How Long Will This Hurt?

And what cheating can mean for your relationship.

Image Source/Getty Images
Image Source/Getty Images

In cases in which a spouse having an affair for the first time is contrite, honestly answers all questions, makes heartfelt and sincere amends, and abandons the affair partner, a speedier resolution is possible. If the aggrieved partner is open to reconciliation and forgiveness after a due diligence period, that’s a good sign. But there is no telling on how long a wronged spouse will take to heal. There is no statute of limitations on their hurt and anger.

If you rush reconciliation, you will fail and likely fall into some attempt at resolution that is half-baked and harmful. In fact, if you’re expecting to quickly settle emotional matters, you probably aren’t prepared for the work that a mature, longterm relationship requires.

First, there may be a period of mourning during which the couple grieves over their loss of innocence. They can no longer lay claim to a faithful love between two pure hearts and clean souls. The promise of “I love you and want no one else” is lost. Realizing each other’s humanity and seeing one another’s hurtful, human flaws can cause great disappointment.

The partner who pinned hopes on fidelity is crestfallen and mourns being thrust out of Eden. Meanwhile the adulterer may silently mourn the loss of their extramarital tryst(s) and, now more than ever, long for escape from what they may experience as a stifling marriage. The worst of it will last for a few weeks to months. As I mentioned earlier, certainly within the year, with good intentions and good behavior, many people are in a much better place. In the next chapters I’ll talk about how to constructively approach emotional and sexual reconciliation if you decide to stay together, at least for the time being.

Cheating may be a sign that you need to move on

Life after the affair doesn’t always work out happily ever after. But sometimes it can work out for the best. Even when an affair ends a marriage, it can nonetheless be the catalyst that allows couples to begin anew with separate lives.

Joan never intended to cheat. She had been faithful to her husband, her first lover, for twenty years, having sex with him twice a week but never experiencing passion. Although they had raised a family together, they shared few deep, emotional secrets. Joan kept her head down and dedicated herself to her kids and her productive career. During their second decade of marriage the couple stopped having sex, despite Joan’s attempts to maintain a sex life. She never complained and only occasionally, while alone, broke into tears about what she might be missing. Then, one day, a handsome, older, married business colleague propositioned her. He could offer neither love nor any sort of relationship beyond sex. At first she was taken aback. Then, gradually, she thought more about his offer and, finally, accepted.

Every month or two, over the course of a year, they met for long lovemaking sessions focused on a single goal: to give Joan pleasure. At long last, for the first time in her life, Joan orgasmed. From that point forward she orgasmed at every rendezvous with her new lover. By the third year of their affair Joan had become the love of the man’s life. This affair had opened for Joan a door into love, passion, and intimacy. Once she saw what she had been missing all these years, there was no going back.

Determined to find a better life, Joan stopped the affair and entered individual and couple’s therapy, where she realized that she and her husband of twenty years were wrong for each other. After her marriage ended, Joan found an available single man capable of emotion and passion, and they’ve remained in love together ever since.

Her ex-husband has also done well after their divorce.

Although I cannot condone the affair and I hasten to add that only after Joan entered treatment and stopped the affair was she able to transform her confusion into meaningful change, I must recognize that for Joan and her ex-husband, the affair paved the way for each of them to open up new chapters in their lives.

Excerpted from Infidelity: Why Men and Women Cheat by Dr. Kenneth Paul Rosenberg. Copyright ©2018. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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