Getting Over an Affair
For the person who has had the affair:
Be accountable. Don’t give excuses that claim you had no choice in the matter such as “She came on to me” or “We weren’t having enough sex”.
Acknowledge what you did. You lied and your credibility is in doubt to your partner. Now is the time to step up and tell the truth. That doesn’t mean to go into all the details, but to own up to your betrayal.
Take reasonable measures to rebuild trust. Be where you say you’re going to be and be there when you say you will. Be extra careful not to hide anything about what you are doing, however trivial it may seem to you or however much you are afraid it might hurt your partner. You don’t have to share every passing feeling, but don’t lie about your activities.
Apologize and offer to make amends, if possible. Acknowledge that what you did hurt your partner and offer your apologies. Ask your partner what you could do to make amends, if anything.
For the person who has been betrayed:
Don’t badmouth your partner to your family or friends. They will, of course, side with you. It will come back to haunt you if you stay together, because your friends and family will be alienated from your partner or critical of you for getting back together with him or her. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek support from your friends and family. Just be careful about how you talk about it.
Don’t stalk or check up on your partner constantly. Either the person is going to be trustworthy or not. You’ll eventually find out if you are being betrayed again. You can take reasonable precautions and do random checks to reassure yourself, but don’t make it your waking preoccupation.
Don’t ask detailed questions. Often you’ll hear things that will haunt you for years, images that you will find hard to forget or get over. Once you know the broad outlines of what happened, let it rest for awhile. If you find you are still haunted by those questions, try doing a ritual (see below) to help let it go. Or have your partner write out or record all the details and put the record of the affair in a safety deposit box and give the key to a friend with instructions not to let you have the key for a year. If you still feel the need to know, go and look at the material after a year. Most people don’t want to see it by then, as they have some distance and don’t want to open the whole painful mess again.
Do a ritual of letting go or moving on. This involves symbolically letting some emotion or situation go by physically getting rid of something that represents or symbolizes the unfinished business. For example, you may write a letter about everything you feel or want to say about the affair and then burn the pages you have written. Or you might get a picture of the person your partner had the affair with, tear it up and throw it in the ocean. One person got a keychain with the name of the person her husband had an affair with on it and drove back and forth over the keychain with her car to let go of her angry feelings towards that woman. Find something physical that represents the unfinished feelings or situation and do something symbolic of releasing it.
MA Counseling Psychologist