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 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.