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. 

Can Marriage Be Saved After Infidelity?

Yes, you can save your marriage after infidelity if both partners are committed to repairing the relationship.

Affair recovery takes serious work and transparency, but it is possible. And if you’re wondering, “Can therapy help with cheating?” The answer is, absolutely.

Our experienced counselors at Well Marriage Center have successfully guided many couples through the stages of healing after infidelity. A big part of what we do is help partners get to, and make a plan to fix, the root causes and dynamics that led to cheating. So much healing can happen when both sides reach a true understanding of the other, from why the offender cheated to an exploration of the victim’s hurt.

We’ve gathered the top six mistakes we see from both parties in affair recovery so that you can avoid these pitfalls yourself. Remember, it won’t be an easy process, but with the right attitudes and a lot of work, you two can make your marriage stronger than it’s ever been.

6 Common Marriage Reconciliation Mistakes to Avoid After Infidelity

People are more likely to make rash decisions when emotions are high after one partner discovers the other is being unfaithful. These high emotions can include anger and lashing out, humiliation, and decreased feelings of self-worth for both partners. When our feelings are going through such a roller coaster, it’s easy to fall into common, human mistakes that make the already traumatic situation worse long-term. Consider these six most common mistakes our counselors see from couples going through affair recovery: 

1. Pretending Everything Is Normal

Your relationship or marriage will never be the same after infidelity. This realization will probably hurt at first, but it’s also helpful to acknowledge. The betrayed partner is likely furious and devastated, and they may even feel some detachment after infidelity. They want to know how to stop overthinking after being cheated on and move forward with their life. The offender must consistently show they take responsibility for their actions in multiple ways. For example, they may need to increase communication about where they are and who they are with to show their partner that they will not be a repeat offender. 

2. Confronting the Affair Partner

Finding out your partner cheated on you usually results in an explosion of powerful emotions. Looking to direct those feelings somewhere, folks sometimes feel justified confronting the “other” person. In most cases, this confrontation will only make marriage reconciliation harder. You may learn things you’d prefer not to know or even encourage that person to pursue your spouse. There are some circumstances where a confrontation may be necessary, however. For example, a confrontation will likely be unavoidable if the victim regularly interacts with the affair partner.

3. Not Cutting off Contact With the Affair Partner

The offender must choose to cut off all contact with their affair partner. Note we said “choose.” The choice to officially leave their affair partner needs to be theirs alone. If they feel like they don’t want to stop contacting their affair partner, then they need to reconsider why they’re in a marriage to someone else in the first place. Offenders who are fully committed to cutting off the other person should discuss with their spouse how they plan to get this person out of their lives, like blocking them on their cell phone and social media.

4. Taking Revenge

We know you really want to dig your keys into the side of their pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive—but don’t do it, to your partner or the person they cheated with. Acts of revenge will only provide a short-lived feeling of satisfaction, and they do not contribute to healing after an affair (no matter what Ms. Carrie Underwood says). Revenge further deteriorates trust between partners and will likely add to feelings of shame and embarrassment.

5. Asking For Too Much or Too Little Information

The betrayed spouse needs to consider how much they want to know about the affair. Some information will only be painful to learn and hinder moving forward, like asking if the sex was “good.” However, you also don’t want a surprising, painful detail to come out about the affair years down the road. A good balance between these two is finding out how long the affair was going on. This question will reveal how serious your partner was about this person—was it a year-long affair with regular meetings, or was it a one-time mistake? The healing process will look different depending on your partner’s answer to this question. A counselor who specializes in affair recovery will be able to tailor your recovery journey based on this and other information.

6. Not Seeking Professional Therapy

Staying married after infidelity is not easy, but a marriage counselor with years of experience and education can make it much easier. They will guide you through the chaotic impact of infidelity on the betrayed spouse as well as the offender. 

Many couples suffering from an affair come to us at Well Marriage Center feeling hopeless. We get it, and if you feel this way, please know your feelings are entirely normal and valid. However, simply showing up to marriage counseling is a step in the right direction. 

Our counselors have helped couple after couple recover from infidelity by encouraging patience, honesty, care, and a willingness to make necessary changes. These results are the beauty of our strengths-based counseling approach, as we do everything we can to help you focus on the positives of your relationship and rebuild trust and love in a lasting way.

If you want to save your marriage through counseling after infidelity, schedule an appointment with us. Our intake coordinator, Melinda, can answer any questions you may have about our process. We look forward to meeting you and working together to restore the trust and love in your marriage.

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.

How to Heal from Infidelity Trauma

If you’ve recently discovered that your partner had an affair, then you may be experiencing infidelity trauma. You may be feeling debilitating, painful emotions you’ve never experienced  before and struggle to get on with your daily life. Infidelity hurts, for both you and your partner. As much as it is traumatic now, though, there is hope. Infidelity recovery is possible. You and your partner can both heal from the affair emotionally while also growing closer to one another in the process.

It’s important to note that even if you decide to call it quits after an affair, working together with a clinician who specializes in infidelity recovery is extremely helpful. The resulting PTSD, anger, feelings of shame and unworthiness, all of these can be processed in a healthy way so you’re not carrying such heavy baggage and developing negative coping mechanisms in the future.

Why Does Infidelity Hurt So Much?

Infidelity is painful for several reasons, the biggest one being that humans are social beings. According to social psychologists Naomi Eisenberger and Matthew Lieberman, humans rely on relationships to give us the emotional and physical connections we need to survive. When we experience social separation, such as that caused after an unfaithful act, we feel pain akin to physical pain. We weren’t meant to be alone, and the feelings of loneliness that may arise after an affair can leave people feeling wounded.

An affair also hurts because it is a broken commitment. When you are in a relationship with someone, you count on being able to trust and rely on that person. Acts of infidelity, however, disrupt the stability of that commitment. You may feel that your trust was misplaced and that everything you counted on was a lie.

Depending on whether you were the one betrayed or the one who betrayed, you may experience other feelings as well. The one betrayed will likely feel a huge drop in self-esteem because they think they weren’t good enough for their partner. The one who cheated may feel guilt or shame for breaking their promise to remain faithful and ultimately may feel inadequate. They may also feel a drop in self-esteem, fearing what others might think of them for cheating.

It’s natural to feel hurt after experiencing infidelity in your romantic relationship, and you should take the time to feel that pain. That is one step in recovering (something we’ll discuss in more detail later) and healing your relationship with your significant other.

How Do I Know if I Have Betrayal Trauma?

There are many signs of betrayal trauma, all of which stem from a violation of trust or well-being. What are the symptoms of betrayal trauma? They include:

  • Flashbacks: You may often think back to when your partner admitted to cheating, catching your partner cheating, or instances when you saw your partner and the other person involved together and didn’t know what was happening between them.
  • Severe anxiety: It can present itself in physical ways, such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and nausea or dizziness.
  • Uncontrollable thoughts or nightmares: You may start to think or dream about your partner and the other person involved together, your relationship ending, or what life will look like for you and your partner now. You may be obsessively looking over your relationship’s past with a critical eye, wondering if everything was a lie.
  • Humiliation: This symptom stems from comparing yourself to the person your partner cheated with. You may feel inferior to them, and your insecurities may come to the forefront of your mind. You may start to think that everyone sees your flaws and feel embarrassed by it. You may also feel humiliated that the affair happened and worry about what friends or family may think or if they knew.
  • Emotional numbing: This is a coping mechanism that the body takes on after a traumatic experience. It may come in the form of losing interest in the activities you normally enjoy; being unable to connect to your feelings, especially positive ones; and being unable to participate in life as usual.
  • Erratic moods or behaviors: It’s normal to feel a whole host of emotions after learning about your partner’s affair. One minute you may feel fine, and the next you may feel angry, sad, confused, or hopeless. These drastic changes in mood may cause you to lash out at others seemingly out of the blue,  like getting stuck at a traffic light or having to wait in a long line at the grocery store.
  • Sleep difficulties: You may either sleep too much or too little after finding out about the cheating. People sleep too much when they feel they have no energy after the news or have nothing to get out of bed for. They sleep too little due to anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts keeping them awake.
  • Avoidance: These are behaviors related to making sure you don’t get involved in a certain situation or that you leave it immediately. After an affair, this may be directed at your partner and present itself as staying out of the same room as them, canceling plans made with them, or ignoring phone calls and text messages from them or others who know.
  • Isolation or withdrawal: This isolation may be from your parner or even from friends and family. Sometimes being alone feels safer than spending time with loved ones because your trust was broken, and it seems too difficult to be vulnerable with anyone else now.
  • Trust issues: An affair is a type of broken trust. When experiencing betrayal trauma, then, it’s common to have a difficult time trusting your partner or anyone else again.
  • Relationship difficulties: This symptom closely relates to trust issues because a lack of trust in others may cause you to distance yourself from friends and family. You may also lose interest in spending time with others or lash out, especially towards those who knew about the affair or were involved. These actions can lead to strains in any of your relationships, not just your romantic one.

If you experience any of these symptoms for months or years after you initially found out about the affair, and if these symptoms affect how you function from day to day, then you might have post-traumatic infidelity syndrome, also known as post-infidelity stress disorder (PISD). When you have PISD, triggers will set off the symptoms listed above and cause you to relive the experience.

What Are Triggers After Infidelity?

There are many triggers for betrayal trauma that can remind you of the betrayal or of what your relationship used to look like and set your emotions going again. Some might be the places where the affair took place, where you found out about the affair, or even where you and your partner had happy memories together. Your home can act as a trigger. People can also be triggers, especially those who knew about the affair or were involved.

Significant dates, such as anniversaries or birthdays, or music and movies tied to memories of your relationship or finding out about the affair can take you back to the day you discovered the betrayal as well. Physical and emotional distance and suspicious behavior act as triggers, too, because they may tempt you to think that your partner is still having an affair.

Despite the many triggers you may experience, you can learn how to get past infidelity triggers. They do not have to define you. First and foremost, let yourself feel the emotions that the triggers set off within you. Don’t try to avoid it. Instead, define the emotion and why you’re feeling it. Let yourself feel it until the moment passes. Journaling can help you with this process. From there, determine what you need to make yourself feel better. It could be anything from yoga to calling a friend to repeating self-affirmations. Deep breathing can also help with calming a racing heart and mind.

Seeking out a professional will also help hinder the effects of your triggers, and likely be the single best thing you can do for yourself. A specialized marriage counselor or couples therapist in particular can assist you and your partner on individual levels as well as your relationship overall because they have the most relevant training for efficient healing.

At Well Marriage Center, we understand that an affair takes a toll on relationships. We also know, though, that relationships can heal from infidelity as long as both parties are willing to work for it. It may take time, but you can move past your triggers and build a stronger relationship with your partner than you had before.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Infidelity Trauma?

How long it takes to recover from infidelity trauma will vary from person to person. For some, it can take as little as several months to completely heal. However, it’s normal for the healing process to take a couple years, too. A lot of it depends on how long you and your partner have been together, how long the affair lasted, how many affairs there were, who was involved, the issues in the relationship from before the affair, and more. Working side-by-side with your partner as well as with a trained professional can help you two work through the recovery process and get you to a healthy point in your relationship a bit quicker.

If you decide to part after the affair, this is fine and normal as well. A specialized therapist can help with moving forward, faster, and healthier, either way.

How Do I Let Go of the Pain Caused by Infidelity?

To let go of the pain caused by an affair, there are some infidelity recovery stages you’ll have to go through first:

  • Discovery: This stage is merely about finding out that the affair happened. You may experience shock and the inability to control your emotions during this stage.
  • Reaction: During this stage, the entire wave of emotions starts to set in. If you’re feeling trauma from the affair, this is probably the stage you are in right now. To get past this stage, you’ll probably have to go through the five stages of grief, which are:
  1. Denial: You go emotionally numb to make it through each day.
  2. Anger: You become upset with your partner for having the affair, the person with whom they had the affair, and anyone who knew about it and didn’t tell you or try to stop it.
  3. Bargaining: You try to get back to the life you used to have, no matter what it takes.
  4. Depression: You start to question your entire relationship with your partner and whether any of it was real. You may also start to lose interest in the activities you used to enjoy and feel lonely.
  5. Acceptance: You recognize that the past can’t be changed and decide to take active steps towards a brighter future.
  • Forgiveness: By this stage, you and your partner have probably done some healing on your own or with a therapist. Now you’ll start to discuss why the affair happened and what you can do to solve the issue. Hiring a marriage counselor like those at Well Marriage Center can be especially helpful in this stage because they can ensure that both people can explain how they’re feeling in a productive way rather than attacking the other person or causing more harm to the situation.
  • Recommitment and Reconciliation: In this final stage, you and your partner actively work to move past the affair. That’s not to say that you both forget about the affair. Instead, it means that the affair becomes a part of your story and a reason to work on making your relationship even stronger. You work as a team to make sure boundaries, communication, and expectations are honored in healthy ways that builds more intimacy and trust over time.

Does Reconciliation Work After Infidelity?

Yes, reconciliation can work after an affair as long as both you and your partner take active steps to move forward. That means the cheating partner has to give up the affair(s) completely and both of you make efforts to better communicate with one another and understand where the other person is coming from. Your marriage is never the same after infidelity, nor should it be. After all, there were existing issues in the marriage to lead to the affair in the first place. Instead, you and your partner should view the affair as a place to grow into a new, even better, relationship.

A good place to start in the reconciliation process is recognizing reasons not to divorce after infidelity, or not to separate if you’re not married The biggest reason not to do so is because both of you want to work through it. That’s a sign that you both still love each other and care enough about the relationship to save it. Also revisit how the marriage was before the affair occurred. Do you have several happy memories together? How strong was your bond? If you had a fairly good relationship before an affair, you have a strong base to start from to repair it.

Lastly, consider who will be affected if you and your partner divorce. It may be your kids or other family members. While this reason alone may not be enough to stop you and your partner from seeking out a divorce, it can play a factor when making your final decision.

Know that it is possible to reconcile a marriage after an affair. Talking to a marriage counselor can help you and your partner figure out how to start over in a marriage after infidelity.

Well Marriage Center: Your Place for Pro-Relationship  Counseling

We at Well Marriage Center want to see your relationship succeed as much as you do. That’s why we take a pro-relationship  approach in all couples and marriage counseling journeys, including working with couples after an affair. We help both you and your partner heal from infidelity trauma and build a better relationship. 

Even when couples decide to separate after an affair, working with a licensed professional, especially one who specializes in affair recovery, can help both partners process and move forward. Working through the damaging effects can keep the trauma from snowballing into other areas of your lives. 

We work with each partner individually and together, so they can express their emotions in a therapeutic way, understand where the other is coming from, and look at the relationship from an objective space so that any issues leading up to the affair can be addressed through being on the same page about boundaries, expectations, communication, intimacy, and more.

Seeking help when experiencing infidelity trauma is completely normal. In fact, it can give your relationship a leg up in the recovery process. If you’re ready to grow your relationship to its full potential, reach out to us to get started. You can also read more about infidelity on our blog or find a therapist near you.

What Are Triggers After Infidelity?

When the horribly unexpected occurs in a relationship, such as an affair, both people often feel isolated, ashamed, humiliated, angry, and hurt. These emotions may last months or even years down the road as triggers rekindle them, especially when not worked through in a healthy way. It is completely normal to experience these triggers! However, it is also possible to work through them as you take steps towards affair recovery.

Triggers After Being Cheated On

Triggers after cheating in a relationship are unfortunately common. They remind you of how your relationship used to be, what happened, and the whirlwind of negative emotions you felt surrounding the affair itself. Infidelity may even cause you to  relive the affair, over and over, if bad enough. If not handled properly, some of these triggers can color your reactions in future relationships, as well. Some common triggers that affect people who have experienced an affair include:

  • Places: Your home can trigger thoughts and memories of the affair the most. It’s where you and your partner made a life together and was supposed to be your safe space. Photos around the house may cause you to question whether the relationship you and your partner had before even mattered or was real.

Other places that might trigger you include places where you and your significant other went on dates, where the affair happened, or where you were when you found out about the affair.

  • People: Anyone who knew about the affair before you can act as a trigger. These may be the other person/people involved with the cheating, family, friends, or coworkers.
  • Dates: On specific days, you might think about the affair more than other days. Such dates might be anniversaries, your partner’s birthday, or the date you found out about the affair.
  • Music/Movies: If your relationship had any music or movies associated with it, such as a wedding song or a movie you and your partner saw together, hearing or seeing them can send you on a rollercoaster of emotions. The same is true for anything that might have been playing when you found out about the affair.
  • Distance: Any physical or emotional distance between you and your significant other after you find out about the affair may make you question whether your partner is still in the affair or whether they may start another one.
  • Suspicious Behavior: If your partner hides their phone, doesn’t use a name when talking about someone, or takes their phone calls in a different room, you might start wondering whether your partner is still unfaithful. 

How Long Do Infidelity Triggers Last?

How long infidelity triggers last will vary from person to person. For some, it may only take months. For others, it may take 2 or even 10 years after the infidelity to recover. How long the affair occurred, how long you and your partner have been together, and who else was involved in the affair can all affect how long you experience those triggers.

Another factor is how the trauma of infidelity is handled after discovery. Having neutral ground for each partner to express their perspective and emotions, getting to a place of understanding, managing negative reactions in a way that promotes healthy recovery–these practices and more can help you move forward. Working with a specialized relationship counselor can help you navigate these painful waters in the most effective way, tailored to your unique experience.

Infidelity really hurts, and it probably will for a while. However, when you properly work through your emotions, you can overcome those triggers.

How to Get Past Infidelity Triggers

The first step you should take when attempting to move past your infidelity triggers is to let yourself experience those emotions coursing through you. Bottling them up will render it much more difficult to unpack them down the road and can even cause you to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms when dealing with infidelity years later. If you have a hard time processing your emotions and understanding exactly why you feel them, writing them down or talking to a trusted family member, friend, or counselor can help.

Once you let yourself feel those emotions, do something that might cheer you up. Meditation practices, positive self-talk, and physical activity can release endorphins, which are hormones that help your brain reduce stress and anxiety.

Working through long-term infidelity effects with your partner, while especially difficult in the beginning, can help you overcome your triggers and be a rewarding experience. Your relationship or marriage is never the same after infidelity, but that’s not always a bad thing. When you and your partner are both willing to rebuild your relationship, you may discover that you’re starting on stabler ground than you did before. From there, you can build something bigger and more beautiful than you had and leave those triggers in the past. Hiring a couples therapist or marriage counselor can help with that process in the most efficient way.

Rebuild Your Relationship With Well Marriage Center

Recovering from infidelity trauma is difficult. Even when you and your partner both want to start fresh, you may find days that even being in the same room as your partner prompts waves of emotions. The marriage counselors and couples therapists at Well Marriage Center understand that affair recovery takes time but that working through it with your partner is well worth the effort.

Our services are pro-relationship, meaning we don’t recommend separation unless that’s the only way both people can move forward. We also work with individuals who have decided to separate and want help navigating the healing process. Whether you are concerned about repairing your relationship or working through your emotions and triggers with your partner by your side, or are wanting to heal as an individual, we are here to help. Schedule an appointment to take your first step toward recovery.


How Do You Mentally Recover From an Affair?

Can you ever fully recover from an affair? Does the pain of infidelity ever go away? These questions and more are likely racing through your mind as you and your partner attempt to move past infidelity and start anew. These questions also come up for those wanting to heal as a single individual, and healing in both cases is absolutely possible. 

After experiencing such an intense betrayal, it’s natural to feel a wide range of emotions. Feelings of anger, fear, humiliation, sadness, and despair can often seem permanent. But no feeling is final, and it is possible to fully recover from the trauma of infidelity and go on to have a happy relationship in the future. If you’re wanting to save your marriage or relationship after an affair, it’s possible So as long as you and your partner put your minds and hearts to the task., your bond can be healed and made stronger than ever before. Alternatively, your relationship with yourself can also come out on the other side healthier and more vibrant. 

However, you both will likely need some help along the way. Whether you decide to stay and create a healthier, stronger relationship together or decide to part ways, there is hope for dealing with the fallout, including damaged self-esteem, trauma, PTSD, obsessive overthinking, shame, and more.

That’s where we come in!. To start you and your partner off on the right path, Well Marriage Center put together this quick guide to offer a bird’s eye view of the affair recovery process and explain what to expect as you begin to rebuild your relationship. 

What Are the Stages of Healing After an Affair?

The road to recovery after infidelity is paved with many challenges, and no two situations are the same. However, there are three common stages that all couples must navigate: 

  • Discovery: In affair recovery, the first step is to allow the person who was cheated on to express their perspective and emotions. Confusion, embarrassment, anger, hurt—people obviously feel many emotions when they discover their partner has cheated on them, but a trained counselor will help them navigate and express those feelings in a healthy manner. Additionally, a counselor will help the person who cheated process their partner’s feelings without resentment and learn how to move on from the mistakes they made. 
  • Processing: After the first phase is complete, it’s time for the couple to evaluate what led up to the affair. Ideally, this is where both people take responsibility for the underlying issues in their relationship. Of course, nothing excuses such a significant breach of trust as infidelity, but in order to move past infidelity, both partners must communicate honestly about what happened to their relationship. This will help the couple evaluate the reasons that led to one person stepping out and improve their communication moving forward. This is a very delicate process and takes a lot of time and effort to work through.
  • Reconciliation: Here is where you begin to build trust again. After the main pain points and issues surrounding your relationship have been identified, you and your partner can work together to reconcile and move forward with your relationship. This takes time and patience. If you and your partner are truly willing to give things another chance, it’s entirely possible that you will achieve and maintain a deeply intimate and strong relationship, even after such a traumatic event

How Long Does Infidelity Trauma Last?

Infidelity recovery is not a linear process, and the effects of betrayal on the brain can produce life-altering changes. Oftentimes, couples take two steps forward and one step back. Although it is completely natural to feel impatient, you must give yourselves time to heal. 

Understanding how you both got into this situation and taking steps to reconcile intense emotions takes time and determination. However, neither of you should dwell on resentment and allow yourselves to become stuck. 

Working with a counselor can help you both stay on track and make consistent progress while ensuring the healing process of both parties is respected. At Well Marriage Center, our counselors will work with you on your own terms and on your own time. We believe that you and your partner should resist the urge to put a strict timeline on things. Ultimately, how you heal is far more important than how quick the process is. 

Your Healing Journey Starts Here


Working with a skilled therapist who specializes in relationships – and all they entail, including trust, trauma, communication, intimacy, and forgiveness – has multiple benefits for couples and individuals after an affair. The trying times can be processed with a guide in a compassionate way that promotes healing. Having an objective expert voice to gently help unravel the pain and disappointments can make a huge difference in how you process and move forward, even if ultimately you decide to separate post discovery. Many couples, however, do find success after infidelity; we’ve seen it happen.

Willingness to seek help and admit wrongdoing are some of the main signs your marriage will survive infidelity. At Well Marriage Center, our team of professionally licensed counselors have years of training and experience in helping all types of couples navigate infidelity. Our expert team is committed to being “relationship friendly.” This means our goal is to help you and your partner build trust in one another and rekindle the loving relationship you once had without advocating for separation or divorce. If you and your partner are willing to put in the work, Well Marriage can help you pick up the pieces and trust each other again. Schedule your appointment today or read more on our blog.

Forgiveness in Relationships

It’s been said that in forgiving others we give ourselves permission to move forward with our own lives, and there’s some truth to that. Hitting the same road block, going back emotionally to the same thing over and over, it puts a huge strain on us physically and stunts our relationships with ourselves and others. It damages our hearts and our bodies to carry such stress around each day. Forgiving your partner, when you choose to, has many benefits.

On Forgiveness

Whether the harm was intentional or not, it takes both people in the relationship or marriage working together to move to a place of forgiveness. If you were the one who “messed up,” for example, you will need to hear your partner’s deepest feelings, work with them on what they need to forgive, and accept boundaries that make them feel safe enough to trust again. You will also need to explain your position and the “why” of it all. If you are the partner who wants to forgive, you will have to be very vulnerable and put into words the reasons why you are stuck at this point and can’t move forward. You’ll have to really hear and understand your partner’s position. You’ll both need to be prepared to work with your therapist and try the skills and tools they present.

We mention therapists here because the art of forgiveness between couples is further complicated by other baggage we carry—childhood traumas and the subsequent protective walls we put up, our inability to communicate, our fear and confusion, our mistrust of the situation and our partners. Typically, if someone is really struggling to forgive, even though they want to forgive, there are deeper elements at play in the relationship and a specialist can help you both navigate the situation in a healthy and productive manner.

The Silver Lining

Whatever caused your unique need for forgiveness  (we all know it’s not always infidelity that creates rifts between couples)  it is possible to forgive and move forward again.

A truly inspiring element of the human condition is that as we work through these issues in healthy ways, we come out on the other side closer, more loving, and with a real understanding and compassion that we often lacked before. This can be so beneficial for a couple.

To get started, reach out to our intake coordinator Melinda. She’ll make sure you get placed with a skilled therapist that deeply cares about saving your situation.


Surviving an Affair

Can my marriage really survive an affair?

This is the most common question we get at Well Marriage Center.

The answer is Yes.

More and more, we see couples making the choice to try and save their marriages instead of hitting the auto-pilot for divorce. All of our counselors are very skilled at helping couples navigate the emotional roller coaster ride that an affair throws them onto.

We asked one of our marriage counselors to write her thoughts about how she helps couples work through an affair.

“Getting off the Roller Coaster”

In our first session with couples we ask them to describe their strengths, admirations of the relationship, and memories that stand out as good.

I love this part of our assessment as it gives me an idea of how the couple perceives their relationship. Brian and Joan came to me after Joan discovered Brian was in the midst of a year-long affair. The impact was devastating…for both Joan and Brian.

Joan had an intense reaction during the assessment portion of their strengths.  She was confused, sad, and angry. A common impact of discovering an affair is that memories of the relationship become contaminated by this new information.

Joan had begun to question their history in a way that hindered her from seeing any strengths or good in their relationship. She said “How can we have any strengths if an affair was going on? I don’t admire anything about this marriage!”

Joan is not alone.  The aftermath of an affair is very painful and confusing.

Most couples will describe this experience as an “emotional rollercoaster,” where the victim has intense emotional ups and downs, a preoccupation with the violation, blaming, self-doubt, fear, and loss of rationality.

Problems that existed in the relationship prior to the discovery may become more intensified. You may start to look at your life from a very different set of eyes, eyes that are more suspicious and less likely to trust without evidence.

No one likes to feel out of control or as if they can’t trust their own mind and instincts. I empathize with the level of discomfort that comes with mistrust and encourage couples to process that emotion rather than creating methods that foster false trust (checking emails, texts, phone records, etc.).

A false trust method is anything that finishes the message “I trust you if…”

At that point trust is only intact if there is a way to measure it. Joan felt these attempts gave her more safety in the marriage but instead it created an element of control in the marriage that Brian eventually resented.

Most couples may entertain the idea of separation at this stage in order to cope with the roller coaster. However, it is important to avoid turning a disruption into a tragedy by making permanent decisions about your marriage during the roller coaster stage.

When emotions are this high it is difficult to make a decision you’ll find peace with for the rest of your life.

When I see a couple experiencing this type of disruption I take great care in validating the victim and educating the offender about the roller coaster phase. Rather than diving into the easier but more destructive ways of establishing trust, I teach couples how to adopt appropriate levels of transparency.

What a couple really wants at this stage is to feel understood. The victim in particular is looking for accountability and validation. Convincing the victim they are loved can often make things worse because words have lost their power.

In Joan and Brian’s case, when Joan was feeling triggered or having a rough day with the preoccupation of her thoughts, Brian attempted to sooth her by trying to convince her not worry because he loved her so much. Joan became angry and felt that he did not understand her pain.

Through supportive marriage counseling, Joan learned to verbalize what she was feeling and why she was feeling it. She learned to communicate to Brian what she needed.

It is the victim’s goal to help the offender understand their pain.

Joan and Brian were instructed to make this a regular practice in order for Joan to heal. Several times a week they carved out time for Joan to verbalize what she felt, while Brian listened, validated, took responsibility, and apologized.

Joan’s emotional reactivity was less intense when she felt Brian was authentic in his understanding of her pain. She believed that if he really understood her pain, he would be less likely to violate trust again. And she’s right.

Joan and Brian worked extremely hard over the course of about 9 months and learned to listen, support, and communicate with each other in a rich and authentic way. They have both been able to step off the emotional roller coaster and have both, separately, decided that they want to stay together and strengthen their marriage.

If you and your spouse are recovering from an affair there is reason for hope. Rebuilding trust is a process but it’s possible with tenderness of the heart and forgiveness.  Yes, your marriage can survive an affair.

(Read more about our approach with Affairs here)