Healing After an Affair Involves Taking Wise Risks

healing after an affair“My partner is doing everything right and I STILL can’t forget the affair!”

Have you ever been nipped, growled at or even attacked by your friend’s dog? (Or maybe your own dog.) You approached the dog too suddenly or maybe were just minding your own business and, for whatever reason, the dog responded to you in what felt like an aggressive manner.

No matter how many times you are around this very same dog showing absolutely no aggression, that incident sticks in your mind. You can’t forget what happened and your interactions with the dog are forever changed.

You’re a little bit more hesitant. You stand back and give the dog more room than you did before. Despite the friendly tail-wagger who is now looking at you with kind and gentle eyes, you worry that things will change and you’ll be nipped or attacked again.

No, your partner is not a dog, but after an emotional affair the situation is exactly the same.

Things have changed – radically – as a result of the affair. You look at your partner differently. You hold back and are less open and trusting than you were before. You don’t take anything for granted. You worry that you’ll be betrayed and hurt again…

Even if your partner is doing everything in his or her power to prove to you that it’s safe to open up and trust again.

You can’t help but notice the way that your partner has been putting in extra effort. He calls to check in with you during the day. She’s given you access to her email account and cell phone. Your partner now shares about feelings with you and asks to spend time alone together.

These are all really wonderful improvements from the way things had been in your relationship, but you can’t enjoy them. You continue to mistrust and, despite your own efforts, are cold and withdrawn.

Your partner is really trying and is giving you clear evidence that he or she is working for the benefit of your relationship and you aren’t joining in.

You can’t forget what happened and you worry that you never will.

While your hesitance and continued mistrust are understandable, this is bad for you and bad for your relationship. The trick with healing after an affair is to take wise risks.

It IS a risk to open yourself up again when you’ve come face-to-face with the truth that your partner went outside your relationship for a level of intimacy that you two should have been sharing. It IS a risk to trust again because there are no guarantees that your partner won’t cheat again. There are also no guarantees that he or she WILL.

Yes, it’s a risk to extend yourself and trust your partner again, but it’s crucial to do if your relationship is to survive.

Be fact-focused. You can’t know with 100% certainty what’s going to happen in the future; what you can know is what’s happening right now. As you navigate your way forward and decide whether or not to take wise risks to trust again, be very fact-focused.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to gloss over the real changes your partner has made recently and instead to hone in on the affair. Your anger, grief, resentment and fear take over and obliterate the positives that are also going on.

While it is a fact that your partner had an emotional affair, it’s not the only fact and if the affair has ended, it’s not a present-day fact. Allow time for your intense feelings to express themselves and then concentrate on the specific and observable facts as you know them.

Say to yourself, “Yes, my partner cheated and _____ is what I see happening now.” Repeat this as many times as necessary to acknowledge the ways that your partner is showing you now that he or she is trustable.

Make completions.  Another fact is that you’re probably not going to forget that your partner had an emotional affair. It happened. But you don’t have to let the affair limit you and your relationship.

A powerful way to heal and move forward with your partner is to make a completion with the past. Come up with a meaningful action that helps you make this shift in focus; that can be your completion. Even if you always remember the affair, a completion allows you to release it and frees you to be here with your partner now.

Here are a few examples:

  • Pour out your thoughts and feelings (without censoring) in a letter that can be addressed to your partner, yourself or anyone else. Write until you feel a sense of completion and then burn your letter in a fire place.
  • Get out pens, crayons, paint or clay and think about the affair. Give yourself complete freedom and then create. Let your art represent the affair or how you feel about the affair. You can decide whether or not to keep your artwork, though it is most helpful to let your artistic creation go.
  • Re-commit to the future with a completion. When you are ready, come up with a symbolic ritual or action to focus yourself on the future you want to create with your partner. You could have a private (or public) vow renewal ceremony.

What’s most important about a completion is that it is meaningful to you and that it helps you move from that old painful place to what’s next.

Need help rebuilding trust after your partner’s affair? We’re relationship coaches and authors Susie and Otto Collins and we can help. Our free Relationship Reverse Report will show you how to identify habits that keep you and your partner distant and in pain and then turn them around for more trust, connection and happiness. Visit http://www.relationshipreversereport.com/#



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12 Responses to Healing After an Affair Involves Taking Wise Risks

  1. Recovering June 28, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    These ideas are all fine and dandy, but they don’t change the fact that no matter how much I risk this time, and no matter what he is doing and telling me to my face, I will never know what he is doing when he is not with me. I searched for proof of his affair for a year before I found it, and it had already been going on for a year before I started snooping!! Without there being a video camera in his pocket 24/7 I don’t think I will ever be able to trust him again… and I HATE that! I talked myself out of the doubts and suspicions before… and look where that got me! I don’t want his affair to be the topic of every conversation. I don’t want to think about it all of the time!! I swear I am more mad at myself lately than him because yes, it IS over, and yes he IS engaged in us again, but then the doubt sets in and I wonder if he is playing me again… yet better than before because now he knows all of the ‘tricks’ that he didn’t before… It is exhausting living this way!! I wish I could just move away, but we can’t afford that in ANY way, so the triggers are constant… and I have a long drive to and from work every day to a job I love, so I can’t give up more of myself to cut the drive time that almost daily turns me into a mess because I have too much time to think and the “stop” visualizations don’t work so great…. And the radio.. THAT is horrible!! Triggers everywhere from slut songs all about sex to morning talk shows talking about cheating and laughing like it is funny! UGH! I am ready to give up on the world and live in my dark closet – literally!!! Man I need a vacation from all of this!!!

  2. csb June 28, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    Recovering – you are not alone, I continually beat myself up, thinking “why can’t I just get over this” (it’s 1 1/2 yrs since DDay). Although he created the original problem by having the EA in the first place, I feel like I am now part of the problem and am the one stalling the relationship. How long since DDay for you?

    I too suspected for a long time and “checked”, but didn’t finally catch him until it was 1 1/2 years into their relationship. So yes, now I doubt my own judgment and am hypersensitive about seeing any signs.

    I don’t know if I’m just more aware now, but I do see more reminders of infidelity on tv, etc. I guess it plays good in the ratings.

    • Recovering July 1, 2013 at 3:59 pm #


      It’s been just over 2 years since I finally found the proof he was cheating on me. When I get all frustrated with myself and finally burst into tears because it is too much, my husband does do it right – he tells me that it is okay to feel this way, that it is all his fault, that he did this to me and us and that I am NOT crazy for feeling the way that I do. Somehow that doesn’t seem to help as much as I would like! He’s doing the right things, yet… I think what makes me so nuts is that I am the one who was always in control, who didn’t fly off the handle, who planned everything… and now I can plan nothing! Nothing is certain anymore, nothing is as solid as I thought it was, and I just don’t know how to handle the things I cannot control anymore.

      And absolutely we are more aware of cheating now. I mean, not that we were oblivious before, we just didn’t expect to be lied to and deceived by the one who swore to “forsake all others”, for better or worse! Little did we know they were going to CAUSE the “worse”! THAT is hard to handle! It is the hardest part for me… that he could so easily lie and be so sick! Idunno, I guess we should give ourselves credit that we weren’t the idiots they treated us like – clearly we knew SOMETHING was going on… we just also believed in THEM, so again, our feeling inadequate is THEIR fault! We did what we were supposed to do, and now we don’t have that comfort of believing they are too!! I miss that! I miss that every minute of every day. At least we are smart enough to know, too, that that feeling will never exist again… not even if we went out and got a new husband!! I feel like I have been changed for life – and some skanky slut and whoring husband had NO RIGHT to change me! Am of the opinion that cheating should be illegal… the government cares so much about who gets to get married, but cares so little about what they do WHILE they are married!! If cheaters had concrete consequences maybe it wouldn’t seem so glamorous to be a whore!! Heck, my state doesn’t even recognize cheating as a reason for divorce! UGH! Society!!!

  3. AnnaB June 28, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

    It has been 20 months since DDay for me, and I’m just starting to feel a little more relaxed about things. He is making a huge effort in telling me his whereabouts each day, taking me out and giving me affection. However, I’m constantly switching over the radio or TV if music is too romantic or affairs are involved. I’m not sure if it will ever disappear completely, but it has started to lessen. It annoys me to think that his selfish actions have changed my life – for the worse. Maybe I feel so strongly because the OW is someone I knew and trusted, so it was a double betrayal and the biggest and saddest shock of my life. The weirdest thing is that it goes through my mind a lot each day but my body is reacting less. I can be chatting to someone or watching TV or driving, and the thoughts can be flitting across my mind and no-one would guess, because I’m not crying or shaking anymore, which I suppose is progress. Sometimes I do wonder if he is where he says he is, but if I’m worried I mention it to him so that he can reassure me. I hate it, but it’s now my life.

  4. Broken2 June 29, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    Generally I am not a big fan of the Ottos whom this article came from but this one really spoke to me. I sure would feel a whole lot better if there were some sort of guarantee this will never happen again!! I think that is key to where the mistrust comes from and also what you guys said…we trusted ourselves once and see what it brought us? Our CS are great at coverups and lies …took me 18 months to discover my husbands affair and I had no clue. Only by accident did I find out about her and I believe in my heart it would have escalated to so much more based on what I have learned. I am exactly at this stage where I have to trust again…its my turn to do the right thing. I owe our relationship that much to take it to the next level.

    • Recovering July 1, 2013 at 4:19 pm #


      You are a brave soul!! I haven’t been able to trust yet, and it’s been 2 years! I find myself making new rules for him on a regular basis, to which he agrees because he wants to lessen my stress and show me he is serious, but I feel stupid making these “rules”. I mean, they aren’t ridiculous or anything… If I leave a party, he has to come with me… he can’t go out drinking without me anymore… NO women friendships for him (this one is my biggest, especially because I was the naïve one when he told ME when we were first dating that men and women couldn’t be “just friends”, and I thought he was nuts), NO talking about personal things – marriage, kids, NOTHING – with women… He has agreed to these things without argument. There is no reason he needs to discuss our family with a woman… there is no reason he needs to have a woman as a “friend” – he has me and his mother and his sister for womanly advice and views on things. The rest of the women are now to be non-existent other than in a business “I need this”, “do you have that report” kind of thing. No drinking, no caring about their kids, no listening to them whine about their crappy husbands… NONE! Those women have female friends for that stuff, and he has his male friends for golf and to horse around with. I will NOT tolerate deviation from this rule. We do have “couple” friends, but there is no hanging out separately with those opposite sex friends unless the whole couple is there. None. There is NO reason to!! I should be enough woman for him, and if I am not, and he needs more, then he can pack his bags. I hate feeling like there has to be rules, but clearly he isn’t good at setting boundaries by himself, and these are rules that I have always followed myself just out of normal respect for my relationship and other people’s relationships – and I did it without thinking!! Clearly he doesn’t think – especially since one of these “rules” just developed last weekend!!! UGH!

      • Broken2 July 1, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

        Recovering…..we have all the same rules LOL. Learning to trust again I think as come out of me being sick and tired of trying to enforce the rules!!!! Sounds silly but its true. However I do see him trying to live by them. Its a really tiring way to live isn’t it? My husband isn’t good at setting boundaries either. All of our married life he has been a flirt and a very good listener to woman and their ridiculous problems. His OW was going through a divorce because her husband cheated on her ( go figure) and she “understood” him at work. He claims he didn’t understand the boundary thing but you would have to be a moron to not understand it. You and I sound a lot alike. Hate to tell you this but it will be 36 months for me in August!

  5. Broken2 July 1, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    Recovering your post meant a lot to me today…..we have been changed for life….I hate it so much. My daughter said I was a bitch today and lots of other hurtful things because I wasn’t thrilled about babysitting full time for my granddaughter. I am different…forever changed and not because I did anything wrong. Your right it doesn’t matter if we marry someone else it will never be the same ever again. I am having such a bad day…. I am crying all day and drinking beer (I don’t drink). I am not who I use to be….I am quiet and reserved and easily irritated and I have no tolerance for much anymore. I am so tired of being made to feel quilty for who I am and I would give anything to be who I use to be. Shame on my husband and shame on the whore who entered my life like a snake.

    • tryingtoowife July 2, 2013 at 7:04 am #

      Broken2. Many hugs to you, and hope that you are feeling better today! I am at 38 months post DDay and I so understand the hopelessness of feeling that this is too long time to have been feeling like this, and for how long will this be for? But as I type this, I hope that you find the balance that, the good days will last longer than the bad ones. You and recovering are so right! We are changed for ever!The sadness about this statement is great, because this is the recognition of the death or dreams, hopes and innocent love. BUT, keep looking inside yourself and recognize the stronger person there! The one that will not put up with any bullshit! (Hence the new rules). I also see a world changed around me, although I also know that the one changed is myself! People can not understand this new attitude, but this is us, and so be it! What you are doing is putting yourself first, please don’t feel gilt about that. And most important. Don’t blame yourself or feel bad about putting yourself first. We are in a process of healing and it might take much longer than we expected. We are still getting used to this new self. It might not be what we dreamed of, but this is what we have. Looking after yourself is the main priority. Please, instead of drinking, go for a walk. Sit in a cafe with a book. Go to see a film by yourself. Call a friend! Perhaps you can open yourself with your H? Share the feelings and talk about your sadness. This is the minimum he can do for you. And he might be feeling the same, so you can cry together, and start to hope together? I also know that it is easier said than done. But we can only try.

  6. csb July 2, 2013 at 8:07 am #

    Broken 2 – I hope things are looking up a bit for you. Like you, I am not who I once was, and I don’t like myself. I was outgoing, fun loving, always the “glass half full” kind of person (while my H was the opposite). I found him watching a video of my son’s wedding from 4 years ago and he said “you used to be so happy”…..duh!!! I will occasionally ask him “how do you like me now”, since obviously when I was “Miss Personality” that wasn’t enough to stop his EA. Unless someone has lived through it, they can’t possibly understand the path of destruction. I lost what I thought was a best friend because I turned to her when this happen and she couldn’t even spare 1/2 hour to sit and talk with me. I later told her that her actions changed our friendship, her answer was I’m sorry, but I have never gone through it so I didn’t know what to say (BTW – when her brother was diagnosed with a terminal illness I sat with her for hours and went to the hospital twice a week, even though I had never gone through something like that either).

    I read things from some people saying that their relationship is actually “better” after the affair, etc. If that’s true, I am envious, I just don’t see that in my future. It’s almost like in his mind, being it’s been over 1 1/2 years since discovery, there’s no need to talk about it or have triggers anymore.

  7. Broken2 July 2, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    csb….I feel you on that one. My daughter called me a bitch yesterday because I wasn’t thrilled with watching my granddaughter fulltime instead of part time. She said I am not like I use to be. She is right. I use to be a doormat that everyone took advantage of…now I think about me a little more….which I guess is a bad thing. Unfortunately I now live my life as an outsider looking in not an insider looking out. I don’t smile as easily and instead of pretending that I’m not tired or unhappy…I say so and I guess that’s a bad thing too. But….I didn’t do this to me….I didn’t ask for this and sometimes when events happen like yesterday I want to scream and say” your asshole father did this to me yet he is the hero…the fun lovin guy they all want to be around…..the happy party guy who has put his actions in the past and moved on” The wreckage is me.

    As far as the relationship being “better”. I see good and bad in that. Better in that he has changed in many ways that never would have happened without the affair. He is more apt to stop and talk to me and we do discuss our relationship a lot. Not better in that I still don’t trust him, I will never have that feeling again that our marriage will never be anything but just the two of us. Now there was three. I miss that a lot. Its been 35 months for me and he is the same way….the affair is long gone and triggers….what are those again?????

    As far as talking with people about this…..I have one friend I met on this forum who is a gift from God and I couldn’t have survived this without her however I made the HUGE mistake of telling a friend here in my hometown. I should have continued to suffer in silence.

  8. Bb65 June 9, 2017 at 12:30 pm #

    I started listening to subliminal messages about letting go.. maybe it’s all in my mind but I feel it is helping..

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