Affairs are like snowflakes. There is never two that are identical. If that premise is true then why do people think that all affairs will be healed the same way. Affairs are made up of at least 3 people and each of those people are completely different from each other so to say that they will view an affair exactly the same way and can be healed the same way is short minded.
I read religiously about a variety of things but one thing I have noticed is that there are many different parts that need to be healed in an affair from all sides. And they do not always heal in the same way, in the same time frame, nor in the same order. There are also other parts to the relationships that also may need to be healed as well.
Just pretend that the affair happened with a married man and a single wife. Who are the people that need to heal from this affair? Obviously you have the betrayed spouse (BS) who is the most innocent of people in the affair, the betrayer (AS -Affair spouse), and the affair partner (AP). The dynamics in healing just these three people are so multifaceted that it would be difficult to say that all healing occurs in exactly the same order. It may occur in stages, but how long people stay in those stages will depend on a lot of factors. They may also go back and forth between stages.
You will have different types of healing if the AP was not aware that the AS was in a relationship than if she was a willing participant knowing the AS was committed to someone else.
Let’s start with the couple in the relationship. The BS will have the hardest time because they were not a willing partner in the affair. They will go through the grief stages as they realize what they thought they had was only a mirage. They will need to learn to trust their partner again. But the largest place of healing will need to occur within themselves. Everything they thought they had will probably disappear and with it their self-image and self-confidence. They will have to rediscover who they are and what they think they believe. Their beliefs will be tested. So many BS say that if they are ever cheated on then they will leave and never look back. But once in that position it is much harder to do. This makes them rethink their values and what they really believe. They may lose their faith. They may isolate themselves from their family because they are ashamed of what has happened even though they did nothing wrong. This is a large amount of self-healing that has to occur.
The AS will also have to heal but depending on the nature of the affair would depend on the nature of the healing. If it was a long term physical and emotional affair then the healing is different than a one night fling. It would also depend on whether they choose to stay in the marriage or go. But either way they will also need to do some self-healing. Many AS do not believe that they would ever cheat on their partner until it happens. It almost creates a separate reality that when revealed shatters them as well. They question who they are and what they believe. They will question their own self-worth and even their identity. They will be racked with shame and guilt and have to find a way to move forward. This is also a large amount of self-healing.
The AP would also depend on the nature of the affair but if it is a long-term emotional and physical affair then they will also have a lot of healing to do as well. They may also not believe that they would ever be the AP. They may have believed that they would never do that to another person, but somehow they get sucked in much like the AS. It would much depend on the relationship between the AS and the AP but there may also be the shame and guilt of being the AP. They will feel a loss of a relationship that may have ended abruptly without any warning. This can also make them question who they are and what they believe. They will question their self-worth and their self-image. If they are an unwilling participant they may very well go through the same healing process as the BS but without a spouse to go through it with them.
These are all types of individual healing that must occur in the people involved, but they are not the only types of healing. You will still have the healing of the relationships. This can also be a difficult process because the individual healing of any of the parties involved may hinder the healing of the relationship. Where one couple may seem to heal quickly another may take years and it may be on how quickly they can heal themselves individually. Once a person begins to feel in control of themselves and their emotions then they can begin to work on healing with someone else, the relationship. The problem is that both parties need to be ready in order for the healing of the relationship to really take hold. That does not mean they cannot do things to work on their relationship, but the healing of it can not truly begin until both parties know who they are inside. Only then can they really know if they want to stay and work on what they have with their partner.
Now as I said, this can look much different for every relationship and some individuals may do their healing in various stages. Once they complete one stage they then work on a part of their relationship. Then they will go back and work on themselves and the cycle may repeat itself. Other couples may try and work on both the individual aspects as well as the relationship at the same time. But as I recently discovered that is not a safe route to go. You cannot rely on each other if you do not know who the other person is and you won’t know who the other person is unless they themselves know who they are and you know who you are yourself.
If you wanted to diagram the healing process out it would probably look like the sky if you connected all the stars with lines. Just a big jumbley mess. Is there any one way to heal and does everyone go through it differently? No and Yes, everyone is an individual with different experiences and backgrounds and stakes in their relationships. Someone in an abusive relationship may see it as a way out and go through a much different healing process than someone who thought their relationship was perfect.
Here is one thing that I do know. Every relationship has problems. Everyone of them. Now how the couple deals with the problems and how they manifest themselves within the relationship are all different, but each relationship has problems. If the problems manifest into one partner choosing the route of infidelity (understand I said the person chose the affair not the relationship problems caused the affair) then those problems need to be addressed in the healing of the relationship. If you only care about the infidelity and not the underlying issues of the relationship then you risk a reoccurrence of relationship issues. It may not lead to infidelity but it may lead to abuse or divorce or maybe just resentment by one partner.
Here is a good example: If you have one partner who has an affair and then is discovered. The BS is hurt but the couple agree to stay together. The AS will need to work to regain the trust of the BS. There is a lot of work to be done by the AS in the rebuilding of the relationship but because a relationship requires more than one person, if only one person works on it then it will likely fail again. The lack of effort on one party may lead to resentment from the other party. It is not to say the the work needs to be completely equal but if one partner does not recognize there were problems in the relationship before the affair and work to repairing those, then the feelings that caused the problems in the AS will continue to be there. They may be repressed because of the shame and guilt that they feel but eventually they will resurface if they are not dealt with. I will say that while rebuilding the relationship is important, rebuilding the individual is more so. You need two individuals to contribute and bring things into the relationship that compliment each other. If one partner loses their identity and does not feel like they can bring anything to the relationship then the relationship cannot grow. So both individuals need to repair themselves in order to successfully rebuild the relationship. This does not say that you have to repair themselves alone, no, your partner can provide support and encouragement that will go along way.
No one wants to be in a on sided marriage where one person only puts in the effort. It does not matter how bad someone has messed up or not. A relationship is a partnership and requires two working individuals otherwise it is really nothing.
I will stop here even though I have a ton more to say but I am sure it will come out in the comments.
When you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done. – Dr. Seuss