For many couples, an affair feels like the absolute end of the marriage or committed partnership. And for some it is. An affair can be what I call a "can opener," or a good excuse to end the relationship. But for other couples, staying together might mean hard work and a renewed commitment to one another, and with a clear path and some dedication to these six steps, you can get over it, past it, and even have a stronger relationship going forward.
1. Get Selfish
If you are the one who just got cheated on, it's time to think about yourself. Just for a while, think about your own needs. While you are in the crisis phase after an affair, do something just for yourself — take a vacation, go to a spa, spend time with friends, sleep late — whatever you need. For now, treat yourself like you just got hit by a train. Cause you kind of did.
2. Feel Your Feelings
There is a saying, "you gotta feel it to heal it." Be angry, be numb, be scared, be sad. All of these feelings will pass.
3. Go Out With Your Partner
As the affair talk becomes a daily part of your repertoire, you are going to need to talk about something else. Go on a date. And don't talk about who cheated, why, how many times, and where they cheated. Don't ask if you can have their cell phone records. Instead, talk about nuetral topics.
4. Create A New Monogamy Agreement. (The New Monogamy).
What do you want in your relationship going forward? Is it important to only share intimate details of your relationship with one another? Can you look at porn alone without telling? Is masturbation a secret or is it private? Can you have a friend on Facebook without telling your partner? These are questions you need to share with your partner and come to a reasonable conclusion before you decide if you are going to move on together.
5. Start Working On Your Sexual Healing Now
Erotic recovery begins the moment you choose to begin recovery from your affair. Talk about what you each want in your sex life going forward. Don't focus on what's not working or how you have been dissapointed in the past. Focus on what has worked and expand on that. Don't wait until you don't feel hurt or angry because those feelings could last a while, and they can come and go. Work on feeling like you can talk about those feelings if they come up during your intimate moments and focus on how you can comfort one another if and when they do.
6. Start Creating A Vision Of Your Life Together
What do you want in your new marriage? That old marriage is over, let's face it. Once one of you cheated, it was the end of the vision you had of your committed, monogamous partnership. But this marriage is yours to create and begin again, any way you want. Create the vision together and make it happen, and don't let the past rule your vision.
Many couples who come to see me for couples counseling will say to me as I help them work through these six steps, "Maybe this affair was the best thing that could have happened to us." As you work through your Six Steps of affair recovery, you may notice the same feelings. Cherish them and keep on working.
Dr. Tammy Nelson is a sexologist and a certified relationship therapist. She is the author of The New Monogamy and Getting the Sex You Want. She can be found at drtammynelson.com.