If an affair has recently threatened your relationship, it is very normal to feel hurt, confused, angry, sad, insecure, and uncertain about what to do next. You and your partner may be hoping to repair your relationship, but feel unsure of how to proceed without making matters worse.
Read these tips to learn what to do after an affair.
What To Do as the Partner Who Had the Affair
- Be Honest. Whether you confessed the affair to your partner, or were discovered to be unfaithful, you need to be as transparent as possible. This means hide nothing from your partner and answer all questions regarding the affair. If there are questions you do not feel safe answering, save them for therapy. Also, you must be quick to share with your mate any future contact you have with the affair partner to avoid repeat betrayals.
- End all Contact with the Affair Partner. Do not contact the affair partner in any way and do not respond to any attempts from the affair partner to contact you. If contact is necessary to make it clear the relationship is over, you and your mate must agree on the method (email, phone call) and message and conduct the conclusion together.
- Be Accountable. Share all passwords with your mate including email, cell phone, social media, credit cards, bank accounts, etc. Tell when you will be home and call if you will be late. You have lost your reputation. The only way to build it is to prove your words with evidenced-based action.
- Be Supportive. Your spouse is going to have difficult days feeling insecure, angry, anxious, etc. Be there for your spouse when they need you.
- Find a Friend. You will need social support during this crisis period. You can select one friend who is supportive of you repairing your relationship. This confidant must be someone your mate trusts and agrees is safe for your relationship.
- Practice Self-Care. A crisis of this magnitude requires taking care of yourself. This means getting exercise, sleep, eating as well as possible, etc. Feeling guilty and ashamed for betraying your spouse is normal and appropriate, but neglecting your own health does not help.
What To Do as the Injured Partner
- Ask Questions. Ask your partner what you need to know about the affair, but consider first if the answer will help you heal. Stay away from specific sexual questions as this will create images difficult to forget.
- Ask for Support. If you are having a difficult day because you cannot get the affair out of your mind, ask your partner to talk about it. If your partner is not available, write down your feelings and questions to discuss later.
- Find a Friend. You will need social support during this crisis period. Select a friend who is supportive of repairing the relationship. This confidant must be someone your partner trusts and agrees is safe for your relationship.
- Practice Self-Discipline. It is ok to take a break from discussing the crisis topic. Limiting your discussion to 30-45 minutes can be relieving for you both. This allows you to focus on the business of life such as making dinner, running errands, or accomplishing work tasks. If you find that your worries continually interrupt your day, allow yourself time to write down your questions and thoughts to save for a discussion later.
- Practice Self-Care. Betrayals are traumatic events and require you take care of yourself. This means getting the exercise you need, getting enough sleep, eating well and carving out time for the things you enjoy. If you are feeling depressed, talk to your therapist about how to handle it.
What To Do As a Couple
- Talk about the Affair. You and your spouse must agree on a time and place for these discussions. Allow only 45-60 minutes per day to talk about the affair. You must also agree on rules of interaction during these discussions so both partners feel safe. After the discussion is over, move on to a more normal activity, such as taking a walk, cooking dinner, or watching a favorite TV show together.
- Guard your relationship. This is a very vulnerable time for your relationship. Do whatever you can to guard against outside interference. This may come from the affair partner’s spouse or from your own family members who are not supportive of you repairing your relationship. Be very careful about disclosing the affair (do not confide in children). Whoever you share with will always have that knowledge, which could impact interactions as you work towards recovery.
- Seek the help of a qualified therapist. Repairing your relationship after an affair is very difficult. It is highly recommended you seek the assistance of a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has been trained in affair recovery. Therapy does not guarantee success, but it does provide a safe place for both partners to express the affair’s impact and to begin healing.