Infidelity is the ultimate breaking of trust by the person you love. Everything that surrounds it – the lying, and sneaking around – makes healing from it that much harder. Finding out you’ve been cheated on is something that likely seems impossible to overcome. A lot of relationships and marriages end because of infidelity, with couples struggling to reconnect and forgive.
Despite how common infidelity is, it’s possible to overcome it and forgive the partner who cheated. It takes a lot of work to heal, and a lot of effort to bounce back from infidelity.
Regardless of whether you work with a professional or do it by yourself, you’ll need to face 6 stages of healing in order to decide whether you want to keep the relationship going or not. Keep reading to learn more.
Stage 1: Examining the Relationship
Start the healing process by taking a deep dive into the relationship. Really examine the good, bad, and the ugly. The first step is also the most essential, because you need to be honest with yourself and your partner as to whether you want to work through this or simply end things altogether. You’ll have to critically analyze:
- The relationship
- The affair
- What actually led to the infidelity
It’s important to face the fact that something else was going on between the two of you that became a defining factor in the infidelity. The quicker you face that fact, the easier it’ll be to heal.
As hurt as you might be, thinking that it was their choice – that they simply decided to cheat on you, and that you don’t have any blame – is the wrong approach. Infidelity almost never happens in isolation; it’s a result of multiple factors, and can truly show you the ugly parts of the relationship.
It’s important to ask key questions at this stage, including:
- Why did it happen?
- What issues led to the infidelity?
- Are we willing to work on those issues and fix our relationship?
- How did the cheater feel when it happened and right after it?
Taking a deep look at the relationship and the affair isn’t about justifying why a bad thing happened. It’s about taking responsibility and discovering the root cause that led to the affair.
When two people are doing this step by themselves, they usually end up fighting and blaming one another. A therapist can help keep you on track and tackle the overemotional response.
Stage 2: Rediscovering the Relationship
When you get cheated on, your entire relationship becomes about infidelity. You lose sight of all the good stuff, all the positive memories, and all the love. You are hurt, ashamed, and can’t see beyond the lie. Here are some tips to work through stage 2:
- Rediscover the relationship’s purpose.
- What makes you two work as a couple?
- Take a look at the foundations of the relationship.
- Rediscover how and why you ended up together.
- Figure out whether you should remain a couple.
Presuming that you want to remain a couple, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. You have to remind yourselves why you’re great together, of everything you’ve built together, and everything that keeps you close.
Take some time to revisit old photo albums or reminisce about important events from your life as a couple. Don’t focus on the negative or deny that the relationship used to be really happy.
Acknowledge that despite the infidelity, your relationship isn’t all bad – and that there’s a lot you can do to improve it and to ultimately improve how you both feel in each other’s company. The goal of this step is to ensure that infidelity never happens again.
Stage 3: Uncovering the Real Issues
Be ready to do the work and put in a lot of effort and time. Looking beyond the infidelity, the criticism, and the shame that you might be feeling is hard, and takes a lot of patience.
Turn your attention to all the other factors that may have been at play at the time of the infidelity, whether it be depression, career issues, past trauma, alcohol or drug abuse, and such. Instead of denying those factors existed and played a part, acknowledge their influence on the cheating partner and face them as a couple.
The only way to rebuild a broken relationship or marriage is to take full ownership of:
- How you’ve been treating one another
- How you can be better with each other
- What it will take for your relationship to survive in the future.
People have affairs for so many different reasons, and as a result, you might actually uncover something shocking about past behavior or what’s actually going on for your partner. If you’re ready to do the hard work, you’ll be ready to rebuild the trust in your relationship as a couple.
Stage 4: Facing the Pain
You can’t heal from infidelity if you try to ignore how it actually made you feel. Infidelity comes with a huge plethora of emotions, including anger, sadness, depression, shame.
Address the pain it’s caused you and the resulting heartache, and be honest with your partner. Don’t try to hold back what you actually feel. Let it all out – it’s critical to the healing process.
- Your partner needs to be ready to face the pain you’re feeling and the pain they caused with their actions.
- You may need a break from seeing them, as everything about them reminds you of the affair – which is normal, and could in fact be very healthy.
- Take your time to process these feelings and allow yourself to feel the (hopefully) therapeutic relief of being honest about it and speaking your truth.
- Most people don’t feel like talking about infidelity, because they’re ashamed of it, but there’s nothing more normal than telling your closest friends what’s going on. Simply knowing that you’re listened to and cared for when sharing that pain with friends or relatives might help you feel better.
You’d be surprised at how comforting and supportive people can be, and at how many may have first-hand experiences with infidelity – and could give you the advice you need.
Stage 5: Creating a Recovery Plan
Regardless of your decision about the future of the relationship, you need to create a recovery timeline. Give yourself a set time to process all of it, and what it would mean if you left or if you stayed. There’s no easy way around it.
Trust that everyone who knows about the infidelity will have an opinion about it. It might make your recovery harder, but it’s equally important to have people in your know what you’re going through.
In this stage, your priority is to create a plan for your healing process and give yourself all the time you need, whether it be time away from him, time travelling on your own, or anything that might make you feel better.
The only way to make an informed decision about the relationship, is to have time to:
- Think clearly
- Get to a healthy mental and emotional state.
This needs to be your plan. No one can possibly tell you what you should do with your life.
Stage 6: Forgiveness and Healing
Congratulations! You’ve reached the final stage of healing from infidelity, and there are some big decisions you need to make. This is the defining moment and hardest stage in your recovery process.
It can be extremely hard to forgive someone who’s betrayed your trust, but what’s important is that this stage isn’t necessarily about you taking him back. It might mean saying goodbye for good – but either way, you need to forgive in order to grow stronger.
The best way to heal from infidelity is by getting over negative feelings – the disappointment, anger, resentment, and sadness that you feel now won’t be there forever.
This stage is important for both of you, as you both need to forgive and heal. Don’t assume that he isn’t hurting as well just because he’s the one with the affair. Since you’ve probably already addressed the underlying issues in stage 1, you may have some apologizing to do as well.
Healing looks different for everyone, and might have a direct correlation to how long you’ve been with your partner. Some betrayals may feel unforgivable, and it’s okay if you feel like ending things. Other times, you’ll feel like you’re ready to give him another chance.
The Bottom Line
Some relationships and marriages might survive infidelity, only to end up breaking up eventually anyway. The healing is never easy and there is never a one-size-fits-all. Even if you went to a counselor, they won’t do all the work for you. They’ll give you the right framework and support, but the work is still for you and your partner to do.
And at the end of the day, if you truly love your partner, you might try your best to forgive them and take them back – and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you go through the stages of healing to make sure you are in healthier and stronger place.