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4 Tips for Affair Recovery During the Holidays

The holidays are here and that can mean a lot of high emotions for some people; sometimes, they have difficulty with their family of origin, like their mom or dad, or maybe a sibling rivalry that just hasn’t ended. Affairs in relationships are even trickier to navigate around the holidays, but there are 4 tips for affair recovery during the holidays. 

For others, they might be going through something in their lives that they don’t really want under a microscope like an affair or possibly the endless barrage of questions about what’s next.  “So, when are you going to get married or, when are you having kids?”

For some couples who are dealing with the aftermath of an affair, the holidays might seem like the last thing on their mind.  The affair might not have been disclosed to anyone, so they might have to act like nothing has changed when inside they’re hurting.

If the family is aware of the affair, children, in-laws, and other family might demand the couple continue to engage in the status quo of the relationship or “put on a brave face for everyone”.  Either way let’s face it, it’s difficult!

If you’re dealing with the aftermath of an affair during the holidays or know a couple who is, it’s important to remember the following tips:

Boundaries

Whatever the case surrounding their affair, it’s important to set boundaries, and the first step in affair recovery, especially as it pertains to the holiday season.

Perhaps it means only staying at a holiday party for a two hours, rather than staying until the very end to help the host clean up. Perhaps it means no drinking or no work parties as that is where the affair may have occurred.  Perhaps it means a couple doesn’t host this year and rather offer to assist by bringing the side dish to a family member’s house instead.

Don’t Overshare

Sometimes a couple wants to share and tell everyone (especially with family), about what’s happened to them or what’s going on in their lives.  It’s important to be cautious about who you share the information with and how much information is shared. When either part of the couple opens up to family or friends, they’re opening their relationship up to potential negative opinions and judgements, which may or may not be helpful.

Assure there is a clear understanding of whether or not you’ll share and what you will share.  Check in regularly regarding thoughts and feelings about communication with others.

Figure Out What You Need

Think about your relationship as being in the Intensive Care Unit, ICU. Especially when an affair is fresh the couple is treating and managing the symptoms of the affair as they come up, often moment to moment.

If an affair is still in its first year after discovery then a couple might be experiencing the holidays for the first time post affair.  This can bring up a lot of anger, hurt, frustrations, resentment and more.  Family and couple traditions can feel tarnished or no longer special.

It is important to talk about this with one another or work with a therapist trained in helping couples navigate an affair.

Get clear on what both parties need during this time and how to communicate that to one another. Maybe taking some time to be together is helpful or time apart is what is needed. Come to a compromise on what that looks like and help each other honor that, knowing that from moment to moment that may change.  Discuss how you’ll handle any unforeseen events that might come up.

When an affair, an emotional trauma, is fresh, each party needs a lot of self care especially for the partner who is just learning about the affair.  For the partner just learning about the affair this information is brand new as opposed to the partner who was involved in the affair.  The involved partner has been processing the affair over time.

Recreating a New Relationship Story

One of the important things in affair recovery is that the couple begin to create a new relationship story.  If the couple is ready and has worked through aspects of the affair sometimes it helps to create new rituals and traditions especially during the holiday season.  Helping the couple say goodbye to the old relationship pre-affair and living into a newer relationship that is just the couple’s, post affair.

The holidays overall bring added and undue stress to most of us.  If you are working through an affair and having difficulty I urge you to seek out a trained professional who can support you through the process.

Katie Lemieux is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, expert couples counselor and coach

specializing in affair and betrayal recovery with offices in Coral Springs and Fort Lauderdale, FL. If you live or are willing to travel to the area to help heal your relationship reach out to her www.FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com.

 

Marriage counseling after infidelity

Can Your Relationship Recover From An Affair?

One of my favorite movies is “Gone Girl” the 2014 psychological thriller starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. The movie is based off the 2012 book of the same name, written by Gillian Flynn, which chronicles the relationship between the two main characters and the aftermath which ensues following Amy’s discovery of Nick’s extramarital affair.

Marriage counseling after infidelity

If giving away the story line of Nick’s infidelity has already spoiled too much for those of you who haven’t seen the film, I won’t say anymore. I will say that Amy’s reaction to Nick’s affair would give anyone pause before even thinking about committing such a spousal betrayal.

An affair is one of the most devastating events that can happen within a relationship, married or not. The stakes appear higher when a couple is married; there may be more to lose, like home ownership, custody of children, and a lifestyle to which one is accustomed. The flip side of the coin is that couples who find themselves cohabiting or co-parenting without the legal documentation of a marriage certificate may face even greater difficulties when it comes to a division of assets. No matter the size of the legal headache a divorce or break up may be, it doesn’t compare to the amount of emotional and psychological pain experienced after an affair. That’s why many couples find themselves reeling after an affair and often seeking a way to recover.

While many people may say that once a partner has an affair the relationship is over, others choose to work on continuing their relationship in the wake of the betrayal. If any of you have ever broken a bone or undergone major surgery, chances are you know a thing or two about physical recovery and how long it takes to heal from a physical trauma. The recovery from an emotional trauma such as an affair may feel almost impossible and you may even find yourself wondering, “When will these feelings end?” or “Will I ever feel right again?”

In my blog post 5 Key Ingredients in Healing from an Affair, I share with you some tried and true methods that couples who decide to stay together after an affair can use to strengthen their relationship and heal from the hurt. I want to highlight that these key ingredients are used when couples decide they want to stay together in spite of the infidelity. Some of you may be reading this and might not have reached a decision yet on whether or not to stay. This decision is not an easy one to make and should not be one made hastily or during extreme emotional duress. If you’ve just learned of your spouse’s infidelity, stop for a moment before you spring into action. The Scientific American released a podcast in 2010 providing just a brief overview of why quick, emotional decision is not always the best (you can listen to it and read the transcript here). You might be saying to yourself, “I’m hurt, I don’t want to make a logical decision.” and that’s okay. Humans are emotional beings and our behavior is often, if not always, guided by our desire to achieve a certain emotion. I want to empower you to take a moment to consider a few the following questions when determining whether or not your marriage is worth saving:

  • “How often has something like this happened and with how many people?”

This isn’t the question you ask to torture yourself and your spouse into chronicling and detailing every aspect of the affair, such as “How many times?” A part of you may be curious to know whether or not this was a one night stand or a longer standing affair that occurred over a longer period of time. The answer to both of those questions can help you reach your decision about whether to try and save your marriage but that’s not the purpose behind this question. This question is designed to help you determine if your spouse’s behavior is habitual. The answer to this question can be followed up with..

  • Is there abuse in my current marriage, including physical, emotional, psychological, or financial?

Domestic violence is illegal and it is not confined to physical assault. Many people may not consider an affair an abuse within a relationship and in most instances, that’s correct. But ask yourself, “Has my spouse consistently been unfaithful, with numerous sexual partners, and possibly put my health at risk by practicing unsafe sex in these affairs?” You’ll also want to consider the arguments you and your spouse engage in (does your spouse use derogatory language against you when arguing, including curse words, and attack your character/intelligence/abilities?) and also ask yourself, “Is my spouse controlling of me in way that I find uncomfortable, such as who I spend my time with, how I spend my money, my schedule, etc.?” Identifying any fear you may have of your spouse is an extremely important factor when deciding whether your marriage is worth saving. Lastly, ask yourself

  • How did I feel in my marriage before this happened?

It’s important to take make an honest assessment of your marriage in the wake of an affair. If you found yourself struggling to see the value in continuing your marriage prior to the affair it may signal that the road to recovery will not be an easy one and possibly not the one you will take on your journey towards healing. Try to identify what you want most out of your marriage and see if you can imagine achieving those goals within the boundaries of your current marriage. You might find that you and your spouse have differing opinions on what the future holds for you as a couple and you’re unable to compromise or reach an agreement on how to move forward and accept one another.

No matter the decision you make deciding how to proceed in your marriage after an affair is a difficult endeavor. As always, I’m here to help. Feel free to give me a call to further explore the possibilities of healing from an affair in your relationship 954.401.9011.

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healing from an affair

6 Steps for Couples Healing from an Affair

1. The Start of Affair Recovery – The recovery clock on infidelity doesn’t start ticking unit the contact (all stimuli – texts, calls, seeing one another, etc.) stops.  Given this, what is the motivation to recover, as not all couples come to counseling to recover.  It is important to be really clear on what it is that you and your partner/spouse both want.  Sometimes couples attempt couples counseling as a demonstration that they have “tried everything” to make it work, and they aren’t really committed.

healing from an affair

Recommend Reading, “Why We Love:  The Nature and Chemistry of Love” by Helen Fisher.

2. “Closing the Pharmacy” – is an important next step and something to be aware of.  The involved or unfaithful partner must be willing to “close the pharmacy” on the love drugs that keep him or her involved and unfaithful.  Love drugs are seducing and intoxicating and keep the unfaithful partner returning to the drug store for more contact with the affair partner.  The interaction produces a strong feel-good chemical production in the brain, and it is like self-medicating with drugs more powerful than crack. It is also important to remember with any “drug” or “addiction” it is always temporary and never lasting and often can have serious consequences.  The high we get and feel when we initially fall in love or lust doesn’t last.

3.Establishing Guidelines – Once both have agreed to terminate contact and to start healing from the affair, guidelines need to be established and followed by both parties. The involved partner MUST be transparent. It is therapeutically recommended that the hurt or betrayed partner not ask about the specifics of the sexual acts as research has shown this to be more traumatic and detrimental to both parties. Being transparent helps to re-establish and regain trust.  The involved/unfaithful partner must help the hurt partner understand how far back he or she has to go to find the truth in their relationship, how long has this been going on, etc. It is important that the hurt partner’s questions are to understand, not to punish or make feel guilty!  The betrayed or hurt partner must learn to contain emotions, take time for self care and learn ways to self soothe. Although the hurt partner may feel justified in his or her actions, comments, rages, blames, etc. it can further damage the relationship if emotions aren’t contained.  Emotions, especially early in this process can feel like a glass of milk that spills all over the counter. Affair Recovery can be messy and is often a moment-by-moment, day be day process. This is why having ground rules and/or guidelines helps. Your trained couples counselor can help you in establishing these as well as work with you to support you in the healing process by facilitating and teaching communication skills to both you and your partner/spouse.

4. Both Parties Hurt – The unfaithful partner also hurts, can be anger, and feels resentment. These feelings can interfere with effective and corrective expression of remorse. They are angry too. They are hurt too. Often affairs or infidelity are a symptom or manifestation of issues in a relationship. Sometimes while the couple is going through couples counseling it can be helpful to have each party engage in individual therapy if they are having difficulty expressing themselves or working through some of the emotions they feel.

Recommend Reading – “After the Affair” by Janis Abrahms.

5. Re-Building Trust – During couple’s sessions the couple’s counselor will work with both parties to teach them different ways of communicating that deepens the understanding of each other. This is done through communication techniques that are validating, curiosity seeking and empathic.  Couples learn to show empathy for one another. Getting the couple to turn toward each other with their feelings, their experiences, and helping them sort through the day-to-day rubble of their marriage or relationship.

6. Forgiveness – This is the final stage, the place of acceptance that the affair happened, understanding what was going on in the marriage or relationship, oneself, and taking responsibility – on both sides, for what has transpired. Dr. O’Mara tells the couples she works with, “your relationship is wounded and this affair is just one symptom of many that needs your attention. Affairs are co-created in relationships. EXTREME RESPONSIBILITY” is her motto. “You can’t fix what you don’t own”.

As seen on a Sussex Directories Inc site
Dr. Michele O’Mara has a private practice in Plainfield, Indiana mainly serving the lesbian, bi-sexual, gay, and transgender community. She is committed to helping couples through difficult times in their relationship and enhancing their love and connection for one another.