Healing the Hurt of an Affair

businessman and woman's feet

Infidelity can be one of the most painful experiences in a relationship. The betrayal and loss of trust can pull the rug out from even the strongest of partnerships. Many people who have felt the immense emotional toll of being cheated on may not be able to get past the hurt. Although it is not easy, there are things couples can do to get through and past the damage of infidelity. In a recent article, several experts detailed some of them. Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher explains that people are driven by a need for security, romance, and sex. When they don’t get all three from their mate, they may look outside the relationship. In fact, research suggests that infidelity occurs in as many as 20% of relationships in the United States.

The most significant problem with infidelity is rarely the sexual act itself. “It’s not just a loss of trust or fidelity,” says Janis Abrahms Spring, a clinical psychologist and author. “Hurt partners experience a basic loss of self … it’s shattering.” Spring says relationships can be saved after infidelity, but it requires both partners working hard to rebuild the trust and extend forgiveness. She believes that most affairs occur because of unhappiness in the marriage, and even though the unfaithful spouse must take responsibility for the affair itself, the other spouse must also acknowledge how he or she contributed to feelings of separation prior to the affair. Spring says that couples can learn from affairs, despite the pain they cause.

Experts also agree that most couples require therapy in the aftermath of an affair. Learning how to communicate with each other, how to repair the damage, create transparency, and eventually move past the affair are all essential skills for couples trying to deal with the causes and effects of infidelity. Spring says that therapy can shed light on issues that may have contributed to the infidelity. Once couples are aware of these, they can work to change their behaviors and attitudes and meet each other’s needs.

Pomerance, Rachel. Infidelity: can couples move past it? How to heal from an affair—and prevent one. (n.d.): n. pag. U.S. News & World Report. 7 Sept. 2012. Web. 10 Sept. 2012. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2012/09/07/infidelity-can-couples-move-past-it?page=3

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  • lawrence

    September 17th, 2012 at 9:06 PM

    had a fall out with my girlfriend of many years over emotional infidelity from her.we tried to make it work but I just didnt feel the right.it felt so weird and it made me restless and its so hard to even explain what I went through that time.I still miss her because she is the only one I have loved and I really wish we had sought help from a relationship expert then.we thought of it at the time but never considered it seriously.maybe that cost us the relationship.

  • Tori

    September 18th, 2012 at 4:00 AM

    I don’t think that this is something that I could ever get over if my husband cheated on me. I think that I would constantly be wondering what I did to cause him to do this, what I should have chnged about myself to keep him from doing it, always pointing the finger at myself even though the responsibility would clearly be his. That’s why I couldn’t get past it, because I think I would spend a whole lot of time blaming myself for an issue that I really didn’t have all that much to do with.

  • rick

    September 18th, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    “When they don’t get all three from their mate, they may look outside the relationship.”
    blaming the victim,anyone?there are just so many people who have had their hearts broken because their partner cheated on them.while I do understand that a downfalling relationship could be the reason in some cases,it would not be right to generalize that it was due to something the victim partner did or did not do that caused the cheating partner to have an affair!

    you cannot justify having an affair and there is no two ways about this thing!

  • Veronica

    September 18th, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    It certainly is possible to make things work even after an affair. I have been through this myself. Yes, the time I found out about my husband’s affair was just disastrous and I felt like everything was over. I had no control over my mind frankly and I swear I was capable of doing any insane thing then. But things did improve soon after, thanks to common friends who stepped in and really helped m and my husband get over it. They helped us at every step and I will forever be thankful to them and would just like to add that if there is an affair, do not jump to conclusions quick. Take some time and think about it, you can make the decision later. Do not hurry and it really is possible to get over such a thing and not have it haunt you later.

  • benita

    September 18th, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    You know what always bugs me about stuff like this?
    It’s like those of us who have been wronged are always supposed to be the ones to suck it up and take the cheater back just because he is willing to try again and maybe get some therapy.
    Well what if I am so sick and tired of being stepped all over that I am tired of trying, trying to be the one to make the reconciliation work?
    What if I am just to the point that sorry doesn’t cut it anymore and I need a real man who loves me for me and doesn’t need another women just to keep him excited?
    maybe it can work if it happens once or twice but when this is his habit, I say run girl cause that man ain’t changing his stripes.

  • Christina

    September 24th, 2012 at 12:04 AM

    Well stated. That’s how I felt and my husband only cheated in me once. I left.

  • Frank

    September 18th, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    Benita- I can tell how frustrated you are by someone who has obviuously wronged you seemingly many times. And I in no way support that. But have you ever wondered what role you played? Is there anything that you may could have done a little differently to change his decisions that he has made? I don’t mean to sound like I am pointing the finger of blame at you, but we do have to own up to our actions and often, even when it is hard, determine what things that we may have done that could have contributed to the situation.

  • benita

    September 19th, 2012 at 4:15 AM

    Thanks Frank, but I am pretty sure that the only thing that I did wrong was love him more than he loved me.

  • rosalyn

    September 19th, 2012 at 5:49 AM

    Well I think the onus of working to repair the relationship rests with both the partners. Yes, the one that has wronged does have more responsibility when it comes to restoring the trust of the other and sometimes even doing things that may annoy him or her in order to ensure things to the other partner, but on the whole it is the responsibility of both the partners to work towards fixing the relationship and getting it back on track.

    The partner that has been cheated on cannot just sit back and expect the cheating partner to do all the work, because even if he or she does all the work things are not going to get better without the involvement of both the partners.

  • jim h

    September 19th, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    The hurt can be healed, but only if both partnesr are dedicated to moving forward. It can never be the same if one party is always left apologizing for the past and the other revels in the role of the victim and tries to be the martyr.

  • PileOfBricks

    September 19th, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    Healing the hurt?Healed are things that can be healed,not the ones wounds that were inflicted upon you for no reason.And if there ever was a healing to that,it would be to go away from the one who caused it,no other way to it!

  • evolve

    October 7th, 2012 at 7:40 AM

    Nothing happens for no reason. And if both parties agree to work towards bettering the relationship, who’s to say that wouldn’t work?

  • stressmom

    September 20th, 2012 at 4:17 AM

    I cannot imagine ever doing this to my spouse or my family. I don’t think that I could forgive that kind fo behavior, nor would I wnat my kids to think that it was alright to behave that way toward someone you supposedly love.

  • Fallon

    September 21st, 2012 at 3:51 PM

    My downfall when I found out that my husband had had an affair is that even though deep down inside I loved him and wanted to make things work, I was too mad to tell him that and too embarassed to ask anyone else for help.

    I was ashamed, thought that everyone would think only of the things that I must have done to make him cheat, and not really look at what he had done to me. I let those things get in the way, and got too caught up in trying to be the martyr than to look at my role that I had played.

    I have moved on now, but it has been hard, because there are still times that I find myself wanting to reach out , forgive him and try to work on our relationship, but as always that pride gets in the way.

  • Sot

    September 22nd, 2012 at 6:39 AM

    Sometimes in life we need this stumbling blocks to break us up n Allow us to reflect …. It’s definitely painful but just know that God delays the answers to our prayers in order to produce a greater maturity n fruitfulness in us…the key to unlocking the recompense of God for our past hurt is to do things His way and not our own. We are to love our enemies, pray for them n bless them as you know that forgive and you will be forgiven Luke 6:37

  • kenny r

    September 22nd, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    There is simply no excuse for the cheating, okay?

    You havin a problem you talk to your spouse.

    Don’t just go chasin another skirt and thinkin that this is what will solve the problem.

    Most of the time I have seen guys doin this, well that only makes the problems get even worse.

  • Hurt to the core

    September 22nd, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    I learned of my husband’s affair on August 13th. By August 14th, he had sworn he did not want her and wanted me. On August 26, I found him emailing her again, though they had not seen each other. Yet, again, only 2 days later he wanted me.
    However, he is truly messed up and has claimed our love has always been incomplete. We have been disconnected for so long emotionally and this was primarily an emotional affair, though there was sex.
    Now, after going to 3 therapy sessions, I am still crazy distrustful of him. But, he was clear that what he had with her was not reality and he wants our reality.
    However, he is really trying to be clear on the limits of his ability to love anyone, including me. I’ve been with this man since I was 15, for 23 years. He has loved me with his deepest soul. How, how HOW do I swallow his dismissal of our love as less than what I thought it was???

  • Avery

    September 24th, 2012 at 4:46 AM

    Hurt to the core shows the perfect example of just how much the cheater hurts the rest of us and has little regard for anything or anyone but himself. Sometimes I think that cheaters make their decisions based on what feels good at the time and definitely not about what is the right thing to do. This is why I know I would have a hard time healing from this kind of pain because even if I wanted it to work I am not sure that I could will myself to do it.

  • Marie Marie

    November 16th, 2012 at 6:25 AM

    Who’s to say it will or won’t work. I was cheated on, but because of my own insecurities I stayed in the relationship after a month long break up. Its not easy, I still bring it up periodically, just because it pisses him off..but I do not trust him at all, I have dreams about the infidelity, and I cant stand the sight of him sometimes. I feel like in the future, if were still together, I will cheat on him, just so he can know what it feels like.

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