Just over three years ago – and after a couple of years of trying to recover on my own –  I finally decided to go see a therapist.  This post revisits that experience.

Not seeing a therapist individually soon after discovering the affair was one of my biggest mistakes. So I highly recommend that you don’t do as I did…See a therapist or counselor as soon as you possibly can.  If it doesn’t make sense to do so as a couple just yet, certainly go by yourself!


recovering from an affairMy First Experience with a Therapist

Recovering from an affair is a long and painful experience with many ups and downs.  Most betrayed spouses want the pain and memories to go away and often we put a time limit on how long our affair recovery should take.

I know that in my situation, it has been two years since our D-day and I had hoped by now that I would be completely over the pain and the memories of Doug’s emotional affair.

I believed that since our marriage was on the right track and our relationship is better than it has been in a long time, all the baggage I have carried due to the betrayal of the affair should be gone.  I have learned that this is a difficult expectation and that I have a long way to go before I am completely healed.

Throughout the past year I have experienced many days when I am happy and the affair is but a distant memory, and then I have days when I feel like it happened yesterday, when the sadness spirals out of control and I begin to feel insecure and afraid.

I have days when I desperately want to feel desired and loved by Doug, and days when my self esteem is at an all time low. When I have these days I seriously begin to think about what I need to do to move on.

I feel I have done everything I can possibly do.  I have read more books than I can count. I exercise and take care of myself. I communicate my feelings well. I try to be the perfect wife. Unfortunately, at times it still does not seem to be enough to get me out of this dark place.

These days are usually followed by the same thoughts.  I think about running away and trying to escape the pain.   I know that wouldn’t accomplish anything as I would still be taking my pain with me.  Another thought is to call the doctor and ask for medicine to mask the pain.  My last thought was to consider talking to a good therapist.

After my last episode, which was a little too intense and lasted longer than it should have, I decided it might help to seek counseling.  I felt that by doing this it may take some of the pressure off of Doug and it may be helpful to get a different perceptive of how I am doing.

The session…

Monday night was my first session and because this is all so new to me I was very nervous. Thankfully my therapist made me feel very comfortable and secure.  He wanted to know what brought me there and what I wanted to accomplish from our sessions.

I told him our history and why I was there, and after about 30 minutes into our session he told me how amazed he was at how well I am actually doing following such a betrayal. He told me that it takes a very long time to recover from an affair and that I am well beyond what takes many people years to accomplish.

Those words made me feel wonderful because I really wasn’t sure how I was doing. I know in Doug’s eyes he would have liked for me to forget everything two years ago, so I really didn’t know how to gauge my emotions and feelings.

My therapist also asked me to think about if I went to sleep at night and one miracle occurred, what would I want that miracle to be. I told him I wanted to wake up every morning and not think about the emotional affair and the pain it caused. I want to forget about the affair.  So we decided that our goal would be to help me forget about the pain of the affair.

Fighting thoughts of the affair only makes them stronger…

We discussed that when I fight those thoughts, I actually make them stronger and my feelings begin to spiral out of control.  So we discussed how to accept those feelings and the affair, and when I have those thoughts I need to take a few minutes and begin a mind exercise that he demonstrated for me.

He told me to begin breathing in and out and to focus on my breathing and my surroundings, and to tell myself that the affair happened and that I accept that I cannot change it. He recommended I spend a few minutes doing this exercise, and then I need to let it go and try not to think about it.  If the thought reappears, then I do the exercise again. I imagine that eventually I will learn to control my thoughts and stop allowing the affair to consume my head.  I am curious to see if this works.

My therapist also was amazed that I was not employed in the mental health field, or have been through years of best TIG welder.  He said I must be an awesome teacher because I am so aware of my feelings and have the ability to express them so clearly.  I also seem in tune to the feelings of others and have a great knowledge about relationships.

He commented on how well Doug and I have progressed in our relationship and how we have overcome the devastation caused by our faltering marriage and the emotional affair.

He really couldn’t recommend any other advice in addition to what we were already doing.  That made me feel really good and confident that our marriage was on the right track.

I asked him if it is really possible to save a marriage after infidelity and he said positively yes.  He went on to say that so many couples give up too early because it is so difficult to do. It takes so much work and determination that even though many couples still have love in their hearts, the task is so overwhelming that they give up.

He commended me on how hard we have worked to save our marriage and said that Doug is one lucky man to have a wife that decided to stay in the marriage and has worked so hard to make it what it is today.

I decided to continue my sessions.  Honestly I imagine that the therapist and I can learn from each other.  I know that I have as much to offer him as he can offer me!

I believe that even though I know all the things I need to be doing, that it will be beneficial to hear them from someone else — a person who can guide me through the process and help me when I fail.  


    18 replies to "Recovering from an Affair and My First Visit with a Therapist"

    • Tiredofitall

      I think if you are lucky enough to live in a place where there are good therapists you should for sure take advantage of it. I am 17 & 15 months since my DDAY (didn’t end upon first discovery) and I finally got to a place in Dec of 13 where I thought I just had to see a counselor. Well I searched and asked around and the closest to me with experience was 90 miles. I called him and still 3 months later am on a waiting list. What’s a girl to do?!? Self-help and this site is all I’ve got!

      • Doug

        Hi Tiredofitall, Have you tried local clergy or online alternatives at all? I’ve seen some therapists that can work via Skype or phone.

    • Gizfield

      I guess different people get different results. I went to a therapist for a bit after my first husband died, and it was helpful in that I could discuss it all without burdening my friends.

      I also went to another different one for about six or seven months after my current husband’s infidelity for anxiety attacks. It was ok for a bit, like a few weeks, then it really didnt seem to help. I’m pretty much aware of my issues so talking about them just doesn’t seem to improve anything. I did get diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, which was useful. But like I said, it wasnt particularly useful. And with my current insurance I have a $5000 (!!!) Deductible so I wont be going anywhere near a therapist anytime soon.

    • Tiredofitall

      Doug, I have considered local clergy…my husband has met a couple times with our pastor so I wasn’t sure if I should go to him or not?!? I have checked online, but way too expensive for me.

      • Doug

        I don’t see any harm in doing so. If after you speak to him you sense some sort of conflict of interest or something else that you find uncomfortable, then you could certainly try to find someone else.

    • Paula

      I would warn about clergy. They are often not trained about this specific pain and therefore can often bring religious, or gendered baggage to the table. Eg: marriage at all costs, maybe be a better, more submissive wife, stop punishing him for his “minor” (especially in the case of EAs) transgression. I hope you find someone good, tiredofitall.

      • Doug

        Agreed Paula. Good points. Any counselor – clergy or not – should have training and experience in dealing with infidelity related issues.

    • gizfield

      I was really shocked and dismayed that not ONE SINGLE PERSON I know, including my pastor and therapist, encouraged me to attempt to “save my marriage” even though this mess had supposedly not gone further than dinner and a kiss, and there was a five year old child involved. I felt like a fool for even considering trying to work it out. I finally found some “standers” on the internet, and I can’t totally agree with them, but at least they were supportive of marriage in general. Thank god I finally found this site, and some like minded individuals with good information. :~).

    • Tiredofitall

      I am committed to saving my marriage and so is my husband (at least he says so) and when he met with our pastor he told him that. I know he would be fair. I was having panic attacks in December and now realize it may have been due to the DDAY anniversary! I am doing better now and maybe I don’t need to see anyone. My sister & brother-in-law (the only other people besides our pastor that know about the ea) think it’s important I see someone too. In just not sure. I seem to be okay most of the time and out marriage and communication is most certainly improved.

      • Doug

        Tired, if there’s any doubts whatsoever, then maybe you should talk to someone.

    • Paula

      Oh. My comment didn’t make much sense! I didn’t mean anyone should just leave! I meant clergy, whilst being very well-meaning, are not trained to recognise and guide you through the psychological minefield. They are great suppprt to many, just may not help with such things as triggers, why you are reacting in such and such way, the techniques to recognise and change patterns and behaviours. Hope I am clearer now about my previously stated reservations

    • Tiredofitall

      You’re probably right, Doug. That’s what my sister says, too. Even though I am really functioning well-I am a strong soul–but she is afraid I may has lasting issues with forgiveness down the road. I really feel like I have taken to right steps to forgive my h, but I will NEVER do it again. This is his last chance to be honest and faithful. I just don’t even know where I would begin if I met with someone now that I’m a year and a half out. Hmmm.

    • Sarah P.

      Hello Tiredofitall,

      I read recently that forgiveness is about your peace of mind. You do not have to forget what happened, you do not have to pretend that the pain will ever be gone, you do not have to pretend like all is well or bury your head in the sand.

      I read an alternative view about forgiveness where it is about acknowledging what happened, acknowledging the pain is there, allowing yourself to feel your feelings, and then making the decision to keep an open heart despite everything that has happened.

      This type of forgiveness is more about keeping an open heart, allowing yourself to let pain flow through you, and then being determined NOT to allow the pain to rule you or ruin your life.

      You can say in your mind, “I forgive what he did in the sense that I will make the choice to keep an open heart towards him, but I do not have to forget what he did”.

      This concept of forgiveness seems to be more of an attitude about ourselves and how we process emotions. This type of forgiveness seems to be a method that allows us to stop the pain or the thoughts of the experience from ruling us and our outlook. We are allowed to have negative thoughts but we don;t allow them to interfere with our joy. This is not by any means the traditional notion of forgiveness which is very different.

      Also, in my mind, forgiveness does not mean closing our eyes to a situation or pretending like we are fine. Forgiveness just means the process of letting go of any kind of pain that poisons our psyches and clouds our mind while keeping an open heart. Forgiveness is about benefitting us, not the person who transgressed.

      Best of luck, Tiredofitall!

    • Tiredofitall

      Sarah,
      Very well said. With what I have learned and read over the past 18 months your definition of forgiveness definitely resignates with me. In the first months I struggled with knowing I needed to forgive to some degree in order to begin the healing process. But this situation (ea) is so much different that forgiving in the traditional sense of the word. I just couldn’t forgive him fully. I love him, I am committed to my marriage and I want us to be married ’til death do us part…..but my love is no longer unconditional as it had been for 21 years….now it is completely conditional on him being faithful. Acknowledging that I cannot wish it away as though it never happened has been a big step for me. I have come a long way. Thank you for the affirmation of my view of what forgiveness should look like!

    • Sarah P.

      Hello again Tiredofitall,

      It may seem unorthodox, but I believe it is okay for love to be conditional, as long as those conditions are based on the expectancy of mutual agreements being fulfilled and remaining intact. (Example: “I love you wholeheartedly, but I will no longer be able to love you if you have affairs”.) So, it seems normal that your love is now conditional on him remaining faithful to his vows.

      If you are seeing a pastor, I would assume that you are open to reading Christian viewpoints on affairs. There is an awesome book that is right on target by Dr. James Dobson that gives his perspective on what to do when your husband has an affair (ea or sa or both). The book is called:

      Love Must Be Tough: New Hope for Marriages in Crisis
      by James C. Dobson

      This book is awesome because it shatters a lot of the stereotypes that are out there that would say Christian women stand by their man, remain meek, and forgive.

    • Tiredofitall

      Thank you Sarah. I am a fan of Dr. Dobson & will check out that book for sure!

    • Rebuilding in TX

      My husband had numerous internet cyber affairs….a completely hidden second life. I was in total shock when it was discovered….as I thought we had the perfect marriage (perfect normal marriage) and I totally fell apart the first few months. I’m not sure how I lived through them as I learned more and more about it through recovered files. Husband truly sorry…caught up in addiction and beginning of discovery, he was so ashamed a lot of trickle truth came ut….but I was stuck with the images from the emails and learning more and more of this horror called D Day. “We are rebuilding on truth and honesty now but have to share one horrible experience concerning counseling…….We saw one together in the beginning….with all the degrees and as I sat there sobbing about trickle truth and how I needed to know how much my life with my husband was real and how much was a lie….and the counselor turned and asked me….”Why in the f**k did I need to know everything?” It set us back horribly. I reported him to my insurance and we have since found a counselor with morals.

      • exercisegrace

        We had a similar experience. Our first counselor also asked me why I had so many questions. My response was that if my husband expected me to FORGIVE him, then I needed to know EXACTLY WHAT it was that I was forgiving!! I said I had spent three years in the dark. Like you I wanted to know the truth. I deserved that. It did NOT sit well with me to think there was over a year of MY life that only my husband and his whore knew the truth about. I wanted a timeline, I wanted to know if I should worry about getting a disease (turns out the whore had hpv) I wanted to know how much of an emotional component was involved, where our relationship fit into all that, and why if he didn’t “really” love her then why was he repeating it back to her? And so on.
        Our therapist was rude enough to say to me……….if MY wife cheated on ME I wouldn’t want to know anything except “are we going to be ok”. I laughed out loud when he said that. I replied…..TRUST ME. If your wife cheats on you, you WILL have more questions than that. I agree that some of the gory details are better off unsaid, but I told my husband that if I truly wanted the answer after thinking it through for a day or two, then he OWED me TRUTH. We also found a new counselor who helped us set boundaries for questions, and had us discuss many of them WITH her so she could mediate. It was very helpful in the long run.

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