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7 Ways to Start Healing Your Relationship After an Affair (Part 1 tips 1-3)

Blue sky
Let’s start with a reality check for everyone. If an affair has happened in your relationship then there is damage to repair and this may take awhile. And damage can occur from either a physical or an emotional affair. The good news is that relationships do survive and can even thrive after an affair. But in order for that to happen you have to get your head straight. I see couples who come in ready to do whatever it takes to make things better and then I see couples who say they want to do whatever it takes but who are not really prepared for what the actual work of repairing the relationship. I’m going to talk about 7 things that will help you get started.

#1–The first thing for the unfaithful partner to do is to sincerely apologize non-defensively and to show empathy and compassion for the pain that has been caused.

And please try to understand that an affair is a breaking of one of the foundations of your relationship which is trust. This is oftentimes devastating and traumatic for your partner. And I use the word traumatic on purpose. Your partner’s whole sense of who they are, who you are and who you are as a couple has just crumbled. So it’s not just the affair but the whole sense of safety and predictability that has been damaged. I stress this point so you will hopefully understand that one apology or even 20 might not be enough. Be ready to sincerely and compassionately apologize, non-defensively, many times over for the next year or so. This can be a great step to healing but it’s often difficult for people to do repeatedly. I see people say, “Ok, I get it. I’m sorry. But I have apologized already.” This is a defensive attitude. Take a deep breath, look your partner in the eyes and apologize without the attitude. If you are in for the long haul, show it by being patient and offering the sincere apology without reservation.

#2–If you’ve had an affair be prepared to now be an open book.

A great way to start rebuilding trust is to willingly offer information to your partner. Allow access to your computer, phone and email and do this with a spirit of generosity. Do not act surprised and indignant that your partner is wanting to see with their own eyes that nothing is going on. Remember that your credibility is shot right now and that your actions have created this environment of distrust. If your partner wants to hear you ending the affair then do it. If your partner is nervous when you leave the house to go bowling with friends, be sympathetic. You could offer to take pictures with your phone when you get there and while you are there to offer reassurance. Technology can be helpful in this way.

#3–Be willing to do the work.

Verbal assurances that ‘the affair is over and that it won’t happen again’ likely aren’t very comforting in the wake of the feelings of betrayal and loss of trust your partner feels. If you can understand this then you might understand how important actions are at this time. Just saying that you have changed is not enough to move the healing along. Be willing to look at why this happened. Both partners need to rebuild the relationship but the partner who has cheated can earn some good will by taking the first steps. A good first step is therapy–be willing–not just to go to therapy–but to do the work and to listen to what your partner needs in this regard. I always recommend the book Not Just Friends by Shirley Glass to couples struggling after an affair. I can’t tell you how many times the betrayed partner buys it and starts reading it while I hear the betrayer say, “I’m busy this week but I’ll start it next week,” or, “Yeah I still need to order that, what’s it called again?” This leads to more feelings of betrayal and upset and sets couples way back. True accountability requires follow through. Please order and read the book first or at least at the same time as your partner. You will save yourself and your partner a lot more distress. Sometimes the one who has strayed feels tremendous guilt and finds it very hard to face what has happened but it must be done if you are going to rebuild. If you need support dealing with your feelings by all means get some individual counseling or support.

Next week I will share the rest of my tips. In the meantime if this issue is affecting you then start trying to find a therapist and start the book Not Just Friends.

Click here for more information on Couples Counseling.