Q. I am not able to let go of my husband’s affair. What will it take to move on and really let go?
A. This is probably one of the most popular questions I get asked when meeting with couples who want to heal from an affair. For most couples, recovery seems out of reach but if you both do the healing work, recovery is very possible for both of you.
Affairs not only traumatize you but you also process a deep amount of grief and loss. Your perception of your relationship, of your partner is forever altered. The affair weaves into the fabric of your relationship story. The devastation is real and it can feel like a slow climb out.
There is no prescribed time for when you “let go” and I’m not sure that’s the language I would use to describe the process. When the affair is revealed or discovered, it becomes your prominent focus. Everything else in life seems to grow fuzzy but the affair stands front and center, crystal clear. It is a difficult reality to confront.
Over time, as you work to heal together, your relationship begins to join the stage alongside the affair. During this phase, you attempt to make meaning of the affair and also reflect on what went wrong in the marriage. You continue to grieve the loss of what you thought you had, all while trying to determine whether or not you can rebuild.
During this phase, if you both work toward healing, the affair will organically begin to recede into the background and with time, becomes fuzzy and less clear. It’s still a part of your overall story but it’s not the main focus anymore. Your new marriage becomes the star of the show.
That does not mean that you will not get triggered at times to bring the affair back to front and center. Memories, calendar dates, etc. all can trigger the most unpleasant feelings but usually, they are temporary and become less intense with time.
So you see, you never actively “let go” of the affair. When you and your spouse work to heal your marriage together, you create many opportunities to rebuild trust and strengthen the marriage.
If you continue to remain focused on the affair, you may unconsciously not want to “let it go”. Many factors can contribute to this, including affair history in your family of origin, in your previous relationships, or because you have both not gone through the healing work effectively. Your focus on the affair may serve to keep you alert and protected.
If you continue to struggle and want to make your marriage work, consider seeking out support either through a trusted professional or through a support group.