There is hope for your marriage, even after an affair.
There can be recovery from infidelity, and a better future is possible. Surviving the pain and damage of infidelity is perhaps the hardest thing a couple can go through. I have worked with many couples dealing with the devastation of infidelity, picking up the broken pieces, the broken hearts, helping heal the hurt spouses and children. As painful and as difficult as it may be, it is also a tremendous opportunity for potential growth.
"Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future." Lewis B. Smedes
In an manner of speaking, your "first marriage" is over now. Would you like to invite your spouse to be your partner in your "second marriage" together? From the ashes of the first cycle or phase of your marriage, it's possible for a new spring to begin, if that's what both of you want. It will have to be stronger. Inevitably it must be more realistic. It can also be deeper and more loving. Things are more valuable when you have to fight for them.
It's sad that we live in a world now where there are websites that prey on people's vulnerabilities, insecurities, and pain, and help them cheat on their husbands and wives. It's sad that there are people who feel that they are justified in making money off of your pain and suffering. After the affair is over, it falls to people such as myself to help pick up the broken pieces of people's broken marriages and damaged lives and hurt children. However it happened to you and your partner, and whatever the unique aspects of the affair in your marriage, I want you to know that there is hope.
Check out this excellent TED Talk by Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity. Esther Perel is an excellent thinker in the area of marriage and infidelity:
Perhaps Dr. Perel's most poignant comment is that she wouldn't recommend infidelity any more than she would recommend someone getting cancer; but in both cases it can become the opportunity to understand where you are failing to live in the fullest and wisest way, and how to draw some good out of the trauma, as you go forward with your life in a new and better way. It's a very difficult experience, to put it mildly, and to be very honest, if recovery from infidelity is possible for you, it may take a year, two years, or even longer, with a lot of tears, anger, and effort. But there may also be a new beginning for you on the other side of this very challenging process.
There are two main elements to recovery from an affair. First, there is simply the healing of the pain of what has occurred. There will be a period of anguish, upheaval, of grieving; of coming to terms with the reality that something major and life-changing has occurred. This healing process can take some time, but it is essential and is the first aspect of couples counseling after an affair. Second, there is the process of understanding the couple dynamics that lead the marriage into this difficult situation; some of those dynamics are hidden, deeply buried, or have been going on for a long time. It's almost never simply about the sex; it's almost always about something deeper going on between the couple. For the marriage to go forward into a new phase of life, you cannot bring those old dynamics with you. This is the deeper work of couples counseling in recovery from an affair.
You can use this moment of crisis as a catalyst to push your marriage into the next phase of growth. That's one of the key factors for surviving infidelity. Seeing the affair almost as "a cry for help."
A word of caution -- doing the work of recovery from infidelity will probably be the hardest work you ever do. And there is no magic that can take you back to the time before trust was broken and the innocence you had was lost. We can understand why the infidelity happened, and understand the dynamics within the couple relationship that allowed the infidelity to happen, and these become the foundation of why we can expect that a partner won't be unfaithful again. But once that trust is lost, there is always the lingering realization that the person who was unfaithful isn't as perfect, or even as "good" a person, as you once thought. As you go forward together, you realize that trust really may only maximize out at 90%, and for that remaining 10%, you go forward with your fingers crossed. This can be too difficult for some people, but others find that they can internalize this understanding. This is really the truth of all partners and all relationships; some people just don't know it. Everyone is capable of disappointing us, and all of us must go forward with the best decision we can make, and our fingers crossed. The infidelity will either end the relationship, or ultimately allow the two of you to go forward with a more mature understanding of people, of relationships, and of what real love is.
I strongly believe that you can come through this with a stronger and better marriage. Just like a physical injury needs the medical treatment of a doctor, this kind of emotional injury requires the care and treatment of a professional marriage counselor. There is so much healing that needs to take place, and so many important underlying dynamics that need to be understood and changed for the better. If the old dynamics remain in place, the marriage cannot move into a healthy renewal period. But often those underlying dynamics are difficult to see. That's where you can benefit from having a knowledgeable, objective marriage counselor who can help both of you gain that needed insight.
Please don't hesitate to contact me, and we can discuss how couples counseling can help your marriage recover from infidelity. It may be the most important, life-changing decision you can make. I'm here to help.
Affair Recovery: 5 Steps to Repairing Your Relationship
The website GoodTherapy.org has a great article on Affair Recovery, by Rachel Moheban-Wachtel, LCSW. She describes how couples coping with an affair need to offer apologies and forgiveness, reestablish commitment and open communication, allow for the natural grief and sadness that come with mourning, see that the affair was really a symptom of a deeper problem within the marriage, and begin the process of rebuilding trust. From there will come reconnection and acceptance. Please follow the link below to check it out.
"Through all the pain and emotion, both partners will eventually need to take ownership of the underlying issues that caused the affair."
Here is another link for a very timely article on the fallout from the Ashley Madison website hack. I think the exposure of Ashley Madison and it's predatory stance toward vulnerable women and men reveals how the problem of infidelity in our country is really a crisis at this point.
If your marriage has been damaged by infidelity, please feel free to contact me and we can talk about how I can be of help. There really is hope, and I urge you to do all you can to see if you can save your relationship. Erik