Of all the difficulties I see in my clinic, the one thing that is perhaps the most difficult for couples to heal from is an affair. It shatters people in ways that are indescribable for people who have never been there. If you’re reading this, I’m saddened to think that you know that feeling all too well. You feel hurt, betrayed, lost, and just don’t know where to go or what do now. Well, I hope I can answer it for you in this article. And I hope by the end of this article you’ll feel like you have at least some sense of what do now.
The First Step You Need to Take to Get Past an Affair
The first step isn’t as difficult as you might think it is.The first step is simply not to panic. I know, I know. You were hoping for something that would help you make some important decisions – but that’s the point. Before you get to making meaning from the affair and before you start to make any kind of decision, you need to stop and calm yourself. You need to stop panicking.
In psychology, there’s a theory that says when your emotions are high your rational is low. So the more hurt, enraged, etc, that you are, the more likely you are to make a bad decision. And with all the chaos that’s going on right now since the affair was discovered, the last thing you need to do is make things more complicated by making bad decisions. This will just make things harder for you down the road and ultimately make your relationship harder to heal.
Instead of Making Decisions…
So instead of trying to make some kind of decision to help you heal from the affair, take the time right now to take care of you. Take some time to do some self-care. Suspend making any decisions for now until you feel like you are in a good place to make a good one. Make sure you’re exercising good sleep hygiene so you can get some good sleep (as good as you can right now, anyway). Make sure you’re eating healthy, and make sure you’re taking time to relax. Be sure to read books you like, spend time with your friends, etc. At first this might not feel like you’re dealing with the affair. But you’ll see down the road (and in a future article) how this actually helped you tremendously.
During this critical first stage of healing, I recommend for couples to go about their daily routine like they normally do. Do things like go to work, hangout with friends, talk to the kids, help with homework, etc. as usual. This will help you to get back to feeling like yourself again. This also helps you feel grounded and secure – at least temporarily. This way you can make the important decisions you need to make down the road and you will feel confident about them.
As I’ve instructed folks to do this, one of the most common points of feedback I get is that, “isn’t this faking it?”. Well, to some extent, yes. But the point of it isn’t to brush the affair under the rug. In fact, this isn’t the point at all. You’re going to tackle that soon (that’s apart of the next step). In fact, you’re going to go into a lot of depth about it in order to heal. You’re going to open up closets and explore dark corners you never even knew existed. But the first thing you gotta do is take care of you. You can’t do the exploration you need to do if you’re feeling unsafe and uncertain. And the first step to help you do that important work is to take care of you.
About the Author:
Aaron Anderson is a therapist and Director of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. He is a writer, speaker and relationship expert. He specializes in working with couples heal after infidelity and creating more intimacy for a better sex life.