Can You Ever Fully Recover from an Affair?

When you first discover an affair, your feelings of rage and sadness can be overwhelming. You are not alone; that is a very natural and normal reaction to the massive betrayal of trust that you’ve experienced. It’s ok to feel hurt and angry, among other things.

Although it may not seem like it right away, many couples are able to go on to have happy and fulfilling relationships after infidelity—if they are willing to put in the work required for affair recovery. It is important to know that the affair will always be a part of the story of your relationship going forward, although it doesn’t always have to be the defining feature. (And likewise, if you decide to split up after discovering infidelity, know you don’t have to carry the baggage forward into future relationships with yourself and others.) 

At Well Marriage Center, we’ve helped thousands of individuals and couples dealing with affairs, many of whom successfully rebuilt their relationship after an affair was discovered. The intense feelings of hurt, betrayal, and guilt that occur in the early stages of healing are likely to fade eventually, but there will be a lasting change to the relationship.

Working through these damaging feelings and making changes to your relationship are a big part of how to heal from infidelity trauma. Some couples even report that their relationship improves over what it was like before the affair, after all the work and healing has been done.

Can You Be Traumatized by Infidelity?

Yes, it is not uncommon for cheated-on partners to experience symptoms of trauma when they discover their spouse’s infidelity. These trauma responses, which may go on for months or years, might include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Severe anxiety, including shortness of breath and heart palpitations
  • Uncontrollable thoughts
  • Emotional numbness
  • Erratic behaviors or moods
  • Sleeping problems, like insomnia or extreme fatigue
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • A massive drop in self-worth and self-esteem

For some partners, these trauma responses may be relatively short-lived, but for others, they can last longer and even be debilitating. In these circumstances, a partner may be diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some mental health providers use the term post-traumatic infidelity syndrome (PTIS) as a helpful way of referring to these sets of symptoms, although this is not an official diagnosis within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). 

Working with an experienced relationship counselor can be a big asset when navigating these trauma responses. A neutral third party can be an important guide for not only healing the relationship, but for helping the individual partners get additional help if needed. Working with a relationship specialist can help keep the trauma and pain of infidelity from spilling over into each individual’s relationship with themselves, others, or their future relationships.

Does the Hurt of an Affair Ever Go Away?

Like most traumatic experiences, the incredibly strong feelings of hurt and betrayal will decrease over time. When someone first finds out about a partner’s cheating, the shock and pain are often very intense. It’s normal to feel like these are a permanent part of the relationship, and that they will never go away. But as the shock wears off and both partners work through the changes in their relationship, the pain becomes more manageable. In fact, when couples put in the work for marriage counseling, they may find that their relationship is stronger than ever, as the therapist will help them uncover which unmet needs, issues, and other challenges were present before the affair. The therapist will also help each individual tackle problems like communication, trust, intimacy, conflict management, and more through skill building and deep therapeutic work.

How Long Does It Take for a Marriage to Recover from Infidelity?

There is no exact time frame for affair recovery, as every relationship and situation will be different. Marriage or relationship recovery is also not a linear process, where every day is slightly better than the day before. There will be ups and downs as partners navigate and grow together to get beyond the infidelity—some days things could feel great, sometimes months later a difficult time could reemerge. These are all perfectly normal reactions, and they don’t mean that recovery isn’t happening as it should.

In general, especially with the help of a qualified and experienced marriage counselor, many couples find their relationship has recovered anywhere from six months to two years after an affair. Remember, there may be good days before this time, and rough days even afterwards, but this can be a helpful benchmark for time.

Affair Recovery for the Betrayer

It’s common for affair recovery resources to focus on the partner who was cheated on. While obviously this person will be experiencing a huge amount of pain and anger, the partner who did the cheating is just as involved in affair recovery. One of the biggest signs your marriage or relationship will survive infidelity is that BOTH partners are invested in repairing and bettering their relationship.

The partner who had the affair needs to be willing to:

  • End the affair
  • Talk about what was happening in their life and the relationship that contributed to the affair happening in the first place
  • Identify their desire to stay in the relationship, including their reasons not to divorce after infidelity
  • Being willing to do the work to win back trust, as well as hear and acknowledge their partner’s pain

Additionally, the cheating partner will likely have their own feelings of shame, anxiety, and guilt after cheating. These emotions need to be dealt with to enable a healthy and happy relationship going forward. Experienced couples therapists can help both partners successfully navigate their feelings. 

Well Marriage Center: Your Partner in Affair Recovery

Our experienced couples counselors at Well Marriage Center have helped over 15,000 couples build better relationships. We believe relationships can and do recover after affairs with the right support, and we want to be a reliable partner through the challenges of rebuilding relationship trust. Our counselors focus on your relationship’s strengths and emotional healing to help partners rekindle their loving relationships. We offer in-person or remote appointments for couples or individuals—reach out today to start your healing journey.

*Note, we recommend seeing a couples therapist even if the partner’s decide to dissolve their relationship after the affair discovery. Working through the roller coaster of traumatic emotions for both parties is important to keep the emotional baggage from becoming bigger, negative coping patterns in the future. Our specialists are here to help you through this time, no matter what your situation is. 





How Long Does the Shock of Infidelity Last?

As much as we wish the shock of infidelity didn’t linger—for weeks, months, or even years—it does. How quickly or slowly affair recovery takes will depend on factors like:

  • Your support system as you work through the pain of betrayal
  • How you and your partner choose to discuss and process the affair
  • The state of your relationship before you discovered the infidelity
  • How severe the affair was (i.e., how long it lasted, what happened, who it was with, etc.)
  • Whether or not you seek professional help from a couples therapist or marriage counselor

If you’ve just recently found out about your partner’s infidelity, please know you are not alone. A relationship or marriage is never the same after infidelity, and recovery can be a distressing process. Permit yourself space to be upset and angry, as this kind of pain cuts deep and leaves unseen emotional scars. No one should pressure you to “get over it” or expect you to heal at a rate faster than you’re capable of. 

Eventually—no rush, though—you’ll find yourself wondering how to heal from infidelity trauma. Can you ever fully recover from infidelity, or is the pain permanent? Let’s explore what to expect in the aftermath of this kind of betrayal. 

Does the Pain of Being Cheated On Ever Go Away?

Although infidelity is emotionally devastating, it is possible to recover and ease your pain over time. However, expect a bumpy ride to peace after such a betrayal. If you’re hoping to forget about the infidelity and never think about it again—that’s a little less likely. 

While that may be upsetting to hear, it’s healthy to acknowledge this before you begin processing your rollercoaster of emotions and find a way forward. Infidelity has a lasting impact, even if you choose to forgive your partner and continue your relationship. 

Sometimes, even after you’ve decided to stay together, you’ll still experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), also called post-infidelity stress disorder (PISD). Various infidelity PTSD triggers can bring up painful reminders of what happened, even as you try to forget. You may experience symptoms like:

  • Extreme fluctuation between feeling numb and feeling angry/vengeful
  • Withdrawal from social interactions
  • Severe self-blame and reduced self-esteem
  • A sense of powerlessness
  • Nightmares and difficulty sleeping
  • Being overly vigilant and on the lookout for another betrayal
  • Complete inability to trust your partner and others in your life
  • Flashbacks to the infidelity discovery, or visualizations of the infidelity if you never witnessed it

How Long Does Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder Last?

Similar to the initial shock of betrayal, infidelity PTSD may be present for only a few weeks or months, while for others, it may take much longer to fully recover. This stress can severely affect your mental and physical health, which is why it’s crucial to seek help if you are experiencing symptoms.

This stage is where a therapist or counselor can be highly beneficial. These professionals will work with you to develop strategies for managing your symptoms and navigating your infidelity-related emotions. As the chaotic storm of feelings rages within you, a counselor can act as your lighthouse, showing you the least destructive path to regain some sense of normalcy.

How Does a Betrayed Spouse Heal?

Regularly attending individual and couples therapy sessions is the best way to heal from infidelity.  Trying to recover without a professional third party is possible, but neutral, experienced guidance from a therapist will encourage healing.

For example, at Well Marriage Center, here are some of the techniques we use to help folks move past the open-wound stage of infidelity:

  • Encourage Open Communication – Our counselors provide a safe and non-judgmental space for affected couples or individuals to untangle their feelings and experiences after infidelity.
  • Promote Self-Care – We help our clients identify ways to care for themselves during this difficult time, like exercising, journaling, and spending time with friends and family.
  • Foster Healing and Forgiveness – At Well Marriage Center, we take a strengths-based approach to counseling. This means we start with conversations about a couple’s strengths, the things they admire about each other, and any good memories that stand out. We find that this method opens up discussions about how each person perceives their relationship and why the infidelity happened in the first place.
  • Tackle Underlying Issues –  Affairs usually indicate some underlying problems in a relationship. Has one partner felt ignored and sought attention elsewhere? Has sex been challenging lately? Is there some sort of addiction in the picture? Identifying these root causes is vital to the recovery process.
  • Develop a Plan for Rebuilding Trust – If both partners are willing to move forward in the relationship after infidelity, there needs to be a plan to rebuild trust. Increasing communication, practicing empathy, and focusing on the future should all be part of such a plan. Our therapists can help you set up and achieve these goals.

Remember, as you’re exploring the internet looking for tips on affair recovery, everyone’s process is unique. Reading about the experiences of others can be helpful, but at the end of the day, this is your story. You decide the final outcome. And if that decision feels overwhelming—Well Marriage Center is here for you. 

Whenever you’re ready, you can visit our appointment-scheduling page to get started on your healing journey. Our intake coordinator, Melinda, is available to answer any questions and to connect you with one of our licensed therapists. We’ll start with an extended 90-minute session to understand the scope of your circumstances and make a plan for moving forward. 

Please know that there is hope after such a traumatic experience, and we want to help you find it.





Does Affair Pain Ever Go Away?

It’s estimated that a staggering 20-40% of marriages face infidelity, according to an interview published by NPR. Infidelity can have a severe impact on marriages and romantic relationships, not to mention a person’s self worth and mental health, but affair recovery is possible if both partners are committed.

At Well Marriage Center, we believe that marriages and relationships can heal, even after trust has been broken in such a painful way. In this blog, we explore how to heal from infidelity trauma and discuss what you and your partner may experience after an affair.

Why Do Marriages Fail After Infidelity?

Marriages often face challenges after infidelity because affairs break trust. However, not all marriages fail after an affair. There is hope for couples that want to heal their marriage. To understand how, we first have to look at how affairs reflect relationships. 

Relationships—especially marriages—are built on trust. Think of the things you might rely on your partner for, or that your partner relies on you for:

  • Providing emotional support
  • Earning income
  • Maintaining your home
  • Caring for children and/or pets
  • Managing finances
  • Planning dates and vacations
  • Continuing to build a meaningful life together

Some of these tasks carry more weight than others, but when your partner breaks a major point of trust, it can be difficult to rely on them in other aspects of your relationship. Suddenly, you’re not just worried about loyalty, you may also doubt their ability to handle financial matters, health concerns, and household chores while considering your needs. Partners doubt that they are building anything meaningful together anymore. In other words, after your partner has an affair, it might feel like you’re no longer in a partnership.

Affairs can drastically alter your relationship dynamics. In fact, long term infidelity effects can severely  affect both physical and mental health, and affairs can impact people outside of the relationship. When working to heal from an affair, you and your partner may encounter some of the following effects:


  • Mental Health: An affair does more than break trust, it can also change how your brain operates. Infidelity may reduce dopamine levels, worsen depression and anxiety, weaken self-esteem, and even cause symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. 
  • Physical Well-Being: When an affair affects your mental health and household routines, it can be difficult to maintain your physical health. In some cases, victims of infidelity can even be more likely to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance abuse and disordered eating, according to Patient. The constant emotional strain from affaird PTSD damages us physically.
  • Altered Relationships: When dealing with an affair, you may experience turmoil in more relationships than with just your partner. If you have children together, it can be difficult to communicate why their parents’ relationship has a different dynamic. If you have overlapping social groups, then your mutual friends may feel the need to choose sides.


While dealing with an affair can be a daunting time in your relationship, it doesn’t mean that it’s the end of it. It’s still possible to heal as a couple and build back trust, as long as both of you are willing to put in the time and effort to move forward.

Do You Ever Really Get Over an Affair?

While an affair is a significant moment in a relationship, couples can stay together after infidelity. Hope is very much alive. However, getting to the stage of your relationship where betrayal trauma is no longer the main focus takes time, intentional effort, and possibly professional help.

Before a relationship can get back on track after an affair, the victim must process the 5 stages of grief of infidelity, which are:

  1. Denial 
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Working through these stages can be painful, but it’s necessary to process the emotions of each stage of grief before moving forward. Otherwise, you can find yourself getting stuck in the past and the hurt you experienced. These negative patterns can become part of your deeper psyche, and spill over into future relationships and damage your self-esteem for years or decades to come. Scheduling sessions with a couples therapist can provide a safe space for both you and your partner to express and understand each other’s difficult feelings, which can help you find ways to heal your relationship. You can read more about these stages and this process here.

*Because of the traumatic nature of infidelity, we recommend working with a skilled couples counselor or marriage therapist even if you don’t decide to stay together after the affair. A specialized therapist can help each partner process the hurt and damage, and come out on the other side stronger, without having to carry the baggage forever. However you decide to handle the situation, we’re here to support you and your relationship goals.

How Do I Stop Hurting After an Affair?

One major step to healing after an affair is to understand what went wrong in the relationship. This can be a painful and often triggering process, but uncovering any underlying issues can help you both communicate what you want in your relationship moving forward.

Although forgiveness is the ultimate goal of affair recovery, it likely won’t happen quickly—and that’s okay. As we stated above, infidelity can trigger the grieving process, and it’s important to give each of those emotions the space they require to work through. Working with a neutral third party mediator, like a couples therapist, can help both of you voice your needs and feelings without fear of escalation or retaliation. 

Does Affair Guilt Go Away?

Oftentimes, emphasis is placed on the victims of infidelity to forgive their partners, but it’s just as important—if not more so—for the partner that had the affair to work through their emotions. Similar to the stages of emotional betrayal, the partner who had the affair also goes through stages of guilt after cheating: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

The relationship can’t move forward until trust is rebuilt, and that’s difficult to do if the cheater is still resentful or insecure about their ability to stay in a faithful relationship. They often also carry feelings of humiliation, inadequacy and a host of other damaging emotions that can lead to or deepend pre-existing negative coping mechanisms. Working with a skilled therapist can be key in getting to the root of these issues and behaviors.

How To Stop Thinking About an Affair Partner

When infidelity impacts your relationship, it can be hard to stop thinking about the third, “other” person—but the best way to move forward is to give that external person less time in your thoughts. That may sound counterintuitive, but think about it this way: if you spend all of your time thinking about the other person, then they’ll always be at the front of your mind. This obsession can overpower your relationship, even if your intentions are to move past the “other” person.

A common way to help change your mindset is to change your routine with your partner. Starting fresh can remove connections that the other person had to your life. You and your partner can also meet with a marriage counselor to discuss solutions that are specific to your individual challenges. 

Rebuilding Trust After Infidelity

Affair recovery is a slow and steady process filled with forward progress, setbacks, and for many couples, the ability to trust each other once again. To give your relationship its best chance at healing, it helps to work with specialized professionals. At Well Marriage Center, we provide support and guidance to help free couples from the past and build a better tomorrow. The path forward starts with a small step together. Schedule an appointment today.




What Should You Not Do After Infidelity?

Learning how to start over in a marriage after infidelity—or in any romantic relationship—is a complex and emotionally intense process. With tensions running high and so much at stake, many couples fall into despair and assume the pain of infidelity never goes away. But this doesn’t have to be your fate. An affair doesn’t have to permanently define your relationship with others or yourself. You and your partner can successfully navigate through the stages of healing after infidelity, and forge a stronger bond—so long as you avoid common relationship reconciliation mistakes. 

Although every situation is unique, there are three critical things all couples should avoid during affair recovery

  • Holding yourselves to a timeline
  • Letting mistrust consume your relationship
  • Trying to heal by yourselves

Let’s take a look at each of these pitfalls in more detail. 

  • Don’t Hold Yourselves to a Timeline

How long does infidelity trauma last? In truth, every couple’s healing journey looks different. Although many sources try to project timelines—the most common industry answer is that it takes about 18 months to recover from an affair—this isn’t the most helpful approach. Naturally, all couples desire to heal as quickly as possible. But the reality is that affair recovery, when done right, takes time. Trying to move too fast can cause problems to linger and put pressure on individuals to rush their healing process. 

A healthier approach is to set realistic goals for you and your partner and frequently check each other’s progress in achieving your goals. These goals can be related to communication, trust, conflict resolution, and many other important relationship pillars. Really, diligently meeting your goals and ensuring positive outcomes are much more important than “quickly” moving past an affair. If you and your partner are unsure of how to do this, working with a skilled relationship counselor will set you on the right path.

  • Don’t Let Mistrust Consume Your Relationship

At the beginning of affair recovery, it may be tempting to set strict ground rules after cheating. Some negative ground rules include: 

  • Giving your partner a curfew
  • Monitoring their social media accounts 
  • Not letting your partner go on vacations or work trips without you

Because infidelity has long-term psychological effects, many people who have experienced infidelity develop severe trust issues, which causes them to become much more controlling in a relationship. Although this reaction is completely understandable, it’s not a healthy approach and can often do more harm than good. Rebuilding trust is one of the most difficult aspects of affair recovery, but controlling your partner won’t help you learn to trust again. Instead, it will push them away and make you feel even less in control. 

So, what boundaries should be set after infidelity? Appropriate boundaries look different for every couple, but can include things like cutting off contact with the affair partner and determining the level of intimacy you are comfortable having with your partner. To set healthy boundaries, working with a professional marriage or couples counselor can empower you and your partner to successfully navigate trust issues throughout your affair recovery journey. This brings us to our next bit of advice…

  • Don’t Try To Heal by Yourselves

Discovering how to heal after being cheated on and stay together is an overwhelming task for any couple. Mainly because they do not have the tools to succeed. Marriage counseling offers couples access to an unbiased professional with the experience needed to truly recover from an affair. For example, a marriage counselor can show couple how to make sense of what they are feeling. For the person who was cheated on, a therapist can enable them to explain how they are affected by the infidelity without making their partner feel attacked. For the person who strayed from the relationship, a therapist can help them listen to their partner without becoming defensive.

Additionally, a professional counselor will encourage you ask and answer difficult questions like: 

  • How do you build safety in a relationship after cheating?
  • How do you deal with triggers after cheating?
  • Is a marriage ever the same after infidelity?

At Well Marriage Center, our counselors will work with you and your partner to examine what led to the affair and explore methods for rebuilding your relationship that benefit you and your partner. We strive to help you forgive, rebuild trust, and move past infidelity.

Couples often report a stronger, more open, and more compassionate bond after working with us. The skills and tools we impart empower individuals and couples to work together on issues like communication breakdown, conflict management, intimacy, trust, and so much more. All of this is important, especially after an affair.

If you’re ready to start healing, take the first step and schedule your appointment today.





What Boundaries Should Be Set After Infidelity?

Infidelity, one of the most harmful lies in a relationship, occurs between 20 to 40% of married couples. This doesn’t even include partners that aren’t married. Many people are surprised by these numbers, but affairs are something that happen across cultures and generations, for any number of reasons. People generally don’t set out to hurt each other, yet it happens and each situation is unique.

The good news is that affair recovery is, in fact, possible. When both individuals want to continue, heal, and process after the trauma of infidelity, and with appropriate counseling, around 60 to 75% of couples are able to improve communication and rebuild trust as they work through the stages of healing after infidelity, primarily:

  • Discovery of (and reaction to) the affair
  • Beginning to forgive
  • Recommitment and reconciliation

Let’s take a look at the importance of setting—and respecting—effective boundaries in the aftermath of infidelity.

What Is the Importance of Setting Healthy Boundaries?

The importance of developing mutually-agreeable relationship and marital boundaries—whether infidelity has occurred or not—is difficult to overstate. Boundaries serve an essential purpose in establishing a healthy and balanced relationship. They create an environment where each person can feel heard and understood without one person needing to “win.” These, of course, aren’t physical boundaries; they’re better considered as behavioral and emotional boundaries.

When infidelity has occurred, it’s a sign that a relationship’s boundaries may have been compromised—if they were even set in the first place. Luckily, affair recovery counseling is designed to explore those boundaries, understand where their vulnerabilities lie, and reset them as needed. Our team of qualified professionals at Well Marriage Center provide strengths-focused affair recovery services that can help you set healthy boundaries, process through the trauma and strong emotions of the cheating, rediscover or rebuild your love, and get your relationship on a healthier track.

What Are Examples of Boundaries in a Marriage?

“Boundaries” can mean a lot of different things, but when applied to any relationship, they outline ground rules in areas like:

  • Communication and honesty
  • Domestic life
  • Finances
  • Individual autonomy
  • Privacy and personal space
  • Relationships with in-laws and other family members
  • Reliability and trust

As a couple works together to develop boundaries that respect each partner’s expectations, it creates space for healing and establishes a strong foundation for the relationship moving forward. 

What many people don’t realize is that setting boundaries isn’t just important in the aftermath of an affair. In reality, healthy boundaries can apply to various stages of affair recovery, from infidelity prevention through reconciliation. Next, we’ll take a closer look at how boundaries can apply at three different stages.

What Are the Boundaries After Infidelity?

Some broad examples of healthy boundaries in a marriage or relationship that relate to affair recovery could include things like: 

  • Creating plans for taking “timeouts” when emotions are running high.
  • Determining what kinds of boundaries, like allowing phone calls or visits, should be in place between the cheater and who the person they cheated with.
  • Setting ground rules after cheating for when—and how often—you will discuss the affair.
  • Considering a temporary physical separation.

How Do You Go About Setting Boundaries During Reconciliation?

Working with a licensed counselor to establish boundaries during the reconciliation process empowers each partner to explore and unpack their feelings in a safe environment. It’s important to know that you don’t have to “go it alone” during this emotionally-charged time. 

When we learn about and react to the discovery of the affair, we experience strong emotions like shame, unworthiness, confusion, anger, and PTSD. The cheating partner often experiences inadequacy, shame, guilt, and sadness. It’s important to work through these emotions with an experienced clinician to minimize long-term, damaging effects and misguided coping mechanisms.

While this might be your first experience with infidelity, our team knows what it takes to survive an affair and can help you at every stage along your path to healing.

While you could take a shot at boundary-setting without working with a couples or marriage counselor, that approach can get messy. Working with a therapist helps to ensure that you and your partner maintain mutual respect throughout the entire reconciliation process. A counselor can help you zero in on the types of boundaries you should be setting—and how to implement them.

How Do You Set Boundaries to Prevent Infidelity from Happening Again?

As you set healthy boundaries in your marriage, a marriage counselor can help you to identify the root causes of conflict in the relationship in a way that can work toward preventing infidelity in the future. The boundaries you develop through couples and marriage counseling should improve future communication, account for each partner’s needs and expectations, and, ultimately, rebuild trust. 

Of course, once these boundaries have been established, there will still be work to do. Here’s an analogy:

Let’s say you’ve always wanted to be a competitive marathon runner. You’ve spent months, if not years, training for your first race. At some point, you experience an injury. 

You really want to run this marathon, right? So you go see a sports medicine specialist, who helps you to rehabilitate your injury through physical therapy. In the short-term, it helps get you in the kind of shape it takes to just get back out on the road. 

Over time, though, the specialist helps you to determine the root cause of your injury, whether it’s wearing the wrong kind of shoes or the need for surgery. That way, you’re less likely to suffer the same injury as you’re ramping back up.

Once the injury heals, you don’t just resume your training from where you left off. Instead, you have to be vigilant to correct the causes of your injury so you don’t find yourself hurt, again, a few months down the line. 

And it’s like that with affair recovery, too. Yes, it’s important (in the short-term) to address the hurt feelings, but it’s also important to guard against future problems as well. A couples therapist helps individuals meet and honor each other’s expectations in a way that doesn’t compromise anyone’s boundaries.

Ready to Get On the Road to Recovery?

Infidelity doesn’t have to mean the end. Whether an affair has just been discovered or you’re looking for reconciliation after infidelity separation, the team at Well Marriage Center is ready to help. Our patient, empathetic, and strengths-based approach is designed to help you rebuild trust, commitment, and ultimately make your relationship stronger for the future. Learn more about our affair recovery services, or schedule an appointment today!





What Are the Stages of Affair Recovery?

If you’ve cheated or been cheated on, you’re not alone. According to Psychology Today, “about 20 percent of men and 13 percent of women report that they’ve had sex with someone other than their spouse while married.” 

Why do people cheat? It can happen for a range of reasons, like feeling neglected, growing bored, or simply one partner falling out of love with the other. Often, it’s not easy to even figure out the root cause or causes, making affair recovery a tricky endeavor—and one that’s best left to a qualified marriage or couples counselor. 

While people’s reasons for cheating may be complex and difficult to untangle, there’s hope. The aftermath of an affair is a rollercoaster of painful emotions that can have devastating, long-term effects if not handled appropriately. Once you understand the stages of healing after infidelity and find the right counselor to help you navigate them through your unique situation, recovery should start to feel like a real possibility.

Note: we use “marriage” and “couples” counseling interchangeably, as we’re here to support any committed relationship that is in distress. We hope you can find this information useful, regardless of legal status or how you personally label your relationship.

How Do You Start the Healing Process After an Affair?

Even though it can cause deep feelings of betrayal and hurt, infidelity does not have to mean the end of the marriage or relationship. That being said, getting past the initial trauma can feel overwhelming in the early stages after an affair has been discovered.

The best advice in the immediate aftermath of affair discovery is to work past the urge to lash out, which typically only makes things worse. Instead, it’s important to take a breath, give each other some space, and avoid making any rash decisions in the moment.

When you’re ready to begin the process of mending the relationship, you’ll want to bring a couples therapist into the conversation. Especially if they specialize in affair recovery, a counselor will be able to help guide you down the path toward reconciliation and healing. The best part? “When both partners are committed to real healing, most couples survive and many marriages become stronger with deeper levels of intimacy,” according to Mayo Clinic.

Even for couples who have decided to split after the discovery of infidelity, working with a specialized clinician can help people overcome the damaging, long-term emotional and mental distress that follows.


What Are the Stages of Healing After an Affair?

The five main infidelity recovery stages, which run parallel to the general stages of grief, are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

  • Denial: In this stage, both partners struggle to make sense of what’s occurred. For the cheater, this might mean being surprised by their own error and the hurt they’ve caused. For the partner who’s been cheated on, this stage involves processing the initial feelings of betrayal after an affair. A counselor will help you to better understand the reasons the affair occurred, a crucial first step in the healing process. 
  • Anger: Understandably, the partner who’s been cheated on is going to be in a great deal of pain, with feelings of anger, embarrassment, and a drop in self-worth. The cheater likely feels some guilt and shame, too. Anger, often considered a secondary emotion, is likely to have its roots in deeper feelings like hurt and confusion. Working with a counselor helps to ensure that discussions remain civil and that each partner can work through their thoughts and feelings in a safe, judgment-free environment. 
  • Bargaining: During this stage, partners are likely to question various circumstances and possible causes behind the affair. Left to their own devices, many people internalize the blame, thinking things like “If only I had (or hadn’t) done [X], maybe this wouldn’t have happened.” It can result in a series of negative thoughts that ruminate in your mind if you’re not careful. When you work with an affair recovery counselor, they’ll help to make sure each partner feels heard and understood—and that neither partner falls into any sort of unproductive blame spirals.
  • Depression: As betrayal’s full impact comes into focus, depression tends to follow. What does it feel like? It feels like hurt, sadness, and doubt. You can begin to doubt yourself and others.  It can even feel hopeless and like the past was a lie. An affair recovery counselor understands how to navigate these proverbial seas of pain and can help couples to keep lines of communication (and healing) open. This way, neither partner is left to dwell too long in this stage.
  • Acceptance: While no quality counselor will tell you to just “accept” what happened or to “get over it,” their job is to help determine what healing looks like for your unique situation. This stage is more about reflection and potential forgiveness than it is about finality or closure. Part of acceptance can also be accepting what was broken in the relationship before the affair, and creating a tailored plan with your therapist to make sure the next stage of your relationship journey is stronger and more vibrant.

For a deeper dive into each of these stages and how to work through them, this Gottman Institute article is a great resource.

What Kind of Trauma Does Cheating Cause?

The intense feelings of betrayal that follow infidelity define a particular type of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) known as post traumatic infidelity syndrome. Symptoms of this disorder can include:

  • Rumination and recurring thoughts
  • Traumatic recall (flashbacks)
  • Emotional numbness
  • Avoidance, isolation, and withdrawal
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Insomnia
  • Erosion of trust

It’s important to note that the list above is not necessarily complete, but goes to illustrate the wide range of effects infidelity can bring about. Working with a qualified marriage counselor is the best way to explore and begin unpacking the effects of trauma. A counselor will also help you build a better, more sustainable future through the development of better communication, trust, and intimacy. Gaining insight and creating a plan with a specialist will help keep you and your relationships with others from being defined by a traumatic affair.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Infidelity Trauma?

While every couple and every marriage is different, experts generally agree that it takes “months, even years, to successfully rebuild trust” after infidelity. Trauma is a tricky, tricky thing, and everyone experiences it differently. Some people are predisposed to feeling deeply hurt in certain situations, while others might have more resilience or an ability to “move on” more quickly. 

Working with a marriage counselor who specializes in affair recovery helps with this process by:

  • Understanding and validating each partner’s feelings, needs, and priorities
  • Finding common ground between partners
  • Setting clear expectations for the recovery process
  • Helping to determine root causes and appropriate solutions
  • Creating a safe environment for vulnerability and sharing
  • Identifying what boundaries should be set after infidelity to rebuild trust

Affair Recovery Starts With a Single Call—to Well Marriage Center

At Well Marriage Center, our affair recovery counselors are ready and waiting to help couples start the healing and reconciliation process and work toward rediscovering their love. 

We take a strengths-based approach to affair recovery, one that’s designed to rebuild trust and help couples reconnect, get back on track, and develop strategies to help ensure that you can stay on track. It doesn’t have—and shouldn’t—feel hopeless! 

Even for couples who do not choose to stay and work on their relationship after an affair, a specialized counselor can help one or both partners unpack, heal, and plan for their futures, so the baggage of affair trauma doesn’t snowball into longer-term issues.

Every journey begins with a single step, so get in touch with our team today.



Stages of Healing After Infidelity

We understand that affairs hurt. If you are struggling with the  effects of infidelity in your relationship, the first thing to know is that you are absolutely not alone. Infidelity is one of the biggest reasons many couples seek out marriage counseling, and working through the complex emotions that come with cheating is much easier with professional help that specializes in affair recovery.

The good news is that many couples are able to work through the intense pain caused by infidelity and go on to have happy and fulfilling relationships or marriages. This is especially true when both partners want the relationship  to continue and are willing to put in the time and work it takes to process  through the stages of healing after infidelity.

Even when couples decide to break up after an affair, therapeutic healing can help each individual with the damaging emotions and trauma, like shame, anger, grief, and even PTSD that follows.

People who are dealing with infidelity want to know things like “How long does the pain from infidelity last?” Because the desire to know how and when you might be able to recover from cheating is so common, let’s look at  several ways to think about the stages of affair recovery. These include:

  • the betrayed spouse cycle
  • the stages of grief after infidelity
  • the stages of couples therapy after infidelity

These different breakdowns of how recovery can look give a helpful framework for many people to understand what may be in store for them. But it’s important to remember that rebuilding your relationship after cheating will not be a perfectly linear path, and each couples’ experiences will be unique to them.

What Are the Stages of Recovery from Infidelity?

There are four common stages that the betrayed spouse often goes through when dealing with infidelity, sometimes also called the betrayed spouse cycle. Although there aren’t exact timelines for how long each stage lasts, they do typically occur in this order.

  • Discovery – Ground zero,when a partner first learns about the affair. This includes feelings of shock, confusion, and disbelief.
  • Reaction – After processing the initial shock, the betrayed spouse experiences a rollercoaster of emotional reactions, often including anger, fear, distrust, denial, and obsessive thoughts.
  • Beginning to Forgive – When the initial reactions and emotions have been worked through, partners can start to examine and accept why the cheating happened and start to think about the future of the relationship.
  • Recommitment and Reconciliation – Partners are able to move past the affair and create the new version of their relationship with infidelity as just one piece of their overall story. 

What Are the 5 Stages of Grief With Infidelity?

After the shock and discovery of unfaithfulness, grief is a common emotion. The partner that was cheated on will likely mourn the loss of the relationship as they knew it, and the broken trust that comes with the betrayal. They often wonder if everything about their partnership was a lie. But do the cheaters grieve, too? Oftentimes yes. The person who was unfaithful is also dealing with a complicated set of emotions that can include shame, guilt, grief, and sadness. 

Many people struggling to deal with infidelity find it helpful to apply the idea of the stages of grief to their cheating spouse reaction. Although not everyone experiences each stage and they can occur in any order, these stages are:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

It can be a real challenge for couples to deal with all the strong emotions infidelity brings up for both parties. It’s important to center the needs of the betrayed spouse while not neglecting the emotional turmoil that the unfaithful partner is experiencing. This approach helps a couple move together through this process. Helping each partner share their truth is something a professional therapist trained in infidelity recovery will help couples navigate. 

This framework typically applies most during the reaction stage of infidelity recovery and relates to the impact of infidelity on the betrayed spouse. During this phase especially, working with an experienced marriage counselor can be vital. It is extremely important that the person who was cheated on is given the support they need to process their understandable emotions, while also protecting the relationship as a whole so partners have the option to reconcile. This is a very delicate balance and will be made much easier if there is a neutral moderator in attendance.

What Are the Stages of Marriage Counseling After Cheating?

At Well Marriage, our experienced clinicians don’t necessarily all follow one specific approach, because every situation is different. But there is a rhythm of how a specialist will work with couples after affairs. This can be broken down into two stages.

Stage One: Emoting

There will be strong emotions on both sides after infidelity is discovered. If a couple is willing to work with a therapist to try and save their relationship or marriage, that does not mean that one or both partners don’t still have many strong emotions about the situation. Understandably, the betrayed spouse often feels hurt and angry, and wonders what happens if the pain of infidelity never goes away. At the same time, the partner who stepped out is often wrestling with their own feelings of unworthiness, guilt, and defensiveness. 

During this stage, an inexperienced counselor or friends that a couple might confide in for support tend to focus on the problem. Discussions can spiral out of control quickly. Unguided personal attacks on the cheating partner and other unproductive negative conversations about the relationship as a whole can irreparably damage the relationship. 

But a couples therapist who is experienced in guiding people through these conversations can help protect both partners and the relationship as a whole. This can be similar to a delicate dance, allowing each individual to share their emotions without making it harder for them to ultimately reconcile if that is what they choose. A therapist can help the partner who was cheated on share their complex emotions AND the cheating partner hear it in a way that’s helpful to them and to the relationship going forward.

Stage Two: Root Causes and Next Steps

Once the biggest and most intense emotions have been worked through, the next stage of therapy is to look at what was happening in the relationship before the cheating. This isn’t done to justify the cheater’s actions or minimize the emotions of either spouse. Instead it’s to allow them to work together to find a way forward after infidelity in a healthier and closer way. This is a time when a trained therapist can help the partners identify patterns of behavior in the relationship that weren’t working before and give each person skills to deal with them differently.

Let’s look at a hypothetical example of a common scenario we see in infidelity recovery. Marcia and Tim have been married for 10 years and have two young kids. Marcia’s main focus in this life stage is on meeting all the needs of the children, and there isn’t enough time for her to also focus on her romantic relationship with her husband. Tim doesn’t have the emotional maturity or skills to identify his need for more connection or to take the lead on it himself. Tim is unfaithful to Marcia in a misguided attempt to meet his own emotional needs. He then feels intense guilt and shame for his actions and confesses the infidelity. Tim knows he wants his marriage to continue, and he finds a marriage counselor to help.

After the strongest emotions have been unpacked during stage one of Marcia and Tim’s counseling, their therapist guides them into stage two. The counselor helps them learn to identify their emotional issues as they are happening, instead of coasting along without connection through their relationship. They acquire new skills of asking for what they each need, and slowly build back trust in the partnership. Together, Marcia and Tim rebuild a stronger marriage where everyone’s needs are met in a healthy and productive way.

Although this story has  been generalized and simplified, this kind of result really does happen for thousands of couples who have worked through infidelity recovery with Well Marriage Counseling. Infidelity is a huge hurdle for couples to cross, but with the right support and willing participation of both partners, it is absolutely possible for relationships to come out stronger on the other side. 

Our therapists get letters from couples months after their therapy journey has ended, telling us that affair recovery was the gateway to a fuller, better relationship. That it was the “shock to the system” that made them really come together and ask the hard questions about if they should stay together and what they wanted their relationship to look like in the long run. 

This isn’t true in every case, but if both partners know they want to try and save their relationship and are willing to come to therapy and put in the effort, there is a lot of hope for healing. At Well Marriage Counseling, we are a relationship positive space and will work with you to save your relationship if that’s what both parties want. We have seen firsthand the positive results that are possible with the right kind of help, and we want to help you get there too.

 Does Infidelity Pain Ever Go Away?

For the partner who has just discovered their spouse’s unfaithfulness, the rollercoaster of emotions can be overwhelming and debilitating. You might find yourself asking questions like:

  • How long does the shock of infidelity last?
  • How do I stop obsessing over being cheated on?
  • How do I let go of pain caused by infidelity?

The answers are that the pain caused by this betrayal will take time to lessen and will always be part of the story of this relationship. But it lessens significantly as time goes on. The shock and disbelief will last a relatively short time, typically during the first discovery stage. Then, as a person moves into the reaction phase and processes their feelings with a therapist, they can come to terms with the infidelity so that it no longer is the defining feature of the relationship or their own, personal life story.

The long-term infidelity effects have been likened to a ball, bouncing inside a box. At first the infidelity has huge power and energy, and bounces off the walls causing pain almost continually. But over time, it lessens and only bumps into a wall occasionally, until it finally stops altogether. The ball will always be inside the box, just like the affair will always be a part of the relationship story. But it will eventually lose most of its power to hurt, and the relationship will no longer be defined by this cheating.

What Is a Good Way to Start Healing After An Affair?

Getting help from someone experienced in affair recovery is a good first step. Going through the trauma, PTSD, and harmful emotions of an affair is a big deal, and getting the right help matters. Infidelity and affair recovery is one of the most common relationship and  marital challenges we encounter at Well Marriage Center, and we have helped thousands of couples work through it and come out stronger on the other side. Even if ending the marriage is the final decision of the couple, having the care and support of a knowledgeable therapist can help both partners find the healing they need to move forward separately.

Although the pain of infidelity can feel insurmountable, there is hope for a brighter tomorrow. Contact us today to begin your healing journey. You can also read more about this on our blog or find a therapist near you. 






What To Expect in Couples Therapy After Infidelity

If you’ve found this article, you’re likely in a difficult place with your romantic partner.

Infidelity can be a staggering blow to any relationship, and the resulting pain can make infidelity recovery seem all but impossible. Maybe you’ve recently discovered your partner has been unfaithful, or maybe you were the one who was unfaithful. You may be wondering, “Is recovery possible? Can therapy help with cheating? And is it even worth trying?”

We certainly think so. Every situation is different, but if both partners are willing to take that leap of faith together, the relationship already has a much better chance. While the road to recovery will undoubtedly be challenging, at Well Marriage Center we believe that it is a challenge worth facing, and thanks to couples therapy, you don’t have to face it alone.

Even if you’re ready to take that next step, infidelity therapy can be a scary thought. If that fear and uncertainty is something you find yourself feeling, we’re here to help. Let’s start with the basics of infidelity therapy, including common starting points for healing, goals for couples therapy after infidelity, and more. Before we get into what those steps are, let’s set some expectations about recovery that will help you keep perspective and maintain hope throughout the process.

How Do You Heal From Infidelity Trauma?

Ultimately, every relationship’s circumstances are different, so the exact road to recovery will vary for each couple. Regardless of what your starting point is, here are a few things to keep in mind as you embark on this journey together:

Honesty Is Key

Transparency after cheating is not only important, but critical. Couples whose partners are willing to open up about their mistakes leading up to an affair have a much higher chance of repairing things. While it will likely be painful to discuss not just the infidelity but the relationship as a whole, without a willingness to be transparent, recovery is effectively impossible.

The Healing Process Is Non-Linear

The feeling of “one step forward, two steps backward” is common in any kind of therapy, much less couples therapy. That being said, the road to recovery is not a straight shot, but a winding, snaking path with many hills, dark tunnels, and points where a clear end may not be in sight. This is not only normal, but an expected part of the experience. While it’s important to validate the feelings that result, it’s just as important to remember that all parts of this road lead to a better relationship.

Infidelity Is Complex

“Rebuilding trust” is often something that comes up in people’s minds when addressing infidelity. While trust certainly must be rebuilt after an affair, infidelity is usually not as simple as one partner being untrustworthy. More often than not, cheating is a symptom of a more chronic, deep-seated issue that needs to be addressed, even if the couple doesn’t realize it at first. This could be a lack of communication, needs not being met, or any variety of other problems that occur between partners. Trust and transparency are both important, yes, but they are just pieces of the puzzle—a puzzle that will need to be solved by both partners, together.

If you can keep these things in mind as you approach couples therapy, your relationship will be able to more easily weather the trials ahead. One of the many reasons not to divorce after infidelity is that if a couple is able to take the necessary healing steps to move forward, they often emerge even closer and healthier as a partnership. Cheating, then, does not have to be the crushing blow to a relationship, but the shock that helped two individuals come together in a healing space, improving things in the long run. However, even if a couple decides to separate after infidelity, there are a number of therapeutic steps that can be taken to minimize and manage the PTSD, shame, and other damaging emotions that emerge. 

Now that we’ve covered basic guidelines, let’s talk more about the steps toward that healing space.

What Are the Steps for Healing Infidelity?

While every situation is different, there are some general guidelines to how recovery happens. So, how do therapists handle affairs? No matter the relationship, the first two steps to recovery are generally the same:

Typically, the first step is to let the person who was cheated on express their feelings. People who learn their partner was unfaithful will be experiencing a myriad of emotions—shock, unworthiness, sadness, anger, or even shame—and unpacking each of these feelings with a therapist’s help is important for both them and their partner. It will likely be difficult not just for that person to express these feelings, but also for their partner to hear them expressed. A therapist can really help couples process these complex emotions, as well as understand their partner’s emotions. 

Once feelings have been expressed, the next step is to address what was happening before the affair. Here is where we can begin to understand what the relationship was like, and what may have led to the infidelity. This, of course, is not to excuse cheating because of an unhealthy relationship dynamic, nor is it to invalidate the feelings of the person who was unfaithful. In order to progress, both partners need to be able to examine what was happening in their relationship, and be fully honest about how they’ve arrived at this point. Here, a therapist can mediate that process by ensuring both partners’ feelings are validated and by maintaining healthy communication patterns.

Both of these processes can take some time to fully get through, and as stated above, they may need to be revisited several times, but it’s important to see them through each time. After these two steps, the healing journeys diverge greatly depending on the relationship. No matter what comes next, though, if you’re able to stay transparent, listen to your partner, and examine some hard truths about your relationship, the outcome will most certainly be worth the effort.

If you’re ready to put forth that effort, Well Marriage Center is here to help you. The recovery process for infidelity is tough, but with the right guidance, your relationship can not only survive, but be stronger than ever. Don’t give up hope for a brighter future. Schedule an appointment with us today.



Is Marriage Counseling Worth It After Infidelity?

Yes—it certainly is. If you’re wondering “Can therapy help with cheating, really?” we at Well Marriage Center are here to tell you that recovery is not only possible, but easier to start than you might think. We’re happy to share some things about how helpful marriage counseling can be for any partnership.

Overcoming infidelity can feel impossible—whether you’re the one who was cheated on or the one who was unfaithful. Marriage counseling gives couples a much better chance at affair recovery. If both partners are willing to approach the healing process together with transparency, vulnerability, and an open ear, there are very few things that cannot be worked through. While recovery will be a challenging endeavor, with the right therapist by your side, the process of healing infidelity wounds is more than possible. Let’s answer some common questions partners may have about infidelity, including:

  • What helps couples rebuild their relationship after infidelity?
  • How do therapists help couples heal their marriage?
  • Will my marriage ever be the same again?

How Can Couples Rebuild After Cheating?

Healing starts with each partner committing to repairing the relationship. A therapist can help with this commitment by providing a space where each person can explain what they need to feel heard, seen, and have their feelings validated throughout the process. While couples technically can work on their relationship without a therapist, having a relationship-friendly counselor provides a more objective, professional perspective from someone with a vast amount of experience.

Additionally, therapists provide exercises or frameworks to guide couples through their unique situations, all while creating a neutral space to discuss the marriage. The initial path to recovery is somewhat universal, but that will begin to diverge quickly as couples address the specifics of their partnership. A therapist uses their many techniques to approach infidelity recovery in a way that is just right for you and your partner.

*Even if a couple decides to separate after such a traumatic shock, therapy can help them overcome the long-term effects of infidelity as individuals.

How Do Therapists Handle Affairs?

Couples therapy after infidelity will generally start with two steps: allowing the partner who was cheated on to express their feelings, then examining what was going on before the cheating occurred.

During the first step, therapists provide space for the partner who was cheated on to openly express their emotions, often while their partner is listening. This step can be quite painful for both partners, which only underlines why having a counselor present is helpful. Feelings of betrayal, anger, sadness, and even embarrassment are all complex things to understand alone, or even with your partner. But with the outside perspective of a counselor, these feelings are easier to unpack and understand.

The second step involves looking at the relationship as a whole, prior to the cheating. Here, we begin to understand what patterns existed before and how each partner was perhaps not having their needs met in the marriage. Having a counselor present ensures that both sides have their feelings validated, and that even the person who cheated is able to express themselves. Then, a plan for recovery can form.

Each of those steps will have their own timeline, and each of them may require revisiting multiple times. The healing process is non-linear, but with commitment, there is a way to a better future. While the beginning process is essentially universal, the step-by-step stages of forgiving infidelity will look different for each partnership—and each partner.

Can a Relationship Go Back to Normal After Infidelity?

Yes and no. While moving forward is definitely possible, it’s important to know that your marriage will need to change, and in some ways, it already has. Cheating is a massive shock to a marriage, but this shock does not have to define the marriage forever. If anything, cheating can sometimes be the catalyst to a much deeper connection—one that is forged through undergoing an intentional healing process. 

Many couples who suffer from infidelity emerge with an even better relationship, but that requires leaving old ways behind. Remember, therapy is not about going back to the way things were—that’s what led the relationship to its current state. What you really want is to establish a new ‘normal’—a better ‘normal’ that encourages healthy communication, vulnerability, and addressing each partner’s needs. And with a therapist’s help, this new normal is entirely achievable.

Ready To Move Forward? Well Marriage Is Here

No matter how dark things seem, there is always hope for a brighter day. Well Marriage is here for you and your partner, and together we can build a road to that brighter day for your partnership. When you’re ready, reach out to Melinda and schedule an appointment. We’ll be here when you need us.




Can Therapy Help with Cheating?

There are plenty of compelling reasons not to divorce after infidelity and reasons not to separate in a broader sense. These can range from practical considerations (like quality of life and how divorcing or breaking up might impact any children) to equally legitimate, emotional-driven reasons (like each partner’s happiness). 

Ultimately, couples want to know: can a relationship work after cheating occurs? In short, yes. Affair recovery therapy provides a strengths-based framework to help both partners better understand and heal their emotional wounds, rebuild trust and intimacy, and develop strategies for getting the relationship back on track, all of which can be incredibly difficult due to the emotional rollercoaster that is the aftermath of an affair.

If you’re reading this, you probably have a lot of questions. Asking the right questions is the first step toward healing, so keep reading for answers to some of the questions we hear most often.

Will Infidelity Pain Ever Go Away?

When we talk about the pain of affairs, it’s important to remember that both parties are likely to be confused and hurt. An effective therapist will provide a safe environment for both to emote and express their truest feelings. That’s why affair recovery typically requires marriage counseling or couples therapy—not that there isn’t value in some components of individual therapy for infidelity recovery. Individuals who see a couples therapist once they’ve decided to break up can effectively manage the fallout of cheating in a much healthier way than those who don’t. 

For many, this will cause more than a little anxiety: for example, wondering what the other person is saying in any one-on-one time they might have with the therapist can be very unnerving. However, it’s crucial for those seeking affair recovery therapy to understand that they’re going to have to trust their therapist, who’s there to support both parties and work on the relationship. After all, they’ve almost certainly dealt with more cases of infidelity than you have, and have a whole arsenal of tools, techniques, and resources specially tailored to this type of recovery. At Well Marriage Center, our team leverages a strengths-based approach to help you navigate the rough waters of affair recovery.

How Do You Heal from Infidelity Trauma?

Once an affair has been revealed, it’s time for the understanding to begin so that healing can take place. An effective therapy plan for infidelity recovery tends to consist of two key stages:

  • Stage 1 is all about airing out and validating each partner’s emotions. This stage can be difficult, but it provides an absolutely vital foundation for infidelity recovery. Each party needs to feel their emotions and express their truths, fully and un-rushed, and both need to demonstrate commitment to processing what’s happened. This stage typically leads to a pair of outcomes—the person who cheated needs to atone, unconditionally, and both partners need to express a willingness to begin the healing process and work toward forgiveness. 
  • In Stage 2, a marriage therapist will help the couple to really explore what’s beneath the surface, like the different factors that may have contributed to the dynamic or led to the affair, many of which hide beneath the surface. For example, has one partner fallen out of love? Was one partner feeling neglected or unappreciated? Has the relationship lost the luster of its honeymoon phase, causing one or both partners to question it? (Occasionally one partner doesn’t outgrow the honeymoon phase when the other does.) This stage isn’t about assigning blame. Rather, it’s about getting all the puzzle pieces out on the table. A therapist will then help the couple to understand how they might be able to reassemble their puzzle and start rebuilding trust.

If you’re considering marriage counseling as a means to working through infidelity and rekindling the relationship, it is fully natural to feel a little hopeless. A therapist qualified to deal with infidelity recovery will anticipate a wide range of emotions, many of which may be new to you, or at least more intense than you’re used to. 

There is, however, a general pattern that applies. In many ways, we tend to “grieve” when the relationship reaches a certain state, so the stages of grief also apply to affair recovery:

  • Shock/Denial: We know that most people don’t set out to have an affair, which only serves to make it that much more difficult to understand—and process—without the help of a trained therapist. As humans, when we don’t understand something, it often leaves us feeling lost and directionless, which can turn to hopelessness. As a therapist helps to illuminate the reasons or events that led to infidelity, the shock and denial subside. Then, a shift toward finding solutions can begin in earnest. They’ll help you to fully experience your shock, work through your denial, and start down the path toward healing and recovery.
  • Anger: Any time someone we consider a best friend and/or trusted confidant lets us down, anger is a fully natural response. Without working through this anger and any associated feelings, it’s going to be exceptionally difficult to move past it. What a lot of people don’t realize is that anger is often considered a secondary emotion, with its true roots in feelings like fear (of losing control, perhaps) or sadness (about the potential demise of a relationship). Your therapist will help you understand this, identify strategies that align with your primary emotions, and provide a foundation to constructively explore these dynamics.
  • Bargaining: After the shock and anger subside, the reality of the situation starts to really set in. No one wants to feel like their time, energy, and love have been all for naught, so it’s natural to begin rationalizing the situation in an attempt to recapture a better dynamic. At a certain point, the human brain can’t resist trying to provide answers. “Maybe if I would have [done Thing X], this never would have happened.” Responses like these are often reactive, and are not the epiphanies they may seem. Bargaining is just our natural way, perhaps, of seeking explanations for things that feel unexplainable. A therapist will anticipate this, and work to keep things on a productive course.
  • Depression: In the context of infidelity recovery, depression can take on a number of forms. For some people, the loss of trust is simply going to hurt, and hurt pretty severely, leading to hopelessness that leads them to disengage or shut down. A trained therapist will help to dissipate the fog of depression. Like shock/denial and anger, depression is a completely natural response—and your therapist will be prepared to help you process it in a healthy way.
  • Acceptance: Acceptance does not mean giving up, or absolving the other party of responsibility full stop. It simply means acknowledging the reality of the situation, by moving beyond the shock, anger, bargaining, and depression. Finally, acceptance can take many forms, but once you’re able to accept that the affair happened—and caused hurt—and you’re ready and willing to work toward recovering the relationship, then you’re on the right path.

How Can I Help My Partner Heal After Infidelity?

If a partner who cheated is asking this question, that’s a really good sign. It indicates that they’re not just committed to atoning in order to resolve their own feelings of guilt and get things back to normal. And it shows something really vital: that the person who cheated knows they hurt their partner and they want, more than anything, to help them to recover. If you’re looking for signs your marriage will survive infidelity, this certainly counts.

This won’t always be easy, though. Some individuals experience traumatic infidelity syndrome, a form of PTSD that can be tough to shake without the help of a trained professional. Specific trauma-related symptoms a therapist will look for include: 

  • Unresolved anger or mood swings
  • Intrusive thoughts or flashbacks
  • Heightened anxiety
  • Difficulty trusting intimate partners (and others)
  • Emotional detachment or numbness
  • Aversion to future commitment
  • Persistent worrying or defensiveness
  • Difficulty sleeping and/or concentrating, foggy thinking

Not only will a qualified marriage counselor be able to identify these symptoms, but they’ll also know the best strategies for helping their patients to understand them, process them, and start building better patterns and habits.

Does therapy help with cheating?

Therapy can absolutely help, especially if you turn to a therapist who specializes in infidelity or affair recovery. However, if you don’t know what to expect in couples therapy after infidelity, it can cause a great deal of discomfort and anxiety. Here are a few of the key ways a therapist can help couples after an affair, which also serve as the primary goals for couples therapy after infidelity:

  • They can help you understand how the affair happened, and help you rekindle the spark of intimacy. A therapist will help both parties understand and process their own—and their partner’s—feelings. Then, they’ll help the couple to explore how their dynamic may have shifted over time, and what factors they can identify that may have contributed to the affair. This will often involve exploring a range of issues in the relationship, from diminished intimacy or interest to ongoing resentment or difficulties with healthy communication. 
  • They can uncover—and help you process—previous wounds. No relationship forms in a vacuum: both partners have histories, including past relationships and traumas. Within the context of a relationship, especially marriage, partners’ past traumas can inadvertently creep into the relationship and alter its dynamic. A therapist will provide the right environment for these root issues to be uncovered and processed.
  • They will offer impartial insights and guidance. When emotions are high, it can be tremendously difficult to be impartial. A therapist who specializes in infidelity recovery will bring a structured approach, based on research and established best practices, to keep conversations productive and prevent either partner from feeling unheard or even attacked. 
  • They’ll help each partner learn more about themselves. As much as we might try to be self-aware and emotionally intelligent, we don’t always realize our own unhealthy patterns. This is true whether they involve relationship-building, communication, trust, commitment, or any other number of factors. A therapist’s approach to infidelity recovery can help one or both partners to better understand how they might be unconsciously sabotaging themselves or the marriage.
  • They’ll help you establish better communication, openness, and trust. These are lifelong skills that provide the foundation for personal growth and a healthier overall relationship. You can expect to be introduced to some new techniques that won’t just help you recover from infidelity, but have an even greater understanding of each other moving forward. 
  • They’ll help you understand and manage infidelity symptoms. Especially while the emotional wounds are still fresh, it requires a decent amount of work—and professional support—to take inventory of the various symptoms of infidelity. Some will be evident, since you’re already exploring the option of infidelity recovery counseling. Others may not be so easy to identify and diagnose. Think of therapy as a roadmap for making these discoveries, processing them, and developing strategies for moving forward.
  • They’ll offer specific perspectives and tactics for each partner. While a large portion of infidelity recovery therapy will be a joint conversation between the therapist and both parties, a therapist also knows the value of 1:1 discussions with each partner. This helps each partner to feel a little more comfortable exploring thoughts and feelings they might not be sure how to discuss with their partner in the room. For the person who committed the affair, for example, this includes helping them understand the impact of their infidelity on their betrayed spouse, as well as how to atone after cheating

Trying to solve such monumental marriage problems on your own isn’t just difficult, it’s really not recommended. Working with a marriage counselor helps you avoid falling into unproductive traps, like arguing over who’s most to blame—or, at the other end of the spectrum, falsely thinking that everything will be OK without putting in the work. 

If you’re at either end of that spectrum or somewhere in the middle, you’re certainly not alone. 

You would probably be surprised how many couples decide to seek out a qualified counselor only once they’ve realized that the blame cycles and rose-colored glasses aren’t helping them to process and move beyond marital issues. In many cases, they discover how the right therapy environment can empower both partners to express themselves truly, feel their feelings fully, and develop mutual empathy.

We know that surviving infidelity isn’t always easy, but we also understand that the emotional rollercoaster you’re on can be scary and exhausting. 

How Successful Is Marriage Counseling After Infidelity?

Despite how scary it can feel, marriage counseling is effective more often than not. According to one study, around 70% of couples are able to stay together after infidelity—with many coming out the other side feeling like their relationship has, in fact, been strengthened through infidelity recovery therapy. 

Now, these results aren’t instant, and will likely take weeks if not months. Therapists know this and will help couples understand what to expect, including various milestones they’ll try to achieve along the way. At Well Marriage Center, our affair recovery program has helped over 1,000 couples get their marriages back on track. If you’re willing to put in the time, we’ll be right there with you.

What Are Signs Your Marriage Will Survive Infidelity?

Because infidelity recovery doesn’t occur overnight, it can be tough to believe in the process when it’s first getting underway. There are some signs you can look for as indicators that your marriage has a good chance of surviving infidelity. Here are a few examples:

  • Genuine apologies have been made, and both partners are committed to saving the marriage.
  • Both partners are willing to admit their own faults, and acknowledge their partners’.
  • Both partners express a willingness to attend therapy, even though they know it will involve uncomfortable conversations and tricky emotions.
  • Both partners express a belief/hope that the marriage will be saved.
  • Both partners are willing to learn better ways to communicate and navigate conflicts.

If you’re looking for help, that in itself is a really encouraging sign and an important first step. At Well Marriage Center, we have physical locations as well as telehealth options, in order to make marriage counseling accessible to you when you need it. After all, finding an effective marriage counselor shouldn’t have to add any additional stress to the situation.

What Type of Therapy Is Best for Infidelity?

For couples that are committed to rebuilding the trust necessary to keep their marriage alive, infidelity or affair recovery therapy is an ideal place to start. At Well Marriage Center, our affair recovery therapists use a strengths-based approach to marriage counseling. 

In other words, we take a glass half-full approach. Infidelity occurred (and it hurt), but focusing on what made you fall in love in the first place provides a better foundation for understanding and recovery than dwelling on either partner’s fallibility or rushing to assign blame. Instead, we take a patient, honest, and hopeful approach. 

What Type of Therapist Should I See for Infidelity?

We recommend looking for a therapist or counselor who is experienced in infidelity or affair recovery. From there, it’s important to find a therapist whose core values about the sanctity of marriage and definition of “success” are in alignment with your own. 

Any therapist you meet with should start off by discussing these very topics, not just to ensure a suitable fit but also to help you understand exactly what to expect over the course of your counseling program. This can include developing objectives together, thinking about what kind of timeline to expect, and more.

Ready to Take the First Step?

Whether you’re looking for marriage counseling, affair recovery, or even individual counseling, the team at Well Marriage Center is here to help. We know infidelity recovery can be an emotionally-charged, life-altering endeavor, but we believe there’s hope. That’s why our team is so motivated to empower individuals and couples with the tools and skills they need to rebuild trust and rekindle the love that originally brought them together.

We’re ready when you are. Reach out to schedule an appointment today.