resources I can recommend is Lee Baucom PhD's method which can set you on the right track.

Perhaps this is the time that you can accept your own fallibility as a human being. There's never a 100% guarantee about anything in human relationships. You are responsible - not for your partner's affair - but for how you deal with your own insecurities, hurt and anguish. However much you'd want your partner to sort him/herself out, and however much you hope that your relationship can survive - in the end the only control you have is: how you are personally going to deal with this crisis.

How to survive the crisis

During the initial crisis after finding out about the extramarital affair, give yourself at least a couple of weeks, without expecting too much of yourself. Coping with not coping’ is the only realistic expectation when you're dealing with infidelity in marriage or a relationship.

Try and manage only essential and familiar activities and responsibilities - such as doing your job or seeing to the children. This will start the healing process.

That terrible raw feeling will fade gradually. You won'’t be out of the woods for a while, but that sense of having been traumatised passes usually within a few weeks. Trust me - you will feel better again.

In the meantime, you might also want to draw your partner closer to you again, despite all that's happened. You may feel that you're competing with the other man or woman and of course you want to win. Have a look at my page on romantic text messages, where I've reviewed Text The Romance Back, which could be a really useful aid for you right now.

Investigating infidelity?

How you deal with infidelity depends, without a doubt, on whether the affair has finished. Suspecting that your partner is (still) seeing another or THE other woman/man is an awful place to be.

If that's happening to you, it's time to take action!

I'd love to help you to be prepared for what might happen next, so learn how to look after yourself and fight to get your partner back. However, if you've questioned your relationship compatibility from the start, now is the time to reconsider your commitment.

Being sure that your partner isn't cheating on you won't solve the problems between the two of you when you think you may be dealing with infidelity. Neither will it cure your pre-existing insecurities... but at least it can settle your mind, so that you can focus on dealing with your relationship problems.

Read about the 'causes' of infidelity - PART 2...

Related Articles

How to apologise
Is Your Partner Having an Affair?
How to End a Relationship
How to Deal with Depression
Are You in an Abusive Relationship?
How to Build your Self-Esteem
Signs of a Cheating Partner or Spouse
Financial Infidelity

Anything missing? Need help? Can you offer help?

Go right ahead and comment (please keep it short)! I'll do my best to offer some words of comfort and advice.

If you need help and support, and would like a full answer to your question, then please...

Images courtesy of: Billy Alexander and Phil Burns