Up until that time he/she may have been carrying on as if nothing was going on. They were stealthy in their ways and they thought they would never get caught.
Then it happens. The affair is discovered. It could have happened any number of ways; an undeleted text or email, an overheard phone call or perhaps they were caught red-handed.
Regardless, this is when the post-affair-discovery metamorphosis begins.
This post will give you an idea of what sort of phases you can expect the unfaithful partner to ‘pass through’ after their affair is discovered. I’m guessing that most of you have seen or experienced this first hand and can relate to what I’m about to share.
Keep in mind that these phases are derived from experience – both my own and from others I talk with – and are not based on research or any psychological or therapeutic principles.
One might experience all or none of the phases or elements within each phase and/or they may carry elements over into another phase or in a different order. Additionally, it’s hard to say in all cases how long each phase will last. Some folks will linger longer than others and some will even skip certain phases.
Phase One: The ‘Tangled Web We Weave’ Phase – This phase is all about deception. When the unfaithful gets busted, most of the time they will attempt to practice the art of deception in its many dubious forms:
- Covering up the truth
- Lying/Trickle Truth
- Misplaced blame and anger
- Minimizing the affair relationship – “We’re just friends.”
- Excuses, rationalizations and justifications for the affair
- Rewriting the history of your relationship/marriage
- Possibly continuation of the affair is taking place
Phase Two: The ‘I Need a Fix’ Phase – More commonly referred to as the withdrawal stage. This is where the affair has ended by some means and the cheater is in a funk. They are missing their affair partner and are feeling the effects of being cut off from the ‘high’ that the AP provided. I believe this is the phase where most relapses occur. In this phase the cheater may experience the following:
- Easily shuts down during discussions and/or arguments
- Emotionally withdrawing/distancing
- Missing/longing for their affair partner. They feel they need to contact the AP.
- Quiet – not talkative
Phase Three: The ‘Hamster Wheel’ Phase – This frustrating phase is often where nothing seems to be happening. There’s no progress in the relationship and the unfaithful isn’t doing anything to make the situation any better. Lots of wheel-spinning going on. This may be the phase where many marriages either make it or they fall apart and the CS never continues to the next phase as a married person. Here are some common traits of this phase:
- Doesn’t want to talk about anything affair related
- Just wants to “move on.”
- Desire to sweep things under the rug
- Short temper
- Seems to just be going through the motions and not really emotionally involved
- They may have feelings of guilt, remorse and self-loathing to some degree
- More ambivalence
- May make some attempts at reengaging with the CS
- May start to really understand the damage that the affair has caused but doesn’t necessarily do anything about it.
Phase Four: The ‘Head Out of the Ass’ Phase – This is when the unfaithful who wants to reconcile starts to ‘get it’ and figure things out. It’s obvious that the affair is truly over and they are doing their best to try and rebuild all that they have destroyed. Here is what you might see:
- Greater feelings of guilt and self-loathing
- Will provide details and answer questions about the affair
- Open to individual and/or joint counseling
- Being transparent in word and action
- Truly regret their behavior and the damage the affair caused
- Begins to reflect and be introspective
- Begins to make personal changes/showing growth
- Remorseful and atoning for misdeeds
- Open to self-forgiveness but may still be difficult for him/her
- No residual feelings for AP and realizes fantasy aspect to the affair
- Desire to reconnect, rebuild and re-commit
Phase Five: The ‘Every Thing is Just Peachy’ Phase – In this phase, the ex-cheater is feeling good about things. Trust has been rebuilt to some extent, the relationship seems to be going great and the future of the marriage is very promising. It’s important not to get lazy though. Here’s what to expect:
- Continued personal improvement/development
- May get a bit complacent in their marriage building efforts
- There may be some backsliding towards past relational habits
- If the BS brings up the affair, wanting to talk about it, the ex-cheater may either do so without issue or may be reluctant and even have a “You’ve got to be kidding me – that’s in the past!” attitude.
- Continued transparency
- Proactive, effective communication
- Still may have some residual self-forgiveness issues
- Committed to the marriage and intimate monogamy
Okay, I think that’s about it. I’m sure that there are some things I omitted that might be appropriate in your situation, so feel free to add them and share your experiences below in the comment section.