When somebody we love breaks our trust, we get an overwhelming desire to protect ourselves. Often, the reality that we based our lives and our decisions on turns out to no longer be true. This can be very unsettling experience for anyone. We begin to doubt everything-the sincerity of our partner, our own perceptions of life as well as our ability to judge others correctly and detect deceit.
Here are some tips to keep in mind during your recovery process:
1) Healing from the hurt will take time. Everyone is different, never give in to pressure that you should be over the ordeal from others.
2) You cannot side-step your feelings. We often try to suppress our hurt and carry on as normal and this will make the process harder for you in the long run. Look at your own contribution to the failure of the relationship as well and see what you can learn. It is rare when a relationship issue is totally of one person’s making.
3) Remind yourself that your partner is in a very different emotional place to you but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t sorry or don’t care for you/love you.
4) It is normal to experience extremely tense and chaotic feelings. It is not constructive to “dump” or vent these feelings in an unstructured way or uncontrolled way with your partner. Doing this will result in them feeling ‘unsafe’ and less likely to be receptive to hearing you. It will also lend to you feeling out of control. There are effective ways to deal with emotions by asking for a specified amount of time to deal with worries you have. For example: “I need 30 minutes of your time this evening to fill you in on some things that have been troubling me today.” Do your best to keep it to 30 minutes or you might jeopardise future opportunities to offload what is on your mind.
5) It is important for you to share ALL your feelings with your partner in a way that is safe for both of you. Seeing a counsellor would Â be a constructive way to deal with issues that arise as a result of your partner’s affair.
6) It is critical that you get answers to the questions you have about the infidelity for your peace of mind and in order for healing and ‘moving on’ to occur. Limit yourself though to the essential questions about your partner’s affair Â instead of asking every possible question you can think of.
7) Practice containment – only spend limited time talking about your partner’s affair and then switch to other, neutral topics.
8) Ask for clarification and reassurance as you need it. That is – what your partner’s affair meant and did not mean to your partner, the implications for your relationship.
9) Try not to sue negative communication unless that is what you want in return. Verbal attacks, accusations, mean spirited/snide comments or sarcastic remarks do little to solve the situation and only add fuel to the flames.
10) Don’t make hasty decisions about the future just yet – give it some time. At least 6 weeks are needed to allow clear thinking after discovering a partner’s affair.
11) Take responsibility for your personal healing. Figure out what you need from your partner and ask for what you want (an apology, specific behaviours to rebuild trust etc.) in a clear operationally defined manner. You may need some help (a counsellor) in defining the specifics as well as help with how to ask for it in the most effective way.
12) Receive graciously what your partner offers you in the spirit with which it is intended even if it isn’t perfect or ‘just right’ the first time. Express appreciation for his/her efforts. Remember your partner’s affair is probably not straight forward and they are likely to be Â hurt and vulnerable at this stage too.
Rebuilding a relationship takes time but if you want it to work and want to minimise the impact of your partner’s affair, you will need to make a few concessions and that might mean learning to control your own anger and disappointment at times. Keep the bigger picture in mind and always check whether the behaviour you are engaging in with your partner is likely to lead you towards reconciliation or away from it. If you find that your emotions are too strong and negative to be able to approach reconciliatory ideals, you may need to see a counsellor to deal with the fallout initially. Sadly, some relationships just cannot survive infidelity but if you decide that you love your partner too much to give up, take it slow and be patient with yourself. You will both be renegotiating the terms if your relationship -hopefully for the better.