For two years, Kora had been having an on and off affair with her high-school sweetheart, a separated man who lived over a thousand miles away. It ended when Sean, her husband, had discovered some letters in her desk drawer. Because Kora and her lover lived so far apart it was easy for Sean to validate Kora’s claims that the affair ended. Moreover, her lover had reunited with his wife and family.
All’s well that ends well? Hardly. Anyone who has ever been the victim of marital infidelity knows that even if an affair ends, there is still a lot of repair work to be done. Kora and Sean knew that they wanted to try to keep the 18-year marriage going, particularly because they felt their children would be ravaged by a divorce. But Sean still held on to his rage. Before the affair, he saw himself as someone who was generally easy to get along with. Not a perfect husband, but not a bad one either. Now his brain kept circling back to the details of the affair.
Sean told me what kept him from moving on: “She keeps insisting the affair is over, and I believe her. But she wants to just put it past us. I never felt she really understood how hurt I was by this. Is she even sorry for what she did? If she is, I'm not seeing it.”
Kora doesn’t understand what’s holding Sean back, “I came clean about everything, and am now fully committed to the marriage. What more does he want?”
Kora’s admission that she had an affair is definitely a first step toward repairing their marriage. Ending the extramarital relationship and breaking off contact with her affair mate is a necessary next step. But after the affair has ended, Kora has more work to do. That includes offering Sean a meaningful apology.
Someone who has had an affair will commonly describe remorse afterwards, but many people don’t understand that the act of apology is a complicated communication process. I discuss this in my book, The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity. If, like Kora, you’ve hurt someone and wish to make amends, you’ve got to know the right step to take.
Here are three steps will help soothe your relationship stress: