Recovery from Infidelity: Options and Obstacles
Recovery from infidelity is never an easy process. Infidelity used to be easily defined as an act of unfaithfulness while in a marriage or relationship. Boundaries are quite different today than they used to be, but generally one is guilty of infidelity if they violate any terms of a relationship which were mutually agreed upon.
There are many issues that must be dealt with after infidelity occurs in a relationship. The three main issues include deciding how the affair should end, deciding whether to continue with the relationship or marriage, and overcoming resentment.
Ending the Affair
Once the affair is discovered, there are two main ways of dealing with it. One way is to reveal the affair to the spouse or partner. This is an option that one might elect intentionally and after a great deal of thought, or it could be something that occurs as a result of the spouse or partner outright asking or accusing one of being unfaithful. Those who are easily swayed by guilt may find that their guilt builds up until depression sets in. As a last-ditch attempt to find happiness again, the individual may reveal the affair to their spouse or partner. At this point, the two should talk and contemplate whether it is desirable or even possible to carry on with the relationship.
The second option is for the unfaithful partner or spouse to discontinue the relationship without bringing the affair out in the open. Most affairs start out burning hot when physical or emotional attraction is high, but eventually reaches the point where attraction has fizzled and the affair no longer seems worthwhile. In this case, the affair typically ends on mutual grounds between the unfaithful partner and their lover. This is how most affairs end. In other instances, the partner or lover may decide to end the affair for whatever reason, be it guilt, disinterest, or fear of being caught. In this case, the affair ends and the faithful partner is none the wiser.
Restoring the Relationship
Recovery from infidelity essentially involves the effort of trying to resume a marriage or relationship after an affair has taken place. The way a couple goes about this depends on whether the faithful partner knows about the affair or not. If they do know about it, then they are likely going to experience a great deal of shock, anger, and distrust. The unfaithful partner may even feel a bit of justification in the affair and partially (or wholly) blame their partner for not meeting all of their needs. These issues must be explored and talked about in order for the relationship to stand any chance of true recovery.
The first step in restoring the relationship involves making sure the lover is completely out of the picture. It can be difficult enough for a couple to carry on after an affair, but the relationship is practically doomed if the lover is still around. The act of “giving up” a lover is usually welcomed as a sign that they genuinely want to stay in the relationship. Unfortunately, there is also the problem of bitterness that one or both partners are likely to feel. The victimized partner is often left feeling as though they were completely blameless and undeserving of such treatment while the unfaithful partner is likely to feel that they had reason to do what they did and that it “wasn’t that bad.” These feelings have to be brought to light and any justification or blame must be surpassed if the relationship is to continue on.
If the victimized partner does not know about the relationship, then it is possible for the unfaithful partner to experience feelings of loss or remorse at the ending of the affair. This is often tied to the few needs that the lover would have met that were not being catered to in the marriage or relationship. Suddenly the unfaithful partner has a realization that they are once again “trapped” in the same marriage that was unsatisfying to them in the first place. At this point, he or she should ask themselves why they returned to the relationship. If the advantages of the relationship outweigh the disadvantages, then it is definitely worth an attempt to salvage the relationship.
Resentment is another huge obstacle in the recovery from infidelity. If the affair has come out, then it is likely that both partners will harbor some extent of resentment. It may be that the victimized partner resents that their efforts towards a happy marriage or relationship were unfruitful or that the unfaithful partner resents that their partner was unable to meet their physical or emotional needs, thus “driving” them to cheat.
The problem with resentment is that even after the relationship has been restored, feelings of resentment can be harbored for years afterward. Mental images of the spouse physically cheating or simply remembering how bad it felt to discover the affair can be a huge obstacle to moving on and have a happy and fulfilling relationship. Resentment is a normal feeling in this case, however it tends to fade as new, happy memories are formed. Happy memories help to rebuild trust and confirm that both partners are now happy. If situations keep popping up that remind the victimized partner of the infidelity, such as open flirtation or spending unusual amounts of time away from home, then the victimized partner is likely to build upon their feelings of resentment and distrust.