How Can You Put an Extramarital Affair Behind You If You Continue to Discuss It?

Question: In regards to your statement on your website: (listed below), I would like to know how you were able to “live in the present” and still discuss the affair over and over as needed? How do you put an affair behind you if you must continue to discuss it?

“Another thing that helped me was learning to live in the present moment instead of living in the past, which is really living in truth. What is past is past. It cannot be changed. But our past does not need to define our future. I live with and focus on what we have today. I accept that what has happened has happened.”

Answer:

First of all, let me point out that no one is saying you MUST discuss the affair over and over to heal. If you don’t feel a need or desire to discuss it by all means don’t. The betrayed spouse needs to be in control of the healing journey. As the betrayed spouse you set the pace for how much you need to know, and how fast you need to know it. What’s important is that your therapist or unfaithful spouse is not making the decision of how much YOU NEED to discuss the affair in order to heal for you.

When a person is seriously injured physically their present day moment immediately following could include and necessitate medical treatment and rehabilitation. The healing process can take a long time and much of what is needed could be painful at first, like having to re-break a bone to set it properly. If you never go in and re-break it, you’ll live with the pain forever, if you face the pain necessary for true healing – you can heal as good as new and put an affair behind you (and the smarter for having learned something). However during the healing process, you are no longer falling from the 2 story building, or say it was serious burns, during the healing process, you are not still in the fire, you are healing.

Healing from the affair was a process. During the 2.5 years it took me to heal, I gradually moved forward in my ability to enjoy the moment, as my moments gradually got better. The first days after were extremely rough, and I was still living with Brian’s indecision and meanness. Three months into the journey, my present included a lot of pain, but Brian was fully committed to me and working to heal the marriage to the best of his ability.

This was a new reality, I could embrace. At that point I no longer needed to live as though he were still just leaving me. From 3 – 6 months following disclosure of the affair (and really that full 2.5 years) we were actively working on healing the marriage. That WAS my present day reality. I was healing from a major injury in the marriage. Asking questions wasn’t about the past, it was about understanding us today, why did this happen to us? How can we be sure it won’t happen again? So my present day was about healing. For me healing included getting answers to my questions – so I could understand my present day reality (was my marriage secure?)

However my reality during those healing days also included the fact that my husband truly loved me, that I still loved him, that he was being very kind and patient with me, that we were also balancing our painful healing discussions with fun dates together where we didn’t discuss the affair. My present day included that my husband was fully recommitted to me, and had learned a very painful lesson. We had many good times together – and in many ways discussing the affair felt good to me too. It felt good to be getting to know my husband so well, what had happened in his life that allowed him to do this. It felt good to be sharing our deepest secrets with each other. It felt good to be accepting one another in spite of all our faults as people.

Today, I’m completely healed. I remember everything about the affair, but there really is no pain for me attached to the memory. I can share my story with others, but I don’t relive the pain when I do. In our own marriage, I never ask my husband questions about his affair anymore. I don’t think of myself as a wife who was cheated on. We think of ourselves as a couple who overcame a huge battle in our marriage. In the present we are winners. We love sharing our story, not for the affair, but for the victory of overcoming and healing a marriage.

At one point early in our healing journey I wanted to forget about the affair and pretend it didn’t happen and have a new beginning, but it was Brian who didn’t want a new beginning. He said he had eighteen wonderful years with me which he didn’t want to forget. The affair too, is part of our lives together, but our focus is on that we healed and overcame it, not on the time of defeat and shame.

I have run into couples 10 years+ into healing after an affair, who just swept it under the rug and never discussed the affair. They coast along for a while and then it resurfaces, like a cancer which was left untreated. It’s as if the marriage had a rotting corpse in the closet. They tried to hide it behind a closed door, but without being seen it was stinking up the place ... and eventually led to divorce. We did a full spring cleaning of our marriage, identified all junk and got rid of it. You too can put an affair behind you!

I’m not suggesting you should discuss the affair if you don’t want to. Discovering a spouse’s affair is painful enough. Each betrayed spouse should at least be entitled to heal in the way that is best for them. Some don’t want to know the details and that’s okay, but if you need to know to understand your partner and your marriage better, you should not be denied those answers to your questions. Every time I told my story, every time I talked about the affair, I healed a little more, until finally I just don’t feel any pain when I talk about it. Today, I actually feel joy in the fact that I was able to overcome all that pain … and I wouldn’t trade the personal growth that has resulted for anything.

©Copyright 2008 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.