"This is not the relationship I bargained for. I just want to have my old relationship back..."
If your partner has "cheated," and you are are dealing with an extramarital affair, you may have trouble sleeping, eating, or even working.
Over and over, unwanted images invade your mind. You repeat in your head what your spouse told you about what had happened, and ask yourself if they are being totally honest.
You start to wonder when else your partner saw that "other person," when they claimed to be some other place.
Your mind can think of nothing else.
You're doubting everything they say:
You feel like you are on a roller coaster, with intense emotions. One minute you feel rage...the next minute you just want to have sex and forget about it. A second later, you can't stand the thought of your partner touching you.
Maybe you blame yourself, maybe not. But your trust is shattered, and you may start acting more like a detective than a spouse. And when you are dealing with an extramarital affair, you may be feeling a bit unhinged.
Our situation was dire. We were reeling from the discovery of multiple affairs and trying to see if our relationship was worth saving. We questioned whether the process would even be worth the time and money....We had tried couples therapy previously with no real success and a lot of frustration. .
Couples Therapy Inc. allowed us to make it through the roughest year of our marriage. We learned to fight better, communicate better, and calm down when we are flooded with emotion. We learned to take breaks when needed and come back to hot issues.
We got past the ambivalence and committed to the work, and survived the year together. "
(More) ~Online Affair Recovery, International
If you had the affair, you may be unsure exactly how you ended up having sex with someone else. Perhaps you were drunk, or felt flattered by their attention. Maybe it happened very gradually, and before you knew it, you were involved.
Maybe they reminded you of how your marriage used to be, or how you imagine that your marriage should be. Maybe you've broken off the affair, or maybe you find it hard to end it. Was it just the sex, and the affair doesn't mean much to you?
Or maybe it is a compulsion and has happened repeatedly and you feel out of control and risking it all.
Do you wish your spouse would just let it go and stop harping on it?
Are things getting ugly, now that your spouse knows? You don't know whether to answer the questions they ask you. There are a lot of questions to answer when you are dealing with an extramarital affair. Do you go into detail?
You don't want to end your marriage for a lot of reasons. The kids. Mutual obligations. There are the years of history you have with each other. But maybe you miss your affair partner. Maybe the passion died years ago in your marriage, but the friendship never did. Or maybe your feelings of caring are still there for your spouse, despite everything. You may be feeling actively confused. You may need help dealing with an extramarital affair.
We offer 34 Counterintuitive Behaviors to do or not do after you've discovered the affair. This protocol, developed by Michelle Weiner Davis, is tough. Called "The 180", many resolute spouses complain they can't do it. If you can, it has been proven effective.
It includes things like:
Rushing to get comfort from family members is totally understandable. And totally unproductive, if you want to give your marriage it's best shot at surviving through this tough time. While it feels good to have people say they are totally on your side, that's just the problem: When there has been an extramarital affair, there should be no sides. No "victim" and "perp." No "saint" and "sinner." You can go there, but don't be surprised if you find it a harder, longer slog to recover, now that you have to drag your husband-hating sister and best friend along.
They're just trying to be "helpful." But if a marriage is made for two, stand up on your own two feet and face into the harsh wind that's hitting you. And keep silent. If the two of you will weather this, you'll do it alone, not with the help of a small army on your side.
How difficult is that? For so many of our couples, once the affair was revealed, CSI couldn't do a more thorough job of learning everything possible about the "offender." We might like to watch the show, but would you actually want to stay married to Gil Grissom once he got you on his radar?
Spying also gives the hurt partner the false idea that knowing everything will somehow make things better. The problem is, it's like trying to put together a 40,320 piece puzzle that's in invisible ink. Even when you gather all of the pieces, you still may never know what it makes once assembled.
Spying on your spouse doesn't work and never has.
"What?!! I can't say 'I love you?'"
No, just don't.
You may only say it to express how you feel, but if your spouse is actively involved with someone else, you are implicitly expecting an answer they may not be ready to give you. They may still love you, like they love their Mother, but you may hear the painful words: "I'm no longer IN love with you..." which is often the response from someone who's brain is swimming in oxytocin, dopamine, phenylethylamine (PEA), testosterone, estrogen, serotonin, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). It produces an effect called: Limerence.
Limerence isn't known for it's staying power. In other words, it makes your straying spouse high on this natural drug for about 18 months - two years, and then fades. Why 18-24 months? Nature at work: it hijacks the brain just long enough to achieve a "genetically robust pair-bond suitable for reproduction."
No one can stay high forever. It's not in our brain chemistry.
"A recent survey reports that 66% of men feel guilty about their emotional affair. And another recent study reports that 56% of men surveyed were happy in their marriage when they began an emotional affair."
So implicitly asking: "Do you love me?" puts you at an unfair disadvantage. The affair partner has all of the cards. You've got to fold on that hand...for now.
Esther Perel points out that there is a difference between feeling guilt for how your partner has been impacted by learning about your emotional affair, versus your guilt for having the affair itself. Your straying spouse may feel terrible that they've hurt you, but not at all bad about the act itself. Affairs are like a long-fun buzz in which you feel like a superhero, and saying "I love you" is the buzz-kill. Don't do it.
Get a new haircut. Throw out your old ratty casual clothes. Join a gym. No, if you're a woman, you aren't trying to "outsexy" Ms. Homewrecker. Chances are on your side (88%) that you're better looking. No, it's because in all likelihood your partner is falling in love with the person they believe they are becoming with their affair partner.
They feel more alive. They feel more attractive. These feelings become addictive.
Change along with them. Become more alive, more interesting and more unpredictable. Crying in your soup is oh so predictable when faced with an affair...
Better yet, don't playact.
Really embrace this, as it may, in fact, be true. Your spouse may just 'free up your future' and you can't directly control that. You can only control yourself. So be the actor in the movie who does a make-over like in She's All That or Hope Springs. Redesign yourself into a better you, and keep quite about it.
Read but hide The Guide to Getting it On (challenging assignment), Come as You Are, She Comes First: The Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman or He Comes Next: The Thinking Woman's Guide to Pleasuring a Man.
Yes. Hide them, but read them.
There are 34 tips in all from a renowned couples therapist treating affairs. Trust me when I say, I've never seen public shaming, bullying, pity or intimidation work well when an affair has been discovered. It pulls spouses apart, not together. Imagine the star-struck lovers together with nothing to say about your reaction, instead of pulling together to "weather the storm."
Let's not give them anything to talk about. At least when it comes to your marriage.
Now it is probably hard for you to imagine how you can heal from an affair and move forward. But you can, in a safe, structured setting.
We'll help you to figure out what to focus on and what to let go of. We'll support both of you in handling seemingly trivial incidents that suddenly trigger World War III fights.
The work requires careful, deliberate steps with the goal of rebuilding the marriage and restoring trust and peace in your home once again. You'll learn how to open up to intimacy, tune into each other, and re-build a feeling of teamwork once again.
You may have only heard of affairs that ended a marriage. That's because those who seek help, don't badmouth their spouses. And as therapists, we know that these couples heal, sometimes ending up much stronger than before.
For some couples, an affair is a "wake up call" that fundamentally transforms their relationship into one that is stronger and more resilient than before. They end up looking back upon this time as a turning point in their marriage, and a time of re-commitment.
I've spent my professional years helping troubled relationships heal from affairs and repair their marriages. I've also hired the most highly trained professionals to work with you across the USA or the world.
Dealing with an extramarital affair is a delicate matter. And much of the hurt caused by an affair happens AFTER the affair is revealed. Know what steps to take to minimize the damage.
You can heal from an affair.