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
The AP’s healing is insignificant to the couple that is truly focused on their own relationship… it shouldn’t be triangulating into the recovery at all.
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That seems shorties as I would think you would want all parties healed to have a healthy relationship. If one person never heals then the relationship will never heal.
However, I don’t believe I that I specified an order of healing importance. Some relationships may be able to do BS and AS healing at the same time and others may not. The point is all are different.
If you tell the AS their healing and feelings don’t matter but this was the same underlying issue then the relationship will never heal.
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The healing of the AP is.not.your.business.
The AP doesn’t need you. She never did. She doesn’t now. She never will. Even if she thinks she does; she doesn’t.
You really need to understand that.
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I think you are missing the point. All I am saying is that all three people need to heal. I am not saying that the AP needs to help with the AP healing. I am just saying everyone gets hurt and everyone needs to heal. There are no winners in this and everyone get damaged.
And what I’m saying is…
Even considering the “healing” of the AP is showing a crack you may think is insignificant… and it is *exceptionally* hurtful to your wife.
What you’ve done with this post is exactly the re-direction mechanism you describe doing in therapy. It’s a great big word salad that distracts, condescends, and leaves everyone feeling confused… but the focus is not so much on the topic that was previously at hand.
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So by me saying that everyone involved in the affair gets hurt and needs to heal that I am hurting my wife?
I am not advocating for anyone here. I am really just saying that the healing process is multifaceted and never the same in any one instance. I think you are reading way too much into it.
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You didn’t just say that though.
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What every betrayed spouse says is that the cheater has to let go of the affair partner in every way. No contact means no contact. Often the cheater does it anyway and the marriage is over. It may go through some slow death spirals but the bs already knows the c lies so this is another lie. I suggest you read some blogs by bs. It might take a few years but slowly the marriage fails because the cheater did not put in the work. You need to start all over again as if in front of the minister etc and think about the vows you made. They have been around for a long time. They have weight. That is where you start. Your affair partner has no voice in this and should disappear from your radar. If you can’t do that you are not committed to your marriage and your wife knows it.
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Oh I agree. I did not mean to make it sound as if she did have a say in how the relationship is healed. What I meant is that the BS with have to heal as well and most likely alone.
As for No contact. I agree it does mean no contact and you can’t go forward and start healing without it.
I don’t think I meant that the AP and AS should have any bearing on how the relationship is healed except for the type of relationship will determine how much healing us required.
I hope this makes sense.
I understand where this is going. For the affair to stop the AS and the AP need to come to a mutual agreement to end it otherwise you could have the AP showing up at inopportune times to the AS and BS’s healing process.
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Oh yes, I agree. It has to end to heal.
No. No mutual agreement is necessary betwern a cheater and an affair partner! That sounds all very nice, nut the only thing that is necessary (since no one has control over an AP, and often they lose their minds in the discard, if they ever had one) is that the cheater stays NC and works to focus on his or her relationship, the third wheel is fully discarded and left behind! No one needs to worry about an AP. They are not relevant in the recovery world!
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um ok… what if the third wheel an obsessive young girl who shows up during a a quiet candle lit conversation, or the cheater can’t stop sending texts to the AP.
There are many ways to look at it but the bottom line is you can’t begin a healing process unless you are both 100% mentally and emotionally committed.
Ours was also obsessive. But my ex was 100% committed to no contact. That is the key. And most find it hard to let go.
You are correct. The healing process looks different for each individual and each couple. You can take advice and learn from other people’s successes and mistakes. Ultimately, though, you need to heal in a way that works for you and your spouse.
I think what people are saying is that the AP is on their own for their healing. You cannot be committed to your marriage nor will your marriage ever heal if the AP is still around in any capacity. I’m not sure how you are relating the AP healing to you having a healthy marriage moving forward. Is it thinking that if they don’t heal they will come back and harass you or your wife? I’m confused on that one.
I did not mean to make it sound like the AP has any say in the healing process. I just meant that the AP will also need to heal as well and most likely alone.
Got’cha. I get what you mean now.
I think you put this really well. Both spouses need to be willing to address both the cheating, themselves and the prior relationship issues. Healing can come. 90% of healing is a choice. Little choices day by day can lead to incredible futures ahead.
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I think this was well thought out.
I can understand why a BS would not want to consider the healing of the AP. The whole process is very multidimensional. The AP does need to heal as well, it’s just their their journey is separate and apart from the marital couple. I didn’t get that you were considering the healing of the AP to be a part of your own healing. It’s simple another aspect of the entire thing.
I believe that the bottom line is that while an affair is an egregious breech of the marriage, unless the couple examines the issues that lead to the affair, the marriage will never fully heal. The AS can’t be beat with the affair over the head forever. The BS can’t be forever the victim. If the marital couple is willing to truly examine why the affair happened and not focus on the face that it did, there is a chance of a better relationship.
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For most couples, and particularly the spouse who cheated, it is hard to understand that the affair must be dealt with first. Harder yet, is the understanding this could take years depending as you said on what type of affair it was, the length of the affair etc. It creates a huge mess. Cheating is like walking into your kitchen and discovering a broken glass. Instead of trying to fix the one glass, you open the cabinet and shatter all the glasses. Now, you not only have no glasses but you have a dangerous mess all over the place.
I agree that every marriage has issues. We are all individuals and we are human. We make mistakes. But we are also in the SAME relationship and it is a horrible thing to cheat. It simply brings a thousand more issues into play. For every single thing my husband can say he was dealing with and created vulnerability? I can say I was dealing with too. I just chose not to cheat (and oddly the chance did happen during his affair). If he had spent even one tenth of the energy on our marriage that he spent on the affair we could have flourished and overcome some serious life situations with the fidelity of our marriage intact. But now we have had to spend a significant time rebuilding trust, etc. before we can move on to focusing on the marriage.
Lastly, I agree with the others. The AP knew exactly what she was getting in to when she whored around with a married man. She knew the chances were high he would never leave as he told her this repeatedly from day one. This also was not her first affair. The only reason her healing would ever cross our minds is to hope she heals so that no other married couple is damaged by her.
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Hello, if I could add something. If a spouse takes back their cheating spouse, they are giving them grace, Grace is undeserved it is a gift, it’s saying I could throw you out and turn my back on you for good, but I wont. I want to truly work through this. I think this grace should be not only appreciated by the cheater but reciprocated by doing most of the leg work at the beginning of healing. It’s saying hey, am willing to do the extra work because i love you and want to and am willing to sacrifice. I do agree that a marriage takes 2 equal effort but in reality it’s never 50-50 all of the time depending on what life throws at you, or what factors are in play all the time, illness, work etc. This is the time for the cheater to step up, yes it’s hard and tiring, but nobody said it was gonna be easy.
Also, I have another analogy about cheating and issues in a marriage. Let’s say marital issues are like a virus in the body, it makes the body a bit unwell etc but it’s functioning, then that body gets shot. When you take the body to the hospital, the doctors don’t say, right….about that virus….NO they try to save the body of high is flatlining – get the bullet out! Yes ofcourse they’ll deal with the virus but not initially. First save the life of the relationship, then work on getting that virus out.
I understand from what wrote that you were not factoring the healing of the AP into your and your wife’s healing, I just think obviously from a betrayed spouse’s point of view you paying any mind to the AP is painful. Yes I understand there was obviously feelings for your AP and they don’t go away overnight….but an AP (and the act of cheating) is that bullet
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Reblogged this on gdhayesblog and commented:
A thoughtful read from the perspective of the one who cheated.
Sometimes a marriage can be salvaged from the ashes of an affair but some realities have to be faced. Trust once it is destroyed can seldom be fully restored, even if a modicum of trust is restored if your spouse is ever late coming home from work or their whereabouts unknown for even the briefest period of time the fear, suspicion, and suppressed hurt come raging back like a fire. Further even if you are able to forgive your partner the hurt caused by their affair NEVER goes away even decades later! Some hurts simply never heal and probably cannot until death.