How to heal from emotional and/or sexual infidelity and stay together

Category: Better Relationships | Author and Publisher: Elly Prior | First published: 06-03-2019 | Modified: 16-03-2019

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Healing your relationship or marriage after infidelity

Surviving infidelity and healing your marriage or relationship - that's what you want. And good on you, no matter what others might say. I want to reassure you right away that infidelity doesn't necessarily mean the end of your marriage.  Be aware though: research has shown that an emotional affair is usually more painful for women than for men, for whom sexual betrayal is often more hurtful. However, that is of course a huge globalisation.

Whatever the affair looked like, you no doubt feel as if your legs have been cut from underneath you if your partner has cheated on you.

So, here you'll learn:

  1. The excuses you need to be prepared to challenge,
  2. What questions to ask your spouse or partner,
  3. What you need to do if you want to stay together.

If you happen to have landed here and you've been unfaithful, see my article on how to get over over infidelity.

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Things people say when confronted

Most probably, your partner has defended themselves in the following ways if he or she committed emotional infidelity:

  • "It was harmless, we didn't do anything." (meaning we had no sex, it was an emotional affair and therefore we weren't cheating).
  • "I have a right to choose and have my own friends."
  • "I needed someone to offload to - I didn't want to worry you about things that happen at work or how I'm feeling."

If it was more than emotional infidelity and something physical did happen, you might have heard: "It just happened”, attempting to suggest that at no point did they make a choice.

Chances are your partner has also used irrelevant arguments and blamed you when being challenged, using statements like:

  • "You're jealous."
  • "You're insecure."
  • "You're making a mountain out of a molehill."
  • "You just don't trust me."
  • "You've got friends too."
  • "You're never there for me."
  • "It didn't mean anything." (often after a one-night stand or a sexual affair.)

Any or all of it may be true, and may even be part of the reason for cheating, but none of it is an excuse. It's a painful reality for you, and you're looking for ways to get through it and over it.

So stick with me...

How to get over infidelity and stay together

Below you'll find some signs of infidelity.

But why, when all you want to know is how to get over infidelity?

Because I don't want you for one moment to think: "how could I be so stupid?" or "how could I be so blind?"

You're likely to have seen these signs, but you trusted your partner or spouse. It's perhaps only in hindsight that you remember wondering and then suspecting that something was going on. For whatever reason, you brushed it aside, and even as you confronted your partner, they were denying it all.

In order to heal your marriage or relationship, your partner needs to listen to you telling them how each of these events felt like a stab in your heart.

10 signs that your partner is cheating on you

  • Deleting app histories from devices
  • Being distracted and irritable at home
  • Not ever being away from their phone
  • Dropping a name every now and then
  • Staying out or at work longer
  • Taking phone calls out of earshot
  • Spending more money (see my article: Your partner or spouse is lying about money)
  • Being (even) less communicative
  • Updating their looks and wardrobe
  • Changing their general pattern of behaviour
  •  Lying without you really understanding why and how
  • More signs of cheating.
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How you might be feeling on discovering the affair

I have no doubt that the discovery of the affair was a huge shock to you.

Your feelings are probably all over the place: you can't sleep, you can't think, you cry at the drop of a hat. You feel rejected and humiliated. Chances are your self-esteem is in your boots.

These are normal reactions, and I've written much more about this in my article on surviving infidelity.

What you don't need right now is people telling you what they would do in your situation. You certainly don't need to be told that you should chuck him or her out right away. Your relationship or marriage has every chance of surviving and even thriving!

So, hold on to  your own beliefs and fight for the survival of your marriage. And be sure to avail yourself of trustworthy relationship advice during this difficult time.

Healing after your partner has had an affair

What needs to happen for you to heal from the heartache and save your relationship or marriage

Here's what needs to happen to help you heal:

(Self-hypnosis can help - see my article: Hypnosis FAQ and downloads.)

1. Begin to rebuild trust
Your partner's actions must match their words for you to be able to trust them again.

2. Talk about the affair
They must be willing to engage in a conversation with you about the affair.

3. Making time
You'll both need to set time aside - every day for the time being - to have a conversation about what has happened.

4. Reassurance
Your partner or spouse will need to be prepared to reassure you as much as possible.

5. Couples counselling
They will have to agree to come along if you want to go for couples counselling.

6. Question time
After about a week, before firing questions at your partner you'll need to be prepared to wait until you've sat down for that specific conversation (depending on your circumstances). You can set the time limit on the affair talk.

7. Rebuilding your relationship
Use the rest of the time to recount and savour happy memories. For example, look at photos, and listen to the music you listened to when you first met.

Take time to make plans for adventures together. Being short of money is no excuse - a picnic in the park is good. If you need more inspiration, I have a ton more healthy relationship tips for you!

For more information on how to heal, see also my article: How to survive infidelity.

Questions to ask your unfaithful spouse or partner when they've cheated on you

I suspect you're tempted to ask for all the sordid details. However, there's nothing quite so demoralising and pointless. So don't waste your energy on doing that. It does not help you heal!

For healing to be able to start, here are a few questions you can and probably should ask your unfaithful spouse...

5 Questions to Get the facts

1. Clothes on or off - what precisely did you do?
You may want to clear this one up if your partner is admitting only to emotional infidelity, either online (e.g. via Snapchat, Kik, Facebook) or in real life.

2. Have you sent each other intimate photos?
Ask this for the same reason as #1, but also if your partner has been having an online relationship with another woman or man. If they have, you may want to insist that your partner meets the other person (with you in the background) and ask for all photos to be deleted on all devices there and then.

3. Have you used condoms?
You absolutely need to know the answer to this if you suspect or know your partner has had sex, be that with a sex worker or anyone else (see also my article on sex or porn addiction symptoms).

4. Has anything else been posted online?
If so, you'll want to make sure all of it is deleted.

5. How long have you been cheating on me?
Your partner has been lying to you to be able to make the affair happen. You'll want to get a sense of how long this has been going on and what impact this has had on how you've run your lives of late.

3 Questions to Figure out how much they've considered the consequences of the affair

1. What do you think your affair means to me?
You'll want to get a sense of how much your partner is prepared to accept responsibility. Are they still ducking and diving, or are they doing their best to show remorse and help you heal?

2. How would you feel if I were to do the same as you did?
What might it do to their sense of self, their self-esteem, their sense of security?

3. How would you feel if our children were to know you've been unfaithful?
This too may help you assess how remorseful your partner really is, if indeed they are ready to talk about it honestly. A sense of shame and guilt might get in the way of their being able to face up to the aftermath of their cheating.

3 Questions to Assess their wish to save your marriage or relationship

1. Have you and the other person at any time talked about plans to start a life together?
This will give you an idea of how much the other man or woman meant to your partner or spouse.

2. Have you ever told anyone you're single since we became a couple?
This is to assess how serious your partner has really been over time and whether he or she had intended to stray.

3. How serious are you about our relationship/marriage?
This is to see if your partner has any doubts about the continuation of your relationship or marriage (if you haven't already gathered that from the previous question).

Depending on the question, you might want to challenge any delayed answering or half-hearted responses until you really feel like you've got to the bottom of the issue.

All answers to these questions should give you a sense of what needs to be done to get your relationship back on track again.

7 Questions to help begin an honest conversation about rebuilding your relationship.

1. What did you get in that relationship that you're missing from our life together?
This is an important question as it points to ways you can begin to start the healing process. The timing of this question is important. You shouldn't ask this question when your partner is still trying to deny the affair, its intensity, length, whether or not it was sexual and if they had talked about plans making a life together.

2. What score would you give our relationship on a scale of 1 - 10?
10 is for being for feeling on top of the world. Ask your partner to be really honest. Don't judge. Accept whatever number they give as a baseline for judging your progress as a couple over the next few months.

3. What number do you think I would give our relationship?
This will give you some idea of how far apart you are to begin with.

4. What number would you give our sex life on a scale of 1 - 10 (10 being for feeling on top of the world?)
The same here.

5. What number do you think I would give our sex life?
Remember that these questions ask your partner to put him or herself into your shoes. That's really difficult for some people. Keep in mind therefore how they might have responded to this sort of questioning before they betrayed your trust.

6. What do you love about me?
I know you're desperately looking for reassurance. So, by all means ask your partner to be specific. But, hold yourself steady if you're not getting what you hoped for at this stage.

Don't judge. I know that may sound galling when you feel so betrayed. However, you need a baseline when you start rebuilding your relationship. See these sorts of conversations as a work in progress - throughout your life together.

7. What do you think I love most about you?
However tempting, don't use this opportunity to bash your partner over the head. You can of course talk about the impact their affair has had on you and how you feel about them.

Finally

You're likely to have landed here because you want to get over infidelity and stay together. Hopefully I've given you a good place to start. Be sure to follow the links to the other articles too for more tips and advice.

I want to end by reassuring you that your relationship or marriage can survive - if you both want it to and if you both really work at it. There can't ever be a guarantee that all will work out in the end, however you can make a decision about what you're willing to give in the pursuit of saving your relationship. 

Know that you're probably much more capable than you may have ever given yourself credit for.

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