Recovering from Infidelity: Five Steps

Heather Long
Lipstick on his collar

Recovering from infidelity is difficult, but doable. How you recover will be different if you are the one who committed the infidelity or the significant other of someone who committed it.

About Recovering From Infidelity

For some relationships, infidelity is a deal breaker. It is the end of the road and if the cheater is caught, the relationship ends. In those instances, even when forgiveness is possible, the restoration of trust is not and the relationship will sour. For everyone else, recovery is a time consuming process that requires a lot of soul searching.

Step One

If steps can break down the recovery process, the first step to recovering from infidelity is acknowledging that it happened. The acknowledgement begins with a confession preferably, but it begins when the infidelity is discovered. Do not be surprised to experience the stages of grief as you go through your recovery process. Infidelity damages relationships by hurting you and the trust and faith you have in your relationship.

The first stage is denial. You can't admit that this is happening to you or at least you can't believe it is. Your emotions bounce up and down. But you have to break through the denial and admit that it happened. Infidelity doesn't occur in a vacuum and while the reasons may be numerous, you can't deal with the infidelity or the issues underscored by it without admitting that it happened.

Step Two

Getting angry with your partner is a natural reaction once you've acknowledged that he or she has been unfaithful. While anger is healthy, seeking revenge should not be the goal of this step. You need to acknowledge the anger, and you need to explore exactly why you feel this way. Is it the actual act of infidelity, the sense of betrayal, the hurt feelings or something else that is spurring your anger?Infidelity and the feelings it arouses in you is complicated. Don't dismiss those complications by trying to short shrift why you are angry. You may need to take a few days to "sort it out" in your own head. But never make a decision about your relationship or what you are going to do when you are angry. Your significant other needs to give you space to process this.

Step Three

Processing the infidelity is next. In the stages of grief this is also referred to as bargaining. This is the point where your significant other will plead or apologize profusely for his actions. You are not going to be sure whether he is apologizing because they are genuinely upset or if he is simply emotional because he was caught. Don't try to examine his motivations right now. If he cannot give you your space, then it may be time to take a couple of days away (if you can). In the case where children are involved, any time in front of them or with the family should become "neutral territory."The only deal you and your significant other should make at this point is the deal to let you control the conversation, for now. But the processing stage can take months sometimes and most relationships cannot live in limbo. You need to get past the anger and the grief so that you can evaluate whether the relationship is worth repairing and working on together. Once you come to that conclusion you are either ready to call things quits or move on to the next stage.

Step Four

This is a difficult stage because it's the stage where you begin to wonder what is wrong with you. Why did your significant other look to someone else? Was it an emotional affair? A physical one? Some "meaningless" one time thing? No matter how meaningless your partner defines the incident, their participation in it is meaningful to you.Oddly, this is the time for you to be honest with yourself. Have you been horribly busy, distant or emotionally unavailable? You are not attributing blame, but you need to be able to focus on the circumstances of why it happened. This isn't easy because depression will come and go during this step. If you are both in a place where you can talk about it, you need to talk about what happened and why. Avoid the use of the word "you" - you need to use "I" language specifically (i.e. I feel like … I am upset … I do not understand …) The use of I language is important to the process of recovering from infidelity because it avoids accusations.

Step Five

If you've made it to this stage, you're working together to salvage your relationship. Sometimes the romantic aspect may be dampened or extinguished for a while. But you are working to repair the relationship and that means you've accepted that the infidelity occurred. Don't expect the bitter acid in your stomach to pass easily. You are very likely to become emotional at all mentions of the incident. You have to accept that this will happen and work through it.If you and your partner have made it this far, you should consider seeing a marriage counselor or relationship counselor as a way to facilitate the discussions you will need to have to rebuild the trust in your relationship.

Can Your Relationship Survive Infidelity?

The short answer is yes, a relationship can survive infidelity. The long answer is that every relationship is different. Recovery and how long it takes your relationship to recover is on no one's timetable but your own. If you and your significant other want to work together, love each other enough to forgive flaws and injuries, then your relationship has a chance.

Recovering from Infidelity: Five Steps