If you're like just about any person who has been cheated on, you probably vividly remember where you were, what you were doing, and how it felt when you found out that your partner was having an affair. That memory sticks.
And if you decide to stay in your relationship and repair the damage, making some sort of peace with that memory, healing and moving forward are absolutely essential.
More from YourTango: The Secret To Relationship Success: Be A Self-Care Couple
To remain stuck in the pain of betrayal and hurt will keep you and your partner stuck in turmoil and disconnection, and will send you that much more quickly to a breakup or divorce. In the days, months, or even years after that "D-day" (Discovery of the Affair day), you might receive a whole lot of advice from people you know.
Among those suggestions, you may have been told that you need to "learn from the affair."
"Learn from the affair?!"
These are words that may bring up instant resistance, irritation, and anger in you and we understand why. It was your partner who cheated, so why should you be the one to have to "learn from the affair?"
As unpleasant as it is to consider learning from your partner's infidelity, it's important to do. In fact, if you don't learn from the affair, you may not be able to make peace with it; to shift your attention away from the past and back to the here and now. The present is where trust and connection could be rebuilding and where you and your partner could re-discover your love again.
Even if you admit that it's smart advice to "learn from the affair," maybe you just can't bring yourself to actually do it. There's a stubbornness in you that rises up whenever you try.
Acknowledge your resistance.
You might not even realize the extent to which you're resisting. You think that you're actively working with your partner to rebuild trust, but there's a part of you that's holding back, tentative and possibly even a little bit self-righteous.
Be honest with yourself and notice the ways that you're resisting learning from the affair and healing the damage done. Get curious and look at what happens when you resist.
Do you wait for him to "make the first move" and change a bad relationship habit?
Do you drop not-so-subtle hints to try to get her to make amends to you?
Do you guilt trip your partner (even if you don't mean to)?
It's easy to resort to passive-aggressive or even outwardly hostile measures because you're feeling so raw and hurt because of the betrayal.
When you recognize that you're resistant to "learning from the affair," your very first step could be to give yourself permission to feel whatever you're feeling. Take private time to express your emotions. Let it out by writing in a journal, screaming and crying, dancing to loud music, or otherwise releasing what you may have been bottling up in an effort to save your relationship.
What you'll discover is that when you allow your emotions to come up and out in non-harmful ways, youll be calmer, clearer and able to really work with your partner for the good of your relationship...and this includes "learning from the affair."
3 steps for moving past resistance and opening up to learning:
1. Know the difference between condoning and learning. This journey of healing will take patience and persistence. Your mind will revert back to your vivid "D-day" memories and send you to bitterness and resistance if you allow that. Keep reminding yourself of the difference between condoning your partner's decision to cheat and learning from what happened.
You aren't saying it was okay or that you believe your partner was justified in his or her actions. You are ready to find out what contributed to that decision so that you two can make changes and prevent a repeat.
2. Find the courage to really listen and look. To truly learn from the affair, widen your view of the situation and look at your relationship, including your habits, your partner's habits, your usual dynamics as a couple, and more. Go back as far as you can accurately remember and try to be as unbiased as you can.
Be courageous and admit to the ways that you may have unintentionally pushed your partner away with your words and actions. Pay attention to how you and your partner tended to communicate with one another (or have not communicated). How much quality time did you two usually spend together? What are the "little" hurts that you both allowed to fester and get bigger?
3. Use what you learn to move forward. This step cannot happen if you get bogged down in blame. Take what you learned about your habits, your partner's habits, and your dynamics as a couple and identify what possibly put tension and distance between you.
Instead of using these observations as a way to make your partner even more "wrong" than before, start coming up with solutions. Have conversations together about how you two could do things differently. Create conscious agreements that help you each meet your relationship needs in ways that bring you closer together.
Rebuilding trust is an essential part of saving your relationship after an affair. We've coached many, many individuals and couples through this healing and re-connecting process and can help you too. Click here to get our free report, Rebuild Trust After an Affair to get started today.
More from YourTango: A Response to Seth Adam Smith's "Marriage Isn't For You"
More infidelity advice from YourTango: