Infidelity is also known as: cheating, straying, adultery, being unfaithful, or having an affair. It is a violation of a couple's emotional and/or sexual exclusivity. When someone brings infidelity into a relationship, it is devastating. It’s no wonder why the immediate response after finding out that someone cheated is to feel disbelief, anger, sadness, and grief. It can be possible to move on and rebuild after infidelity, but it takes a lot of effort and forgiveness. There seems to be three common phases of recovery after an affair: the crisis phase, the understanding phase, and the vision phase.
The Crisis Phase
The crisis phase is the first phase, which is right after the affair is disclosed or discovered. When you find out your partner has cheated, you will feel the initial shock and deep betrayal. This can ruin your confidence and make you feel that everything you thought you knew and had just fallen apart. As horrible as this phase may feel, it does help to realize that this difficult time will pass and you will move into the next stage.
It is very common for couples to make decisions during this phase, especially when you want some sort of resolution. The important thing is to take care of yourself and give yourself permission to make major decisions later. You have to take a few deep breaths and allow the chaos to slow down. Once things calm down, you can start to think about what you want in this relationship.
It can be hard to think about a future when you just found out about infidelity. Your partner should be the person who you turn to for support, but in this instance they are the one causing you pain. It is normal to feel lonely and confused. While the person who cheated knew from the beginning, you have just discovered it. As a couple, you are in completely different points in this process.
The Understanding Phase
The next phase is when you begin to look at how the affair happened. Once the crisis phase is over, you will start to move past the intense anger and confusion. It is still a difficult time, but it will help you experience empathy for each other. Once you start to think about everything that happened that led up to the affair, you can gain a clearer insight on the meaning of the affair. While not to be confused with assigning blame, it is good to deconstruct the affair and the history of your relationship. It is helpful to know where the roots of the infidelity began. When you begin to understand the affair, you may be able to get answers to your many questions. This will give you and your partner the opportunity to decide where your relationship will be going moving forward.
If both partners are willing and ready to move into healing, there will be a noticeable shift happening. When you move from categorizing the good spouse vs the bad spouse, you can experience the recovery process as a shared experience. This shift will help you move into the next stage, where you will be ready to look into a new future, either together or separate.
The Vision Phase
If you have made it through the first two phases and have reached the third phase of affair recovery, you are going to be making a lot of decisions together. This will include making the decision to either stay together or move on from the relationship. It is here where you will decide if you are able to create a new future together. You will set new boundaries and be clear about what the expectations are for the relationship going forward. While it seems impossible at first, there is hope to move past infidelity.
Remember - it is never too late to seek help. Friends and family are definitely invaluable supports, but working with a professional therapist will help to guide you in making unbiased decisions. Over time, you will learn to trust and love again. To work with a therapist who specializes in relationships, click here.