Dealing with the fallout and rollercoaster of emotions after an affair? Read on to learn more about the different phases that you’ll experience and how to navigate them.
You’ve just discovered that your partner has been cheating on you. You’re on an emotional rollercoaster ride moving between shock, disbelief, anger, sadness and the feeling that someone just gave you a good kick into the stomach. It is a bitter truth to discover, I get it! And you’re probably asking yourself – what now…? How do I move through this turmoil and come out on the other end feeling “okay”?
First of all, I want you to know you’re not alone and that affairs are all around us. They’re poorly understood and a hushed topic, that not many people openly talk about. Yet, it’s something that many of us have been affected by at some point in our lives. It might be that you’ve cheated on a partner in the past, or maybe you’ve been cheated on. Or perhaps you know of a friend or family member that has had or is currently having an affair. Most likely all of us have been affected directly or indirectly by an affair at some points in our lives.
So, what exactly is infidelity?
Is it sexting? Is it paid sex? Is it a one-off thing? Watching porn? Or is it a deep love affair?
It really depends on the individuals view, but it can leave a person feeling deeply hurt and betrayed because of the lying, secrecy and broken trust.
When an affair has been discovered, people generally move through different phases. They eventually will lead to asking themselves the question: Do we want to continue on the relationship and rebuild, or do we move on and part ways?
It’s possible to rebuild after infidelity. It usually has nothing to do with the actual affair itself, but the strength the relationship had to begin with. Sometimes, it can be a big wakeup call and make people realise what they’ve actually got to lose and it brings them back together stronger than ever.
Here are the different phases that you’ll experience post affair:
The Crisis Phase and Healing Phase
You’ve discovered that your partner has been unfaithful, and the feeling of shock and betrayal has rocked your world. This is an initial time of crisis, and it can be quite hard to envision a future together, or any future at all for that matter. You probably feel that you no longer know who the person is that you have been sharing a life together and that you can also no longer trust them.
There can also be a sense of longing for the person who’s always been by your side, being your rock and to give you strength when needed, and all of a sudden, they’re not there to give you the support you need. It’s also a time of grief and healing. You’ll move through different emotions from shock, fear, anger, denial and eventually acceptance. You’ll find you are grieving the old version of the relationship and all the things that could have been. I understand that this is a difficult time, but I want you to know that as hard as it is to find out the truth and feel all the emotions that you are experiencing, you’ll get through this phase. It’s vital that you don’t decide straight away what to do about your relationship. Give yourself some time and create some space if you need, to let it all sink in first. As you are moving through this, a natural process of healing will occur.
Most likely you’ll have a million and one questions, and you’ll want to find out the ins and outs of everything that’s happened during the time of infidelity. How long has this been happening? Who’s the person? How did it happen? You’re seeking a sense of security to have all the answers, to be able to make sense of it all
The cheating partner will probably feel sorry about hurting you. There will be guilt and shame, and it will feel like a slow drip of information coming out, one drop at the time…
To move through this phase well, it’s important that your partner is willing to show up and openly talk about what’s happened. I know this is extremely hard for both parties. The hurt partner may want to put the blame on the other person but also wants to receive answers, and at the same time feel heard and get a sense of security. The cheating partner will naturally want to defend themselves and not create any further hurt and anger, and often try to give as little information as possible to avoid that. It can easily turn into an investigation, and not a conversation. You can probably already see where this is going…
It’s important to ask the right questions, so both can speak their truth and get a better understanding of how to move forward. If we get stuck in all the small details, it will often create more hurt. I suggest to put the focus on what’s been happening in the relationship, and how to move forward from it all.
Questions to ask:
Do they feel they can be honest with you? If yes, why? If not, why not? What does it take for them to think that he can be honest? What are their fears about being honest?
What does the affair mean to them?
Were they looking for it, or did it just happen?
Do they care for the other person?
Is there something new that they have discovered about themselves during the affair?
Are there things they were missing in the relationship?
Why do think they could not express their needs to you?
Are there ways they can see the relationship improve?
What would a future together look like?
Are they willing to let go of the other person? What would that look like so it can happen and what actions need to be taken.
Were they thinking about what would happen if the affair would be discovered? Did they tell you openly with remorse or conceal further?
Are they willing to give up everything that you both have built? If yes, why? If not, why not?
Asking some of these questions may help gain some clarity and how best to move forward. It’s also essential that the hurt person can express how they feel about it all, without expression of the blame. This is not a fast process and will require many talks.
Envisioning the Future
It’s time for both of you to ask yourselves whether you want to stay together, or is it healthier to let go of the relationship. You’ll want to have answers to: What do you want your future to look like? Do you both feel it’s best not to rekindle the relationship? Or are you willing to give it a go and try to make it work?
If you decide to create a future together, it’s important that trust can be regained. Bear in mind that this will take time and can often take years. It’s crucial that the hurt person keeps receiving reassurance and to have open honest talks. It’s also equally for the hurt person not to keep bringing up the affair and create continues blame. Trust me when I say, it’s not a good recipe for a happy and healthy relationship when you keep living in the past.
There’re also other important things to consider. Is the future relationship going to be monogamous or is there a possibility of having an open relationship, and what would that look like? It’s also vital to recreate intimacy in the relationship and reconnect emotionally, I suggest to make time for one another and rediscover the passion there once was. You can take the quiz to help you discover how you are sexually wired and how to rekindle the passion in the bedroom here.
Moving through the process post affair is a complicated situation, but also one that can help with personal growth and take you on a journey of new self-discovery. Either way, you’ll come out on the other end stronger and wiser!