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.
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.