By Katerina Fager
So many articles were written about this particular topic, questioning if you and your relationship can recover from an affair. I believe that if you really want to heal from an affair you certainly can, but it takes a long time to do that. It’s a process of grieving, forgiving, rebuilding your trust and ultimately your relationship. The hardest part in recovering from an affair is rebuilding your trust. Every relationship is built on trust. According to Dr. Gottman, trust, along with commitment, are the pillars of the Sound Relationship House and it’s seven levels. When trust is broken, The Sound Relationship House collapses along with the seven levels and you have to rebuild your marriage. He refers to this new phase as Relationship #2.
When you discover infidelity in your relationship it takes a toll on your mental well being. You experience feelings of sadness, disbelief, anger, loss and grief. It takes time to realize what really happened and come to some understanding that the one you love, the one you trusted, just betrayed you. It hurts and you are in disbelief. Your relationship just collapsed right in front of your eyes. You feel hopeless and helpless and maybe you ask yourself why this happened to you, but you should know that it is not your fault. You should not blame yourself.
It is solely up to you, if you choose to continue with this relationship. If you think that you can forgive, move forward and never look back, then you can try to work on rebuilding your next relationship. With the help of trained couples therapist you can heal from infidelity, but it will take time. Lower your expectations and be patient. Some experts say it takes a minimum of 2.5 years to recover from an affair. It is necessary for the one who betrayed you to end the affair and make an agreement with you to work on rebuilding your relationship.
During the process of rebuilding your new relationship (#2), it is important to focus on your trauma experience. Symptoms such as nightmares, painful emotions, flashbacks might become common to you and it is important to process them during the therapy sessions. Your partner should be right next to you and listen to you while you process your pain and say sorry to you as much as it is needed. It is important for the betrayer to share with you and for you to have access anytime to their phone, email, voice mail and social media. This is crucial in rebuilding the broken trust. Every time you will see your partner on the phone, you should be able to ask and see who they are talking or texting to. There is nothing to hide anymore.
According to Dr. John Gottman, there are three phases in working with couples recovering from an affair and rebuilding their new relationship. During the 1st phase called Atone, you should be able to ask any questions regarding the affair, but avoid questions about sex as they can cause you more trauma. It is also important not to ask questions why the affair happened, or to talk about the affair outside of the therapist’s office. If you think you might have some questions to ask your partner and might forget them, write them down and bring them with you for your next session. Start journaling and bring that with you. There will be so many questions you will want to know about the affair, but eventually, when you will run out of questions and will be ready with forgiveness, you can start working on rebuilding your next relationship and move to phase 2.
During phase 2 called Attune, you will be rebuilding your new relationship and it’s seven levels in the Sound Relationship House. You will build new love maps, create shared meaning, express your needs, build new rituals, learn how to process and deal with conflict. You will also learn turn towards each other, create fondness and admiration and make your life dreams come true. This is the phase when you will make your relationship the priority and make a commitment to each other.
During phase 3 called Attach, you will start having intimate conversations regarding your sexual needs. The hurt partner should be in charge and should lead this conversation. At first you might feel uncomfortable to talk about your intimacy, so take your time and move slowly. There is no rush and the most important thing is for you to open up about your sexual needs, desires, fantasies. You need to learn how to tell each other what you really want from each other. Remember that nobody can read your mind and it is important to learn how to tell your partner what you want without feeling ashamed. In every relationship, intimacy is very important and you should know where your partner likes to be touched and what arouses each other. If you didn’t know how to talk to each other about your sexual needs before, now it is necessary to learn.
While rebuilding your new relationship and during this whole process of healing, you should be able to look honestly at what may have contributed to this crisis and make changes on both sides. Both of you should be able to take full responsibility for your actions and choices. You should learn how to communicate openly and learn how to listen to each other.
Gottman John. (2000). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert. Harmony Books
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