Question: Every little thing still triggers the affair & I still see them together in my head. When will it stop? My husband is doing a lot of what he needs to, to repair our relationship. I still cry all the time. How long does it take to heal from an affair?
Answer: Affair recovery experts generally agree that it takes a minimum of at least two years to heal. It took me 2.5 years. The good news is we are seeing many couples heal in as little as a year. We’ve also noticed a common denominator among the couples that heal this quickly; they are the ones who found our help within the first couple of weeks following disclosure of the affair.
We’ve come to realize that it’s actually not the affair itself that is the most difficult to heal from, but rather all the mistakes couples make after disclosure that actually does the greatest damage to the relationship, so the sooner you get good help the better.
It can be discouraging to think it will take 2 years or so to heal, and sometimes hearing this may cause you to think, “we’ll never make it” or “I can’t do this.” It’s important to remember that while you may be asking 'how long does it take to heal from an affair?' things are getting better throughout the journey. You don’t stay for two years at the intensity of pain you feel in the first three months.
Healing and getting past the obsessive thoughts is gradual. Slowly over time, as you work on yourself (personal growth), the painful thoughts gradually start to be fewer and farther between and their intensity gradually lessens, until one day you think to yourself, "Oh my God, I can't remember the last time I even thought of the affair!"
It's best not to put set timelines on things. As one affair survivor told me, "I'm sick and tired of people telling me exactly how long it should take me to heal. I just want to heal in my own way and in my own time." Considering how painful this journey is, I feel she has a very valid point. How long does it take to heal from an affair? There is no exact timing ... it's a process, but it will happen.
And others in the Beyond Affairs Network meeting I was hosting joked in response, “Yes as if you will be healed in 2 years, 1 month, 5 days, 3 hours, 47 minutes and 23 seconds!” How ridiculous! As if you could time it. Yet many experts will tell you it takes “x” length of time. Who cares how long it takes as long as you actually do heal, as long as you are continuously moving forward in the journey.
On the flip side, I also want to clarify that when we say it takes a minimum of 2 years to get completely past all the pain, that doesn’t mean the whole period of time was intensely painful. We enjoyed many happy days and good memories along the way. We had many intimate talks during our healing journey where the honesty was refreshing and brought us closer. We put the affair on hold as needed and would go on dates and just enjoy each other’s company. This is an important thing to do on the healing journey.
If the spouse who had the affair is sincerely doing their part in facing up to the affair, answering your questions and giving you what you need to heal, they cannot live with constant negativity for 2 entire years. You’ve got to have some times where you go on a date, enjoy being together and don’t talk about the affair. (Of course I would always be thinking about the affair. I couldn’t get it out of my head, but I could take a break from the intense discussions with the focus on trying to fix our marriage and ourselves.)
You may also find this article on overcoming obsessive thoughts helpful:
Also if you haven’t already, you may find joining a Beyond Affairs Network support group very helpful in moving your healing forward.
People who heal themselves and their marriages from affairs and who go on to be even happier and even stronger on the other side, generally find the road to healing required a combination of things. It generally takes reading many books, lots of long discussions, some counseling and a seminar or healing weekend retreat or two. No one source will give you everything you need.
Sometimes a healing seminar can really spring board your healing journey forward, give you hope and make the rest of the journey much less painful.
You may want to consider the Healing From Affairs weekend for couples as a part of your healing journey.
For personal growth we recommend our new “Take Your Life Back” seminar coming in June 2009. This weekend takes you through an amazing process that helps you to put past pain to rest, rediscover yourself and reset your course for your best possible future, no matter what you're going through, and whether you're married or single, attending with your spouse or alone.
What could be more important than healing yourself and your marriage?
©Copyright 2005 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.