He cheated on me! How will I get through this pain?

Infidelity in not necessarily the end

By Barbara Pierce

Your partner was unfaithful and now you’re trying to get past all the hurt. You’re unsure if you should stay or go.

It feels like a bomb just went off; it’s so unsettling and disorienting. This is a major loss; as with most losses, betrayal is intensely distressing.

“When an affair is revealed, it’s a crisis for a couple,” said Greg Kovacs, licensed marriage and family therapist in Utica. “It’s a pressing issue that needs to be addressed and can’t be ignored. It’s very common that I see couples in counseling for the first time following the discovery of an affair.”

Kovacs has found that many couples choose to stay together after one has had an affair. “Infidelity is not a strong predictor of divorce; I’ve found this from my own experience and research on divorce,” he said.

That’s right: Infidelity is not a deal breaker. Many people think an affair signals the end of a marriage. It’s easy to think you’ll leave if your partner betrays you, but when confronted with the reality of divorce and dissolving your marriage or relationship, the stakes are high.

Ending the relationship may not be a good solution, particularly when the unfaithful person is remorseful and devoted to changing.

Although healing is challenging, most marriages not only survive, but can actually grow from the experience if the couple is willing to invest the time and emotional energy, said Kovacs.

When both partners have the motivation, patience, time and hard work to rebuild trust, it can be built.

There are no right or wrong ways to get through this, but Kovacs suggested what could help:

— An affair is a symptom of something wrong, he said. It is a wake-up call to issues that have been overlooked, like alcoholism or drug abuse, parenting stress, or mental illness.

— Affairs are less likely to lead to a divorce because the crisis often leads to counseling, which helps to uncover and treat the underlying issues that led to the affair, he said.

“Much of the work in healing from an affair is dedicated to treating that underlying problem,” he said.

He suggested counseling with a good marriage and family therapist to help you look at these issues and recover. A therapist can lead the way through the mire.

Feelings that surface after the discovery of an affair are often so overwhelming that it’s difficult to know how to begin to get one’s life back on track. A therapist can help.

Rebuild the vibe

— There may be a lack of friendship in the marriage or a lack of intimacy, Kovacs added. He often hears couples say they don’t have fun together anymore or they’ve been more like roommates.

“In order to build trust, one must develop — or re-develop — a friendship with their partner,” he recommended. “This means learning about each other all over again, spending time together, and sharing good memories together.”

“It means remembering things about each other that no one else does, like asking about the headache they had this morning or that big meeting,” Kovacs said. “Once friendship develops, trust begins to build — trust that their partner will be available to meet their emotional and physical needs the ways they used to or maybe the way they never did.”

— On the average, it takes about 18-24 months to heal from the pain of your partner’s infidelity. Knowing that the pain isn’t going away overnight can be helpful, and knowing that it will eventually end is also valuable in the healing process.

However, just because the healing process can take up to two years doesn’t mean you’ll be in pain every day for two years. You must be willing to ride the rollercoaster through the tough stuff. Sometimes it may feel like one step forward and two steps back.

You won’t forget what happened, but forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Forgiveness means accepting that this happened and letting go of it. Holding a grudge will drag you down and your pain will continue.

Forgiveness frees you.

— If you never let go and continuously make him regain your trust, you won’t recover. If you expect him to cheat on you again, he will eventually. If you continue to be suspicious of him, he’s more likely to screw up again. Instead assume he won’t do it again.

— Don’t be quick to tell friends and family about what happened. They’ll be eager to support you, the victim. Then it will be hard to recommit to your relationship when infidelity has been broadcast to the world.

And they’ll give you advice. Don’t listen to it. Only you and your partner know what’s really going on. Get your emotional support from a professional.

Regarding learning all the details of the affair, think carefully about whether you really want to know. Which is likely to be worse: knowing or not knowing?