15 Steps to Surviving an Affair and Infidelity

Follow these steps slowly and carefully to heal your relationship.

From The 7 Stages of Marriage (Reader's Digest Association Books)
By Sarì Harrar and Rita DeMaria | Ph.D. from The 7 Stages of Marriage

9 Steps for the Betrayed Spouse
You want to scream and rail at your partner. You want all the details about the affair. Above all, you want the secrecy to stop. These strategies can help you find what you need to heal, to repair your marriage, and to move forward with your life.

1. Ask lots of questions. At first, you may want all the factual details: How often did you meet? When did you cross the line from friends to lovers? What sexual acts did you share? How many times? Where? How much money did you spend on him or her? Who else knows about your affair? Later, your questions may shift as you think about your partner’s emotions, about the reasons he or she was pushed and pulled into the affair, about whether the affair has turned a spotlight on a hidden weakness in your own marriage.

2. Balance your rage with your need for information. You want to scream, cry, and lash out—but big emotions may prevent your spouse from making the full disclosure that leads to recovery. To get the truth (and form a tighter connection with your spouse), be compassionate about your partner’s emotions. “When you get all the facts, you’re not obsessed anymore,” Vaughan says. “The only way your spouse will be willing to answer is if you can manage not to lash out and attack every time. Spouses who’ve had affairs are afraid to reveal everything because they’re worried it will become a marathon, with a downward spiral of out-of-control emotions.” If one of you becomes upset, it’s time to stop the discussion for now.

3. Set a time limit on affair talk. Restrict yourselves to 15 to 30 minutes. Don’t let the affair take over your lives. Do ask questions as they arise instead of building up resentment and long lists of questions. “Don’t let your worries go underground. Keep talking,” Vaughan says.

4. Expect curveballs. The spouse who had the affair may become angry or even accuse you of betraying him or her. Keep the focus on the affair itself.

5. Talk about how the affair has affected you. Discuss your doubts, disappointments, feelings of betrayal and abandonment, anger, and sadness. As your partner builds a wall between him- or herself and the former lover, help open a window of intimacy between the two of you. Don’t hold back.

6. Don’t forgive quickly or easily.You must grapple with your pain and anger first and rebuild trust.

7. Find support. Reconnecting with family and friends, and even finding a support group to join, can help you feel less isolated.

8. Spend time together without talking about the affair. Connect as friends and romantic partners by doing the things you’ve always enjoyed.

9. Forgive only when you’re ready. You’ll never forget an affair, but the painful memories will fade with time. Forgiveness allows you to move past the pain and rage and to reconcile with your partner. Take this important step only when you feel ready to let go of your negative feelings, when your partner has been completely honest and has taken steps to rebuild your trust.

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