How long does it take to heal after an affair? The stages of healing after an affair – By Nicola Beer
Having worked with 100’s of couples now looking to repair the relationship or heal themselves after an affair, most want to know how long does it take to heal and what are the stages of healing after an affair. Like when dealing with a significant loss, loss of a loved one, financial loss or health loss there is no set time period for the healing process after an affair. We all deal with loss in different ways and the discovery of a cheating husband or cheating wife is often a very different situation and experience from one person to the other. That being said, having helped countless men and women searching for marriage counselling after an affair has happened, there are some similar questions that come up. Such as:
- Do I stay or leave the marriage?
- Will my cheating husband or wife will cheat again?
- How can we rebuild trust?
- How can I forgive the affair and put the past behind me?
- How can I stop the flashbacks and dreams of their infidelity?
- How can I help my husband or wife heal after my affair?
- How long it takes to heal after an affair ?
- How long does it take for the relationship to recover after an affair?
Anxiety is often very high, so today I want to provide an understanding of the typical time line of stages of healing after an affair, as a guide to support anyone going through this. It is important to know that none of the stages are rigid in terms of time frame, or even exact order. Although understanding the healing process after an affair can be helpful for many.
The stages of healing after an affair
Healing can begin from the first day of disclosure and an admission that affair has happened. Without honesty and admission of the affair, healing cannot begin, as the person is often battling with trying to piece together evidence and therefore are stuck with huge anxiety, confusion, hurt and fear.
Healing after an affair starts on first day of admission:
0-3 months after an affair
This period of time will undoubtedly be very traumatic for the betrayed husband or wife. If this is has happened to you it is natural to be distraught and devastated on learning of your husband’s or wife’s infidelity. It’s inevitable that you will experience all types of emotions including confusion, numbness, pain, fear, anger and sometimes relief or love. You may also start to attack yourself and internally question yourself by saying things like:
How could this happen to me / us?
What’s wrong with me?
What have I done to deserve this?
Or critically examine whether you are attractive, sexually desirable or fun enough.
It is important to consistently reiterate to yourself that it is not your fault that your husband / wife had an affair. You are not to blame. This is not to say that elements of your own behaviour and actions should not be questioned or altered in the future, but for now do not allow yourself to feel responsible for their affair. Cheating is a choice and this choice was not yours. It was ultimately their choice to be unfaithful and have the affair.
When men and women come to me for marriage counseling straight after the affair has happened and want to know whether to stay or leave their marriage, I urge them at this stage not to make any major decisions. You will not be thinking clearly or coherently in the first few weeks. Your emotions will be flip flopping all over the place, anxieties and images may also be flooding your mind. The first thing I support individuals and couples to do is to restore calmness and peace, we then set an action plan for steps to recover the relationship after an affair.
During this period it is also likely that the offending spouse will be going through a variety of feelings. From confusion, depression, despair, guilt, regret and shame.
What is key at this stage is to ensure that you are meeting your basic health needs. Ensure that you are eating well: a healthy balanced diet is required to support you, as well as taking plenty of time to process the news, rest and sleep. It is very common for people to experience weight-loss and disturbed sleep during this time. Or to want to resort to alcohol or junk food for comfort. This will not aid your recovery neither will working or exercising excessively. Through taking good care of yourself physically and mentally you will help to create the beginning of some stability.
I like to say that the way to treat yourself during the beginning few weeks, is like a child who has the cold or flu. Rest, sleep, watch tv that makes you smile and feel good, eat nourishing foods and surround yourself with loving, positive, supportive people. Be careful who you share the news with, well-meaning friends and family can often give very confusing, conflicting or extreme advice that may leave you feeling worse.
For the relationship after an affair
The cheating husband or cheating wife will need to cut all ties with the affair partner if there is any chance of reconciliation and repair. When couples come for marriage support to save the marriage and the affair partner is still in the background, it makes saving the relationship far more difficult.
To rebuild trust after an affair, you will both need to be taking action to become closer. Small daily habits of kindness, affection, love and care will go a long way to rebuilding trust. This is why I don’t believe in or practice traditional marriage counseling. Talking about the issues will not reinstall love, trust and respect… relationship coaching with actions to move forward and heal does! To get more tips check out my podcast show by clicking here
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3-6 months after an affair
This may be the time where the initial roller coaster of emotion begins to subside somewhat. It may be the phase to start looking at what influences were at play in causing the affair. Looking at the influences can support you whether you decide to part ways or stay together.
Expect that there will be a lot of confrontation during this time. Fighting and disagreements over big and small things are common after an affair in this stage. It’s vital that some marriage guidance on communication is sought. Especially if you had poor communication before the affair. Learning new ways of relating and engaging with one another will help you pull through. Talking it through with a trusted person can help to process and let go. I have 15 communication success principles I take couples through to change the way they communicate forever.
If you are still suffering don’t be too hard on yourself during this time. Undoubtedly you will have days when you want to give up on trying, when it feels too difficult to keep going. These are the times when you need to reach out and utilise all the resources you have at hand. It’s a time to continue to give yourself a ton of self-love. Insecurities will hopefully lessen during this period, if you have addressed them.
As a couple it’s a great time to put new strategies in place of how you will build back your connection, love and trust. Loving patience on both sides is crucial, as you develop a new direction for the relationship after an affair.
6 months – 1year after an affair
There is a chance that you may well have reached a stage where your marriage is healed during this time. However, for some there will be some very difficult days following the affair. Nevertheless, you will hopefully have moved to a phase where you can start to feel enjoyment in previously loved activities and function on a more normal level socially and at work. Taking control of your thoughts and managing any insecure feelings is key here, as they often don’t go away by themselves. Check out my podcast show for more help, focused on how to heal from affairs, deal with insecurity and control your thoughts.
1-2 Years after an affair
Hopefully overtime you will have reached a stage where you can begin to feel connected to your spouse and look forward to a future with them again free from fear. If there is still a lack of trust, respect or marital unhappiness, extreme insecurity or jealousy marriage counseling or individual counseling on clearing of the past maybe required.
Forgiving and Forgetting after an affair
There’s forgiving and there’s forgetting. Forgiving brings freedom of past pain. Truthfully, it is incredibly unlikely that you will ever forget about being betrayed by your spouse. However, through true healing it is possible to remember the event without the associated hurt you experienced initially.
Overall the most important thing is to be careful not to allow other people to tell you what to do. Remember that we are all different and what works for one person may not necessarily work for you! It is important that you make your own decisions at a time, and in a space that is right for you.
Here are the links again if you want some free audio guidance.
From my heart to yours, Nicola Beer
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