How to Get over Affair Partner: The Grief of the Involved Partner

How to get over affair partner…the Grief of the Involved Partner

how to get over affair partner

The grief of the “unfaithful” Involved Partner is a very touchy subject in couples therapy.

In my previous post, I discussed the problem of rumination and obsession of the Hurt Partner, and how Thought-Stopping can be an effective way to assert control over intrusive toxic thoughts.

Sometimes an Involved Partner breaks off an affair when they come to realize that the relationship is a dead end. Some Involved Partners disclose others are discovered. But they often realize that they don’t want to sacrifice their marriage, and they can’t make promises in the dark anymore.

But affair relationships can be intimate and significant. A sense of profound grief and longing may linger in the mind long after the affair has run its course. They ask how how to get over an affair partner and remain contented in their marriage.

Getting over affair partner not only filled with grief, but is worsened as it is an often taboo subject in couples therapy, and many “all-purpose” therapists lack the sophistication and training to engage with the Involved Partner’s grief during their individual sessions…(if they even bother to hold individual sessions at all).

Unlike the rumination of the Hurt Partner, Involved Partners who are grieving the loss of their affair partner, cannot discuss their grief with their spouse. They often lock their grief away, and typically regard it as invalid and inappropriate as the affair itself. In a world of the therapy room, where full disclosure is important, not discussion this grief is a double-edged sword.

how to get over affair partner

Getting over Affair Partner: The Unspoken Grief of the Involved Partner

When I am doing couples therapy, I always assume grief is in the room, but I am willing to be corrected if it’s not.

When I am conducting an intensive couples retreat with a couple working on affair recovery, I always have a chance to speak with the involved partner alone.

“How are you handling your grief about losing this relationship?”

Sometimes the questions startle them. They seem surprised that I know about their grief. They discuss their grief as a shame-laden dark secret because up to this point, they have been struggling with it alone. Often they are relieved to talk about it… or are grateful for my “permission” to explore it. If they confirm that they are grieving, I normalize their grief. I tell them that it is natural for them to grieve a loss. They want to know how to get over their affair partner.

It doesn’t mean they aren’t determined to rebuild their marriage. They should accept these feelings, and not fight against them.

In other words, affair recovery sometimes presents a therapeutic paradox; I might help a hurt partner to Thought-Stop their toxic rumination, but I might tell the Involved Partner that their grief is not toxic and that they should avoid second-guessing themselves, or their commitment to their affair recovery. The grief they feel doesn’t render them insincere. They should allow the grief to flow so that it may be discharged as soon as possible.

The sooner they relax into their grief, the sooner their grief will fade into memory.

Grief is a very idiosyncratic emotion. There isn’t a “right” way to grieve. Grief is a working process. And this process works if you don’t interfere with it by denying its reality.

Many “all-purpose” couples therapists see the grief of the Involved Partner as a serious obstacle to affair recovery. Some are even openly hostile to the grief of the Involved Partner.

They are wrong.

Working with the grief of the Involved Partner is a necessary part of affair recovery. This grief, however painful, has a utility. It often provides a roadmap to what was lost or denied in the marriage.

Normalizing the grief of the Involved Partner is not a moral decision… it is a pragmatic one.

The Grief of the Involved Partner and the Struggle for Integrity

getting over affair partner is an uphill battle

Involved Partners are assailed on all fronts. The grief of the Involved Partner is only part of their struggle.

They often see their grief as something to hide, while also feeling resentment and lingering dissatisfaction with the marital status quo, depression over the collapse of their integrity, and an often anxious, angry partner who is also in grief and despair.

The grief of the Involved Partner has many possible dimensions; grief for their affair partner, grief for their spouse, grief for what may be an emotionally abusive or dead marriage or grief for themselves over their unwise decisions.

That is why generative conversations are so critical to affair recovery. I have written about these conversations between the partners striving toward affair recovery, but there is also an inner conversation that needs to take place as well.

  •   What kind of partner do I want to be?
  •   Why did I lie and deceive? Why am I staying?
  •   What if repair is too hard?
  •   And what does too hard mean to me in the light of my other accomplishments?
  •   Am I staying because divorce is too messy?
  •   Am I only staying for my kids?
  •   What will my kids think if I leave?
  •   What will they think if I stay?
  •   How can I ask for what I need after what I have done?  
  •   Can we recover from this?
  •   Is it true that we can get into a better place than before?
  •   What can I learn about myself in this recovery process?

Some of these inner questions are more helpful and generative than others. it is not unusual for Involved Partners to do individual therapy as well as couples therapy to sort out how they are going to stay in their marriage after they decide that they want to stay. Affair recovery is often a transformational experience as well as a painful one.

grief of the involved partner

Exploring the Grief of the Involved Partner

I’ve written about the twin tasks of affair recovery.  Blazing a path to forgiveness, transparency, empathy, and redemptive healing is always the best practice.

When we unpack the grief of the Involved Partner we often find that they feel hopelessly lost and depressed.

Even when struggling to reconcile with the Hurt Partner, they may also feel a loss of excitement and vitality.

How can they reconnect with their spouse and rebuild trust again?

Some Involved Partners struggle with the question about their relational dissatisfactions before the affair. “After everything my partner has been through, how can I put these issues on the table now?

They’ve been through an exciting affair and now struggle with a fear of their lingering malaise with their now openly troubled marriages.

It’s not unusual for Involved Partners to carry a toxic shame for their infidelity, and wonder how their marriage could ever be restored. They question whether they’re doing the right thing for themselves and their spouse by staying.

They have to silently deal with their own internal grief for the loss of their affair partner because to openly grieve would either risk derision from others or upset their Hurt Partner who already has been devastated by their actions.

But self-forgiveness is sometimes a part of this process as well. If you have split yourself off, lied and distorted the truth to cover your tracks, sooner or later you have to look back and learn. If you are authentically striving to rebuild with your spouse, you need to forgive yourself for being a good person who made some bad choices and then tried to make it right again.

Toxic shame, like toxic rumination, means that there is less of you available to your partner in the ever-critical present moment. Learn about your vulnerabilities and promise yourself not to indulge them in the future. And since you care about your partner’s feelings, be tender with your own as well.

The research tells us that well over 60% of couples struggling with infidelity never divorce. Recovery from infidelity is possible, even likely in many cases. But it the quality of the recovery that matters. At Couples Therapy Inc., we feel privileged to work with couples who take their healing seriously. They see the pitfalls of rumination, inconsolability, and shame. They become stronger and more resilient as a result of their efforts.

Our couples realize they’re not perfect, but they strive to be better, more honest, open and authentic.

And that is what really matters in affair recovery.


           Recover From Your Grief In A Science-Based Intensive Marriage Retreat.

Call us for more information 844-926-8753 to reach Cindy at extension 3.

About the Author Daniel Dashnaw

Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He currently sees couples at Couples Therapy Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts, three seasons in Cummington (at the foothills of the Berkshires...) and in Miami during joint retreats with his wife, Dr. Kathy McMahon. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.

  • Maddy says:

    Thank you for putting this post for the Involved Partner. I had an affair for almost 18 months. We ended the affair almost 5 months ago now. His wife was suspecting and we had to end it. I always know that the affair was going no where and it was filling the void in my marriage. Fast forward 18 months later, it was over. I am accepting the fact that it is over, but what I didn’t realized is that, it is just so hard to get over it and moving on. Your article was spot on about feeling lost and all the grievances. It’s like something you had died and the emptiness after the affair. Having said that, it was a relief that I don’t have to sneak around or hide anything anymore from my spouse. I know that affair is always a wrong path. So the question is how do I stop the feeling of being lost and the anxiety/panic attack around anniversary day and also the hour of the day where we would be together.

    • Daniel Dashnaw says:

      Hi Maddy. Anticipate the trigger…Notice the trigger. Be the Maddy that notices. Notice also the “void” in your marriage and get some good couples therapy. If you’re going to stay, You’re going to need a good couples therapist to help you talk about that void.

  • Anon 2 says:

    This article is so needed. I’ve not found a therapist or friend for that matter who will go near this issue. I didn’t have a physical affair, but still fell deeply in love, more deeply than I even knew how to imagine. He showed a strong and sustained interest for years, and eventually moved away not ever knowing his actual effect on me; I had probably a clinical breakdown when I heard the news that he was gone. It wasn’t until I started travelling away on my own and began to acknowledge his true effect on me that I started to normalize again. It makes a person unbalanced to carry around so much unacknowledged powerful emotion. Yes, it’s ethically and practically not ok to fall in love with someone else; also yes, we are human, and it does happen. I didn’t go looking for it, this was someone I met by happenstance and still believe to be my true love, lifetime over lifetime. It’s been close to a year and I still miss him keenly and continually. Aside from the intense chemistry, he was a great friend and support, and made me laugh more than anyone I’ve ever met, even while arguing. He was also the only man whose child I wanted to have, and the only person who made me feel actually satisfied to be alive—not just passing moments of happiness, but thoroughly satisfied. I’ve survived a very lot, and he is the only thing in this world that has ever made me feel it was, all of it, worth the trouble. Even if it’s right to do so, it’s extremely painful and damaging to pretend like none of this ever happened, and that I don’t still want another chance with him. Thanks again for this article.

  • Spackle73 says:

    Thank you for this. I had an emotional affair (and I’m the wife) and even though I told my husband I ended it, it continued for another several weeks. There was emotional abuse going on so he’s been working on that but I’ve been depressed since finally cutting thing off with my AP. We are scheduled to go to a marriage retreat and he’s being amazing about it but he doesn’t know the extent of my infidelity. I am scared and confused and shamed and depressed. Also hard since there aren’t many resources for women who cheat emotionally only and whose husbands don’t think it was serious. This post made me feel at least “seen”. Thank you!

  • Neal says:

    What a much needed article. Thank you. I ended a short, but intimate affair only 2 weeks ago. I confessed to my wife of 43 years hoping she could forgive me and together rebuild our marriage. Though she was shocked, hurt and angry, she has shown me inexpressible grace, and is unwilling to give up on all of our years together. We’ve begun joint and individual counseling. The problem? My affair was with an intelligent, educated and attractive younger woman. We easily communicated the deepest thoughts and emotions with one another. I was the one to end the obviously wrong relationship, but I’m grieving, painfully at the loss. I feel ashamed as well, so I grieve alone. I love my wife and want to be with her, but I can neither reconcile the conflicting emotions or escape the memories of the affair, which haunt me.
    I have to overcome this if our marriage is to succeed
    What has helped others to let go?

  • Trish Kerbs says:

    Do you have a suggestion for finding a counselor that can guild me through this process?

  • Allison says:

    This had me in tears. I feel like my grief isn’t allowed, and my husband keeps telling me how I shouldn’t grieve over someone who could be so apparently malicious toward my children, and my friend keeps telling me I have to refocus my thoughts away from my AP, and I don’t feel ready for that just yet. I’ve barely had a moment to myself since D-day, so I’ve barely even had time to cry, much less process the loss of all we shared. I know it was wrong, but the conversations we shared were so intimate, and the emotions were so intense. My family even has a connected history with my AP. That makes it even harder, because there’s so much more loss than just an affair partner: it’s the loss of someone who felt like my brother and who was also my friend for many years. This is so hard…

    • Sharron says:

      Same here, Allison. I feel like I am not entitled to ANY grief since I’m the unfaithful partner. Every website I’ve been on regarding affair recovery seems to be slanted toward the betrayed which, I completely understand, but we unfaithful have our own grief. We’re just not able to show it or talk about it. You’re not alone.

    • Anon says:

      It’s very hard to be viewed as a “bad person” without the right to grieve. My affair partner’s wife discovered our relationship. Within a few days of discovery he ended our relationship of 18 years. We are both married, with adult children now. I am not proud of my life and what I continued to do for so long. He came into my life when I was so low, a virtual door mat for my husband. He taught me how to laugh again and find joy in life. He taught me how to love and be kind to myself. Was the affair wrong, yes. But being in a marriage that chipped away at me a little everyday until I no longer recognized myself was wrong too. Because I could find moments of peace with my AP, I was able to stay married and provide my children with a stable home. His wife has yet to out me to my husband and I’m not sure why. I unintentionally ran into my AP the other day in a parking lot. We spoke very briefly. He looked broken and as if he had lost his last shred of dignity; and this broke my heart because at his core he is a good man. So Sharon and Allison, every day I grieve a little, try to live a little and most importantly try to love myself a little. We are people, we are not perfect.

  • Mark says:

    Wow. Hit it on the head. Thanks.

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