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Healing After the Affair: 4 Things to Expect


Infidelity is a topic that few of us discuss openly. When a couple splits up, they’re often hesitant to reveal the reason that their relationship ended, especially if it’s due to cheating.

Infidelity is like a wrecking ball on a relationship. When a person finds out that their partner has been unfaithful, many areas of their life are impacted. Here are four  changes to expect when your partner has been unfaithful.

  1. Sexuality: When your partner has any kind of sexual relations with someone else, you may feel like your sex life is over. The thought of being intimate with him or her brings extreme emotions out. You may rage. You may cry. And if you’ve decided to stay in the relationship, you may wonder how you will ever be intimate with your partner again. Deciding to begin intimacy is your choice. It can help for couples to start small: hugging, hand holding, and kissing, are all ways of being intimate  without having sex. It’s okay to start slow and go at your own pace. It’s also okay to be intimate quickly as well. There are no rules with this.
  2. Self-Confidence: When you learn that your partner has cheated on you, your self-esteem will take a hard hit. It’s normal (but untrue) to think that you are the reason your partner cheated. You may question your attractiveness, your sense of humor, your sexuality. You may even go on a crash diet, dye your hair, buy new clothes, all in an attempt to win your partner back. Your partner didn’t cheat because of your gray roots or the 10 pounds you gained last year. Your partner’s unfaithfulness may make you feel unloved, ugly, and undesired, but that doesn’t make it true. You need to fight hard to gain back the self-confidence that you had before the affair.
  3. Shame: Shame is a very powerful feeling. When your partner cheats on you, it’s common to feel ashamed, even though you are not the one who cheated. Shame is a terrible feeling that casts a dark shadow on your life.  You may hesitate to talk to your closest friends about what happened because you’re ashamed and feel like the affair represents your failings. You may become depressed, but you have nothing to feel ashamed about. Remind yourself of this when you become embarrassed because of your partner’s actions. Shame will eat you alive if you allow it to.
  4. Anger: You will feel angry. You’ll feel pissed off, you may rage and yell and scream. Allow yourself to feel these feelings, but do your best to not hang on to them. Imagine a wave on the beach, coming up and drenching the sand, but going back to the ocean. Holding on to anger and resentment eats away at you. This does not mean that you are not upset or that your partner didn’t do anything wrong. It means that you are making the choice to heal yourself, and realize the intense anger will only hold you back.

Life after an affair is incredibly hard. You will feel many strong emotions. You will feel confused. Your mood may go up and down and back up again.

You don’t have to know immediately if you will stay with your partner;  give yourself time to grieve, to mourn the loss of the relationship as you once knew it. But know that you’re not alone, and that you can survive this. Your relationship will never be the same. You have been hurt in one of the most personal ways possible. Your trust has been broken, but you are not. Try to believe in your strength, in your ability to withstand the grief and heartache. You’re not alone in this, and you can make it through.

photo from Shutterstock 

Healing After the Affair: 4 Things to Expect

Jenise Harmon, MSW, LISW-S

Jenise Harmon, LISW-S, is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Columbus, Ohio. She works with individuals and couples, and specializes in relationship counseling. She's now offering online counseling for residents of Ohio. Stay Connected . Follow her on twitter; and connect with her on Facebook.

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APA Reference
Harmon, J. (2015). Healing After the Affair: 4 Things to Expect. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 8, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Sep 2015
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