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Recovering From an Affair ...by Stan Hyman, PhD, LCSW

Coping: The Beginning

Once it has been discovered, an affair's aftermath can be very ugly. If there is any hope for the individual or the couple to weather this event taking the time to reflect is critical.

This tear in the fabric of the relationship often takes a long time and a lot of hard work to repair, so be prepared. Some suggestions for getting through this very difficult period are listed below.

Don't make hasty decisions. Despite feelings to the contrary, it is extremely important to let some time pass before deciding what to do about your relationship. You will benefit more in the long run if you give yourself some time to reflect.

Don't tell everyone right away. Although you may feel the need to share your pain with friends and family, you may end up influencing the way they feel about your spouse or getting opinions that you are not ready for. Should you decide to repair the marriage you may not want family members, who are now intolerant of your spouse, trying to influence your decision. On the other hand there may be a close friend or friends in whom you may feel the need to confide.

Take care of yourself. Your emotional state may be very delicate but you need to pay attention to your health. There is often a tendency to spiral down; lose or gain weight, not sleep, drink too much or use drugs to escape bad feelings. Force yourself to take a walk, swim, eat properly and spend time with close friends for support.

The Children. If you have kids they will know something is wrong. It is unlikely that you will be able to hide your pain completely. However, especially depending on their ages, try to keep the details of your upset private for as long as possible. You will only make things worse if your children become unnecessarily anxious about the future of the family.

Understand the roller coaster. You will likely feel many emotions, not just anger or sadness. Understand that it is normal to feel everything you may be feeling. Powerful emotions can overcome you at any time so be prepared for that possibility. Leaning on close friends at this time can be very helpful.

Create a personal journal. Journaling can be both reflective and cathartic. You will likely benefit from this form of self-expression during this difficult time.

Get counseling. This may seem obvious but many people let too much time go by before seeking professional help. Whether as an individual or as a couple (I recommend both) counseling will help you (and your spouse) better understand what really happened and why. If you and your partner are willing to engage in the repair process it is extremely important that you get the help you need.