One Year After The Affair And We Still Feel Lost. We Still Struggle

By: Katie Lersch: When you first find out about an affair, you are often not sure if you want to even to listen to what your spouse has to say, much less to save your marriage. Coming to the decision to stay and to try to work things out is not always an easy decision. Because most of us know that in order to heal, there are going to be difficult conversations and vulnerable moments when we are trying to restore the trust. In fact, many feel that it is emotionally easier to walk away because then you are able to avoid all of the hard work that goes into saving your marriage. Many times in order to get through, you will tell yourself that you will give it a certain period of time and then reevaluate to see if things have gotten better. But when this milestone passes and you see few (if any) improvements, then it can be very frustrating and discouraging.

I sometimes hear comments like: “my husband begged me to give him six months to make things up to me after he had an affair. This was not an easy decision for me. My inclination was honestly to leave him and to never look back. But then I asked myself what would it hurt to give him six months? And so I did. After the six months were up, I was disappointed that we hadn’t made more progress. And I told my husband as much. Once again, he begged me not to leave him. He said that we had made progress and that if we were patient, we would make even more. So I thought ‘what is six more months?’ And I agreed. Well, we have just passed the one year anniversary of the affair. And I am so disappointed. In my own head, I thought that having a year to heal was going to make a huge amount of difference. I honestly thought that I would have a sound marriage again in that amount of time. But I don’t. Things are still very awkward and tense between us. I feel like my husband wants our marriage back. But at the same time, he isn’t doing anything concrete to make that happen. I feel like wanting to make your marriage work after an affair and actually having it work are two different things. I’m tired of waiting for improvement. And I feel like I have wasted a year. Does it ever get better?”

Why The Effectiveness Of The Effort That You BOTH Put In Truly Matters: It is my experience that it absolutely does get better. However, I don’t believe that you can count on it to magically get better without a lot of the right kind of effort. While it is true that the anger and shock will naturally fade without your having to work too hard, the actual healing and rehabilitation does take hard work. And it does not magically happen.

With this said, waiting for it to happen is very common. And for good reason. Typically, neither the husband or the wife are mental health counselors. So they don’t have first hand or expert knowledge about how to dig themselves out of this. And they may think that if they truly love their spouse and if they are patient, then time is going to heal the wounds.

Unfortunately, it’s my experience that time alone is not enough. You have to be very proactive. You have to very actively look at what was wrong and you have to be tireless in fixing it. The cheating spouse must have the goal of understanding the anger and the faithful spouse must have the goal of working through it. I wish I could tell you that it just magically happens. But it doesn’t. It takes a good deal of continuous effort and then reevaluating to see what is actually working and what isn’t. And when things don’t work, you have the option to either keep trying along the same path or to get off that path and try something new.

Consider What You Haven’t Yet Tried: I’d suggest that if it has been a year and you’re not seeing a good deal of improvement, then it might be time to try something new. This could include counseling, self help, educating yourself, trying different things on an individual basis.  That is not to say that all marriages that are damaged by an affair are going to be perfect after a year’s time.  There is often maintenance that lasts for the lifetime of the marriage.  But many will see very noticeable progress.

Understanding Rumination: I will tell you one thing that really helped me to get unstuck. I was talking about this issue with a counselor once and she told me that I was ruminating. I had her repeat herself because although I knew what ruminating meant, I wasn’t sure how it applied to me. And so she explained it. In psychological terms, ruminating means reliving the event over and over again in your own mind so that you continue to be injured by it. Rather than going over it to try to determine where you go from here, you are going over it and thinking once again about how unfair it was, how hurtful it was, and how awful it was. When this was explained to me, I had my doubts that it applied. But then I went home and looked at my past journals. And I found that every single entry was focused on why my husband had dealt me this most cruel blow.  Every entry talked about how horrible the whole situation was.

Now, everything in my journal was true. And I had a right to feel what I was feeling. And yet, I couldn’t deny that every day I was almost ensuring that when I left my journal, I felt badly. Why? Because with each session, I was reliving it. My entries never focused on what I was going to do to move past it. They only relived it. So I vowed to myself that my journal entries were going to change. I started to focus on what I could do to feel better. I started talking about progress and stopped ruminating so much. And do you know what I found? When my journaling changed, so did my thought process.

I can’t possibly know whether you too are ruminating, but I find that it is very common, especially if a lot of time has gone by and you still seem stuck. I’d suggest making a conscious effort to begin to focus on movement rather than on what has happened. Then, I’d suggest looking at what you have already tried to determine what is serving you and what is not. There is no harm in trying something new. And sometimes, you have to keep trying until you find what works. But the key is that each and every day, you want to focus on what makes you feel better and what moves you forward. You want to think about the negative aspects of this less and the moving forward more.

By no means do I mean to insinuate that any of this is your fault or that its your responsibility to move past it without your spouse’s help.  But I learned first hand from my own situation that sometimes, we have to help ourselves.  When we take responsibility for our own healing, then we are healed more quickly.  If it helps, you can read more on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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