Some healing from an affair do’s and don’ts for the unfaithful person.
Photo by DimaBerlin
This post is going to be geared towards the cheater and healing from an affair. Since most of our readers are the betrayed, you might want to print this off and show it to your cheating spouse.
If you are the cheater, consider the points in this post very carefully and take stock in your own words and actions.
The following paragraph from the book, “How to Help Your Spouse Heal From Your Affair” by Linda J. MacDonald, M.S., LMFT, sums things up pretty good:
“Unsuccessful rebuilders frequently minimize their partners’ pain and are impatient with the recovery process. They are preoccupied with their own feelings and remain clueless about the devastation they’ve caused their families.”
In many instances, when an affair is discovered the cheating spouse feels as though a weight has been lifted from their shoulders. They feel relief while the pain for the betrayed has just begun. During this time the cheater, due to guilt and shame, will not want to talk about the affair and want nothing more than to simply move on. Needless, to say, this is not a possibility for the betrayed.
In order for the betrayed to succeed in healing from an affair, the cheater must show patience and empathy with respect to the pain that their affair has caused. They must listen. The cheater must validate the betrayed spouse’s pain. They must respect the betrayed person’s emotions. The cheater must realize the trauma they caused. They must comfort their spouse. They allow their spouse to heal on their own timetable.
Healing From an Affair – Rebuilders Should Never Say This:
“You should be over this by now.”
“Why can’t you move on?”
“Not this again!”
“Why do you keep beating me up about this?”
“What’s your problem? I said I was sorry!”
“It’s over. Why can’t you accept that?”
“Don’t you think you’re overreacting?”
“Well, you did _______ to me.”
“God has forgiven me. Why can’t you?”
“Why can’t you just forgive and forget?”
“You’re just bitter and vindictive.”
“Well, you’ve hurt me too!”
After an affair, most cheaters are still pretty much in the fog and are oblivious to the damage that they have caused. They are either still feeling flattery from the affair, are filled with guilt and shame or are too relieved that the affair is over to understand the betrayed spouse’s emotional reality. Witnessing the betrayed partner’s pain and devastation should wake up the cheater to the reality of their actions and can help in the healing process.
In her practice, the author states that she has seen the most progress in healing from an affair when the cheater welcomes non-defensive listening and validates the betrayed partner’s feelings for as long as necessary. Basically, the more the cheater resists to helping with the healing process, the longer it will take. Therefore, the best way for the cheater to truly get his/her wish to “move on,” is to willingly and patiently participate in healing by listening, validating, showing remorse, comforting and providing caring responses to the betrayed.
Successful rebuilders are also more sorry for their partner’s pain than their own guilt. Healthy guilt should be about the severity of the pain they caused, not about how bad the cheater feels. Unhealthy guilt becomes all about the cheater and allows for this self-pity to distract them and become more important than the betrayed’s agony.
Successful rebuilders will say things like:
“I hate to see you in such pain.”
“I feel terrible about what I’ve done to you.”
“You are not to blame in any way.”
The betrayed needs to know that the cheater deeply regrets what they’ve done and the pain they’ve caused. They need for the cheater to put more time and effort into healing the betrayed’s pain than in feeling sorry for or punishing themselves for their misdeeds. This will allow the cheater to empathize more and be better able to put themselves in the hurt partner’s shoes, which will ultimately help speed up the healing process.
Can you think of anything your spouse (or you, if the cheater) may have said or done (or failed to do) during the recovery process that has hindered your progress toward healing from an affair?