Affair Recovery Timeline

How long does it take to recover from infidelity. One month? Three months? One year? Three years? The standard industry answer, is that it takes around 18 months to recover from an affair. However, as you can see there is more than just one type of affair.

The infidelity recovery Institute has seven categories of affairs. Therefore recovering from a one night stand affair type, should take less effort and time than recovering a split-self type of affair. Agree? There are some more considerations, that will effect the affair recovery timeline.

Affair recovery can be tough and a much longer process for an individual who has been hurt by many people in their life. This individual will find forgiveness very difficult. Perhaps the unfaithful partner, has felt neglected and used by their faithful spouse, throughout their entire marriage. Forgiveness would be difficult as they don’t believe their spouse will meet their emotional needs. Therefore, affair recovery takes much longer, as the faithful spouse demonstrates they too want to fight for the relationship, and have a closer relationship than in the past.

For some betrayed partners, they have felt betrayal by their parents or siblings, previous relationships, or by a close friend or relative, and have not been able to forgive for these past hurts. As this individual has not learned how to forgive, there is no foundation to understand what forgiveness means. Affair recovery takes much longer, is this individual in a traumatized state now needs to understand forgiveness, or loose their marriage.

An individual’s personality type will ultimately decide the affair recovery timeline. How an individual internalizes the meaning behind the affair greatly affects their ability to work on a relationship moving forward.

Therefore, there is no standard answer on “How long does it take to recover from an affair.”


These are “standard” phases of the affair recovery timeline. Let’s look at what issues can effect the length of time spent in each stage.

Discovery – When you first “discover” the affair

  • How you discovered the affair makes a difference to how you react
  • Is this the 1st time the relationship has been hit by infidelity
  • Shattered assumptions – your shock/disgust/embarrassment to your partner having an affair, “What will others think!”
  • Your ability to make sense of why your partner cheated. For example, if your relationship was built on a strong foundation with friendship and connection, you understand your partner, and what they need. You don’t agree with the affair, but you know why your partner cheated.

Grieving – “The emotional reaction to the change in the individuals world”

  • Is the third person still in the picture?
  • What other the challenges is the couple dealing with right now? Health issues, children issues, loss of employment etc can greatly affect one’s motivation to fight for the marriage.
  • Support network
  • Access to professional help/ professional support
  • Ability to communicate feelings
  • Unfaithful Partner
    • Depending on the affair time, the unfaithful partner will be mourning the loss of the affair relationship. Even if they do not wish to continue with the affair relationship, there is a void of an unmet need which the 3rd person was filling. The betrayed spouse cannot fill this void as yet, as the relationship is in crisis mode. This is a risky time in affair recovery, where the lover and the unfaithful partner reconnect to met these emotional needs. Depression is common, and if not recognized and treated with urgency, depression can add years to the recovery process. **It is important to have a therapist, psychologist, or counselor who is experienced in infidelity and marriage counseling to manage your affair recovery process.
  • Faithful partner – depression, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, and post dramatic stress disorder type symptoms, can make the grieving process a lengthy one. An individual who seeks professional help, and receives coping skills can fast track this stage significantly. For some individuals, medication may be needed, in order to participate in affair recovery programs/counseling.

Acceptance – “Ready to move forward from current position

  • Personality type/ disorders – narcissists or those who have a histrionic personality type, will use this opportunity to “make the spouse pay” for the infidelity. For example, a narcissist who has cheated will often blame their spouse for “making them cheat” leaving the betrayed spouse shamed and paralyzed.
  • Many betrayed spouses, are already to move on to stage when they understand the affair story, this cheating spouse shows genuine remorse, the third party is long gone, and the chance of a fresh new relationship is enticing.
  • Some couples, may now realize their relationship was never solid, and individual values and beliefs are significantly different from when they first met. Acceptance of the reality of what the relationship V what they thought it was, helps to process the pain, and stop couples from blaming and resenting each other.

Reconnection – Open to reconnecting as a “WE”

  • has the individual done the work to understand who they are and what they need?
  • Is there improvement in communication and conflict resolution skills?
  • Does the couple understand each others emotional needs?
  • Is their intimacy in the relationship now or does the couple have the new information and skills to develop intimacy immediately. (SEX is essential is any relationship. A difference in the 7-Step Infidelity Recovery program, is we work on Sex & Intimacy as a part of the recovery process. Breaking old negative bedroom patterns and beliefs can take time, but is 100% essential to the success of a marriage long term.)

Maintenance – Working on the new reality

  • depending on the affair type, maintenance can take some time. For example, Type 7- The Sexual Addiction Affair, will require long term sex addiction treatment for the unfaithful partner, and individual treatment for the betrayed spouse (eg Co-dependency). Recovery takes longer for this couple, however, the marriage can be saved and the couple feeling closer than ever before.

While I did not go through all the positives and negatives which can effect affair recovery, I do hope you can now see that affair recovery is not an 18 month process.

Couples who never seek professional advice, do couples courses, and seek relationship enrichment may still stay married after an affair, but live miserable lives together. They face feeling trapped and lonely, feeling misunderstood and helpless. Forgiveness never comes to these couples, as one cannot forgive what one doesn’t understand. Therefore this couple, never recovers from the affair.

If you have any questions, please leave me a message below.

Savannah Ellis.



  1. tricia

    my comment was posted for VIRAA

  2. Tricia

    Oh Wow! I am in the same exact boat as you are. Were you two able to work things out? Did he truly stop being dishonest behind your back? Any insight or advice is greatly appreciated to no end. Thank you

  3. Robert

    I’m doomed 15 years and still can’t get no closure or do I need validation??or maybe a straitjacket??

  4. Viraa

    I discovered about 18 m9nths ago the first evidence of my husband’s infidelities, but tha5 was only the tip of the iceberg. Over the past 18 months I discovered that he has been cheating, repeatedly, mainly with prostitutes, of male, female and mixed genders. But also with other people he would meet on sex sites. I would say that he has been unfaithful and addicted to sex for the entire duration of our marriage. I was interested by what yo7 say- that it is possible to get over such horrors but one needs help. We consulted with an ordinary couple therapist, who never mentionned his activities/addictions and in the end I stopped going as the sessions seemed to be missing the point completely. What type of professional should one consult? Is it still possible to patch things up? How? Any advice welcome. It has been a terribly tough road….

  5. J smith

    What exactly is “true remorse”?

    • Anonymous

      You’ll know it when you see it.

  6. Michelle_S

    I just found out that my fiancé was cheating with a coworker for the last 2 years. Early in our relationship he lost his job and had to become more financially dependent on me because his new job doesn’t pay as much. He has two kids from a previous marriage and gets hit pretty hard with child support. He is a great dad and we have the kids all holidays and summer. His relationship with his ex wife wasn’t too great, she actually cheated on him with their next door neighbor and ended up marrying him. She also uses his kids as pawns to try and control him. His relationship after his divorce was pretty tragic too. When we got together things were great except for his ex-wife not allowing him to see his kids just because he was with someone new even though they had divorced over 10 years ago and he has dated since then. She was ok with the relationship before me because his ex didn’t treat him well. When I came along and she saw him happy she did anything she could to destroy it but we stuck together and eventually she stopped keeping the kids away. I have a great relationship with them and the youngest wanted to move in with us. We were great until the job loss. He became depressed and his self-esteem was non-existent. At the same time I started having health issues but he felt so low about himself that in the beginning he thought I was making up not feeling well because I didn’t want him and he didn’t measure up to people from my past. I tried to reassure him over and over again and actually convinced him to see someone about the depression and he is on anti-depressants now. I’m a therapist myself and have told him he needs counseling. He would be down a lot or angry and wouldn’t open up about things. I found out on Christmas that he slept with a coworker in 2014 when we were going through all the drama of his exes trying to keep us apart. It turns out that he continued to sleep with her from time to time when he was in his really low state but she ended up developing feelings and threatening to tell. After that he started to tell her he cared about her and even told her he loved her to try and appease her and keep her from telling me before he could. It didn’t work and she ended up messaging me on Christmas telling me they were in a relationship for 2 years and she saw him every single day which I didn’t understand how that was possible but I believed her at first. I asked if she had any photos of them together and she said no they never took pictures but he was her boyfriend and she didn’t know about me until now. I thought it was strange that she didn’t see red flag she that her “boyfriend” never spent the night, she never went to his house, they never went on dates, and never met any family or his kids over 2 years. I was devasted and still am but he has told me that it wasn’t a relationship at all and she did know about me. She told him if he was to going to be with her she would tell me things to make sure I wouldn’t either. He says it did happen multiple times over the span of the two years but was sporadic and when he felt like I didn’t want him and he was down and depressed he went there. We have since found out I have an autoimmune disease and some heart issues and he sees now that it was never that I didn’t want him but I really wasn’t well. We still had sex but it wasn’t enough I guess and he felt I was just doing it for him which isn’t true. With that being said he says he never had feelings for her but knew she was available when he felt he needed a pick me up I guess but he said it always made him feel guilty and unfulfilled. Since we live together the first night I found out I told him he can stay on the couch then figure out what to do (in my mind I thought he would just go to his “girlfriends” house not knowing that she was exaggerating the situation to make sure I would leave him). He feels so much shame and guilt that he has been staying at a homesless shelter and it breaks my heart. He says he doesn’t deserve to come home because I am such a good person and have taken care of him and his kids and he loves me so much and he is so disgusted with himself he feels he doesn’t deserve to come home. He picks up clothes in the morning or after work then heads back for check in time at the shelter. I told him as hurt as I am this is still his home. When we do wee each other we cry hysterically. To make matters worse we are moving this weekend to a different town home and things are so up in the air I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I can trust him again but have agreed to counseling and he admitted he also needs to get individual counseling as well. I feel so betrayed and disrespected and hurt but at the same time I feel bad for how he is feeling and worry so much about his depression and being in that shelter. I trusted him completely and never saw this coming while he was insecure and doubted that I wanted him because he wasn’t good enough and thought maybe I had someone else but I was the faithful one. I’m lost. I don’t know if I should walk away or at least give counseling a try to see if I can try and learn to trust him ever again. He said he doesn’t want to stop fighting for me but also thinks I deserve better. When we first got together he lied about having a degree because he thought since I have a Masters I wouldn’t give him a chance. I’m constantly trying to reassure him of his worth but I can’t make him feel good about himself which I believe is what caused this in the first place. I do know he loves me but he struggles with me still being the breadwinner. I always tell him it is temporary and one day that will change but it doesn’t help. He hasn’t had any contact with the person he cheated with and wants nothing to do with her. She is now trying to call from private numbers and she even asked me if we worked things out, I guess to see if her plan worked. I just don’t know what to do with this move, this relationship, and my broken heart.

      • Michelle_S

        I am not a member but just sent a request to join. Thank you! Where can I find the article? She has contacted him twice since everything happened and he told me about both, ignored the first and told her he has nothing to say to her the second attempt. I’m sure she will keep trying. Thanks again.

  7. joy

    Can u give me advice how to advise my husand (who cheated on me after 33 years of a relatively normal and at times very happy marriage with 6 kids- for 2 years and with 2 different people) and who now keeps repeating canned message – I was wrong, u didn’t deserve it, there is no justification for it, it is all my fault- to move to the stage when i can ‘see’ that he is truly and deeply remorseful and it is not just a case to say sorry, now let’s move on.
    how can i advise him to show ME that he knows his behavior is unforgiveable, but i am willing to forgive if i see true remorse



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