Relationship Connection: How long does it take to heal from an affair?

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Question

My husband had an affair a year ago. I am still hurting from the episode. We are still married. I got back into the marriage, not because he apologized (he never did), but because I was unsure how badly a split would impact the kids. He blames me for being a “bad wife.”

I have spent the last year trying to get my stability back. I am not there yet and keep going back to why it all happened. Also, I don’t feel any love in my soul for this man. I feel I am compromising my life after I had so blatantly trusted him.

Is this normal after a year? At what point should I just allow myself to move on?

Answer

A partner’s infidelity causes some of the most painful and devastating feelings an individual can experience. Even though your world was shattered a year ago when you discovered your husband’s affair, please know that you can become whole again.

It’s normal to still be hurting after one year if you’re still waiting for your husband to take personal responsibility for his actions. If your husband is still blaming you and not taking any personal accountability for his actions, then your relationship won’t fully heal.

The pain of an unhealed relationship is unquenchable if you’re still with the person who doesn’t care about how they’ve hurt you. A partner’s unwillingness to have compassion for your pain, especially when they inflicted it on you, is just another form of betrayal.

Before you exit the relationship, I encourage you to make it clear that you expect him to feel and share his remorse with you. If he doesn’t feel remorse for his behavior, then your relationship will stay stuck. If he refuses to do what it takes to feel remorse and accountability, then this is a significant threat to the future of your relationship.

Of course, he may actually feel remorse, but doesn’t have the ability to share it. This is common for a lot of people who have committed grievous mistakes. They blame, hide and excuse it away because it’s so terribly painful to have to accept their behavior and face the fact that they hurt someone they were supposed to protect. As you work to find out if he can access that remorse, it will help you better know if there is any hope for your relationship.

Remember that his affair isn’t your fault. Even if you were the “worst wife in the world” he still has plenty of other ways to respond to his marriage pain. He could talk to you about his concerns, set boundaries with you or even leave you. Cheating isn’t the only option to deal with his issues in his marriage. Blaming you for his affair prevents him from learning more about himself so he can grow from his mistakes.

Marriage therapist and author Esther Perel said:

Sometimes, we seek the gaze of another not because we reject our partner, but because we are tired of ourselves. It isn’t our partner we aim to leave, rather the person we’ve become. Even more than the quest for a new lover we want a new self.

Keep the accountability on him so he can be in charge of learning what he needs to learn from this experience.

The decision to stay or go is complex and deeply personal. No one can tell you what to do. Make sure you quiet down the emotional and protective responses from friends and family about your situation. They are understandably concerned about you, but your decision needs to come from a place of peace, not a reactive and fearful place.

Regardless of the decision to stay or go, recognize that you are not powerless when it comes to your own healing. Even though you won’t be able to heal the relationship without his involvement, you can heal from what has happened to you.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Related posts

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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7 Comments

  • Michael June 17, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Being able to speak from personal experience I have never gotten over it.

    I have been divorced from this person for nearly fourteen years and still wonder how someone can do something awful.

    I say don’t get over it. Divorce the jerk. It will be better for the kids in the long run. Children pick up on things and I’m almost positive they can sense the unease in their home.

    Just be willing to trust again. I did and have been very happily remarried going on ten years.

    Good luck to you.

  • 42214 June 17, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    I agree 100% with Michael

  • fun bag June 17, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    once a cheater, always…

  • 42214 June 20, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    Enough of the Steurer stories. They suck and nobody cares about them

  • CaliGirl June 21, 2015 at 10:14 am

    SGN, what your publication lacks is a “Dear Abby” type of column. Not just the Steurer relationship nonsense. It’s the same old thing rehashed. Or how about a helpful hints column like how to recycle dryer lint or paper towel and TP rolls (does anyone remember the column by Vi?). Or better yet, a travel column. Where to go, great deals, how to get the most bang for your travel dollar (and I don’t mean just Mickey’s place).

    • Joyce Kuzmanic Joyce Kuzmanic June 22, 2015 at 7:15 am

      Laughing at the helpful hints, idea, CaliGirl, because I do remember. I might engage my mother as a columnist. Seriously, these are great suggestions and I’m always on the lookout for another dependable columnist. Note to all: If you think that might be you, send me some samples; you must have more than one good column in you, must be able to come out the gate with at least ten columns in the lineup, you must be engaging, clever, bright and able to write … well. Bring ’em on.
      Thanks Cali,
      ST. GEORGE NEWS | StGeorgeNews.com
      Joyce Kuzmanic
      Editor in Chief

      P.S. Speaking of columns, check out Ali Hill’s weekend column; want to be a great parent? Every child needs the kind of parenting she describes. Simple, easy, timeless thoughts to remember. Check it out here: http://www.stgeorgeutah.com/news/archive/2015/06/21/list-best-dad-ever/#.VYgLdhNVhBc

      • 42214 June 22, 2015 at 2:05 pm

        Put in a weekly movie review by commentors. That should be interesting.

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