Originally published in the Lakelands Leader in our advice column the Laudable Life
Q: Last month I learned of my spouse’s long-term affair. It’s over now and she’s extremely remorseful. What in your experience, is a reasonable outcome for me to expect when I’m on the other side of this? Acceptance but continued hurt from it? Something that we can expect to always have to deal with on some level through the rest of our lives? Becoming water under the bridge at some point? Not asking for a prognosis, of course, just a reasonable end state that I can hope for and work towards.
A: Dr. Elizabeth Carr has worked with many couples dealing with the trauma of infidelity. In her experience a betrayed partner’s prognosis for healing is very closely related to these 4 factors:
1) FORGIVENESS: Your capacity to forgive those who have wronged you, but who demonstrate genuine remorse.
2) HUMILITY: Your partner’s capacity to demonstrated openness to the requirements of the healing process. Non-defensiveness, willingness to fortify future boundaries, and genuinely expressed remorse being most important. Also time understanding and recognizing the phenomenon of “compassion fatigue” and impatience in the healing process that are very common and managing those feelings appropriately rather than burdening the hurt partner with them.
3) DETERMINATION: The hurt partner having the mindfulness skills needed to cognitively let thoughts go once issues have been fully processed. Which includes your stubborn determination to choose happiness over righteous indignation and your ability to (eventually) turn the page and not get trapped in perpetually punishing your partner.
4) ACCEPTANCE: The acceptance that the trust that you once had in the relationship and in your partner might never be the same “absolute naïveté” that it once was, and yet that can be “OK.”
Everyone’s timeline and outcome is different but these above skills seem to be essential in healing after a betrayal and although you’ll never forget what happened, you can let it become part of your relationship’s past and move on from it.