After an affair: The do’s and don’ts

Expert advice for how to deal when your partner has had an affair

After an affair: The do's and don'ts

Source: Best Health magazine, January/February 2015

Grace Cirocco, a relationship and wellness coach in St. Catharines, Ont., who runs marriage retreats for couples, and Dr. Janis Abrahms Spring, a psychologist in Westport, Conn., and author of After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful, offer the following advice for women whose partners have had an affair.

Don’t ask for intimate details

You may be curious about what the sex was like, how often they did it or if he gave her gifts. ‘It can drive a woman crazy knowing this sort of stuff ‘ it feeds her imagination, she obsesses about it and it can block healing,’ says Cirocco.

Don’t make any immediate decisions after learning about the affair

Give yourself time to process what’s happened before you make any key decisions. If you decide to stay together and are working to restabilize, you should still expect your relationship to be an emotional roller-coaster for about 18 months, says Dr. Abrahms Spring. ‘You have to move past the anniversary of the disclosure date. During that time, you can expect plenty of turbulence.’

Don’t assume an affair has to mean the end of your marriage

Some marriages actually thrive after the affair because the couple realizes what they might have lost and work harder to regain intimacy. But the unfaithful partner must ask for, and earn, forgiveness. Says Cirocco: ‘If the marriage is going to make it, both parties need to be honest about their feelings and take responsibility for repairing the disconnect that led to the infidelity. Patience is key. Wounds take time to heal, but trust can be rebuilt.’

Do recognize you may need professional help

The discovery of an affair is a psychological trauma, says Dr. Abrahms Spring. ‘Hurt partners are often embarrassed by how badly they are doing, how shattered they feel and how traumatized they are. They need to understand that this is a normal and common response.’

Do engage life

‘Remember the saying ‘You make a road by walking’ ‘ that means starting to re-engage, even if you have no real interest in doing so. Call a friend, go to a class at the gym and get outside for a power walk,’ says Dr. Abrahms Spring. ‘This allows you to begin receiving feedback about yourself ‘ that you aren’t alone, that you are a person worthy of being cared for, and you begin to experience yourself as being alive and in this world.’

Do examine your own behaviour

Both parties need to take responsibility for problems in the marriage. ‘This doesn’t mean you blame yourself for your partner’s affair, but you must be willing to take your fair share of responsibility ‘ whether that’s 10 or 50 percent ‘ for what created the distance between the two of you and made room for a third party to come between you,’ says Dr. Abrahms Spring.