How to heal from a cheating husband

Recovering from the trauma of infidelity

Most people agree that a sexual affair counts as infidelity, but what about sending a flirty text? What if your partner takes out several loans and acquires a large debt without your knowledge? Does engaging in virtual sex with someone other than your partner, connecting with an ex on social media or maintaining an online dating profile even though you are already in a relationship count as betrayal? The answer depends on how the people in the relationship define infidelity.

A recent study commissioned by Deseret News found conflicting answers when 1,000 people were polled about what constitutes “cheating.” The majority of respondents (71%-76%) said that physical sexual contact with someone outside of the relationship would always meet the threshold for cheating. However, a slimmer majority thought that maintaining an online dating profile (63%) or sending flirtatious messages to someone else (51%) should always be considered cheating. The lines on whether following an ex on social media constituted a betrayal were even more ambiguous: 16% said it was always cheating, 45% thought it was sometimes cheating, and 39% answered that it never was.

As this poll illustrates, how one defines infidelity is subjective. Thus, Talal Alsaleem, a leading expert in the field of infidelity counseling and author of Infidelity: The Best Worst Thing That Could Happen to Your Marriage: The Complete Guide on How to Heal From Affairs, stresses the importance of clearly defining infidelity in session. “A lot of therapists make the mistake of not putting enough attention into defining infidelity,” Alsaleem says. “From the first session, if we don’t agree on what to call it, we cannot go any further” because correctly identifying the problem guides which counseling interventions will be used.

If counselors set the stage poorly from the beginning, they risk alienating one or both parties, he adds. For instance, referring to infidelity as “inappropriate behavior” risks minimizing the betrayal. On the other hand, clients and counselors could exaggerate an issue if they refer to something being infidelity when it really wasn’t.

Alsaleem, a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice at Happily Ever After Counseling & Coaching in Roseville, California, points out that when defining infidelity, research often relies on heteronormative values, which excludes any relationship that does not fit the “traditional” model (read: a heterosexual, married couple). To account for the various types of relationships that exist and people’s microcultures and macrocultures, Alsaleem developed a flexible definition of infidelity that can work for all of his clients, including those who are LGBTQ+ or polyamorous.

“All relationships should have a contract — whether verbal or written — that stipulates the number of the partners in the relationship … the emotional and sexual needs that are expected to be fulfilled in this relationship, and to what extent those needs are exclusive to the partners in the relationship,” Alsaleem explains. “So, infidelity is a breach of contract of exclusivity that you have with the partner(s) … and it’s outsourcing those needs to others outside the relationship without the consent of the partner(s).”

Although having a relationship contract is helpful, it is much less so if the partners maintain implicit expectations of each other that aren’t covered in the contract or if they allow the contract to become static, says Alsaleem, founder of the Infidelity Counseling Center. “It’s very crucial for people not only to have a clear contract in the beginning but also to continue to have those discussions [about their relationship expectations] on a regular basis,” he says.

Alsaleem believes his definition of infidelity not only works for clients of various backgrounds but also provides counselors with a buffer from their own biases about what infidelity is. When it comes to infidelity counseling, “therapists tend to confuse therapeutic neutrality with thinking that they don’t have a role to play,” he says. He asserts that his definition allows therapists to remain neutral without minimizing accountability.


Technology has provided new frontiers in infidelity because it offers higher accessibility, greater anonymity and opportunities for cyber-infidelity, says Alsaleem, who presented on this topic at the 2020 conference of the International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors (IAMFC), a division of the American Counseling Association. In fact, technological advancements such as virtual reality pornography and teledildonics — technology that allows people to experience physical tactile sensations virtually — are adding new layers of complexity to infidelity and relationships.

People can use technology to escape real-world problems and reinvent themselves, Alsaleem notes. One of his clients suffered from erectile dysfunction. Because of the shame and stigma associated with his condition, he turned to virtual sex as a way to accommodate for the deficit rather than dealing with the issue with his wife.

“Because [technology] is a new frontier, it’s an unchartered territory. Not too many people can agree on what’s appropriate or what’s inappropriate online infidelity behavior because we don’t have a reference point for it,” Alsaleem says. “That ambiguity makes it easier for people to cross those lines because in their minds, they’re not doing anything bad.”

Alsaleem worked with another couple who were in a happy relationship, but their sexual intimacy had decreased because of common life stressors such as work and parenting. Rather than talk to his wife about it, the husband started watching pornography, which evolved into virtual sex. When the wife discovered this, she felt betrayed, but the husband didn’t think his actions constituted an affair because it wasn’t happening in the real world. He considered virtual sex to be an acceptable alternative to “real cheating.”

Situations such as this one further emphasize the need to clearly define infidelity and establish a relationship contract, says Alsaleem, who points out that the good thing about his definition of infidelity is that it applies to both real world and virtual world affairs. Using his definition, counselors could work with a couple to help a partner realize that virtual sex is a form of infidelity by asking, “Was there an agreement between you and your partner that all your sexual needs would be fulfilled by them only?” If the partner acknowledges that this agreement was in place, then the counselor could ask, “Is what you did derivative of sexual needs? If so, did you outsource this need to someone else?” This form of questioning would help the partner realize that he or she did in fact breach the contract of exclusivity.

Transcending relationship dissatisfaction

Relationship dissatisfaction is a common cause of infidelity, but it is far from the only cause. Alsaleem recommends that counselors consider three categories when working with infidelity.

The first is dyadic factors, which are any relationship issues that lead to the couple not having their sexual or emotional needs met by each other.

The second category is individual factors — each partner’s personal history and overall mental health. Counselors should ask about clients’ family history and previous mental health issues, not just their relationship history, Alsaleem advises. He points out that some mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder and narcissistic, antisocial and borderline personality disorders, may increase the likelihood of infidelity.

People who experienced sexual trauma at an early age are also more likely to engage in infidelity as adults because the trauma may have affected their attachment, sexual identity and the type of relationships they have in adulthood, Alsaleem adds.

The third category is sociocultural factors, including a person’s job, culture, family, friends, lifestyle, environmental stressors, etc. Survey data taken from Ashley Madison, a website that helps married people have affairs, reveal that certain careers and occupations are more correlated with infidelity. These careers typically involve frequent travel; expose people to trauma; feature long, stressful hours; or offer unhealthy work environments (among the examples provided were military personnel, first responders, nurses, police officers and people in sales). This finding illustrates how one’s sociocultural factors can facilitate infidelity behavior, Alsaleem notes.

Treating the trauma

Sometimes clients who experience a partner’s infidelity meet the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), says Gabrielle Usatynski, a licensed professional counselor (LPC) and founder of Power Couples Counseling in Boulder and Louisville, Colorado. In fact, because the emotional response to infidelity (e.g., ruminating thoughts, sleep problems, erratic behaviors and moods, health problems, depression) can mirror responses to other traumatic events, some therapists have started using the term post-infidelity stress disorder to describe this parallel.

“If you pull up the DSM-5 and look up the PTSD criteria and change the word traumatic event to infidelity, it’s almost going to be picture perfect in terms of the symptom criteria,” Alsaleem points out. “There will be triggers, flashbacks, hypervigilance, avoidance behavior, and manifestations related to the knowledge about the affair and everything related to the affair.

The fallout from infidelity can also spill over into other roles that people occupy, such as being a parent or a professional. This can lead to guilt and shame if they are not performing well in another area because they are preoccupied with the trauma of the betrayal, he says.

Despite having worked for a while with couples in crisis, Alsaleem found that none of the counseling tools he had acquired over the years adequately dealt with infidelity. If counselors use a generic trauma-informed approach with infidelity, they may have a strategy to handle the sensitivity of the issue, but they won’t have a clear understanding of the obstacles and the steps needed to overcome them, he says.

Alsaleem started jotting down observations of his clients dealing with infidelity and discovered several struggles that these clients shared regardless of the type of relationships they had, the length of their relationships, or their cultural or religious backgrounds. These shared struggles included defining infidelity, handling the emotional impact of infidelity, and navigating the significance of the affair narrative. Alsaleem’s observations led him to develop systematic affair recovery therapy (SART), which provides counselors with a treatment method for helping couples process and heal from the trauma of sexual and emotional infidelity.

SART describes seven milestones clients go through as they heal from infidelity:

  • Setting the stage for healing
  • Getting the story
  • Acknowledging the impact
  • Choosing a path
  • Creating a plan of action
  • Implementation and healing pains
  • Sustainability

“Your role [as a counselor] is to help them process what happened, to make sense of it, so this trauma does not define the rest of their lives, whether as a dyad who are rebuilding the relationship or as individuals who have decided to separate and move on to other relationships,” Alsaleem says.

He warns that the process isn’t easy because clients often come in with knee-jerk reactions about what they want to do. Counselors must help clients resist making impulsive decisions and instead encourage them to make up their minds after completing the proper steps and understanding why they are making their decision, Alsaleem says.

With affair recovery, Jennifer Meyer, an LPC in private practice in Fort Collins, Colorado, finds it helpful to have couples write down their feelings and emotions, which can be intense. From the beginning, she asks couples to share a journal and write their feelings back and forth to each other.

After the couple has had time to identify and process the cause of the infidelity, Meyer asks the partner who has been unfaithful to write an apology letter and to read it to the injured partner in session. In this letter, the offending party conveys that they understand the pain they have caused and feel remorse for their actions. Even if the couple decides not to stay together, the letter helps repair the damage caused by the infidelity, and the partners can move forward (and, eventually, into new relationships) without carrying the pain and trauma with them, Meyer says.

Navigating the affair narrative

Some therapists avoid having clients share details about the infidelity because they fear it will create more harm or retraumatize clients, Alsaleem says. He argues that narrating the affair is a painful yet crucial part of recovery that can help facilitate healing if done with the right level of disclosure.

Alsaleem dedicates an entire day in his SART training program to teaching counselors how to help clients share their affair stories without retraumatizing both parties (by sharing too much or too little information) and without minimizing or exaggerating what happened. With infidelity counseling, “every mistake counts,” he says. “When people are coming in after the discovery of infidelity, whether it’s recent or from the past, they are very fragile, so that’s when you need to be strategic and adaptive and plan each intervention and how to respond to the outcome of the intervention.”

Meyer, a member of both ACA and IAMFC, often finds that clients want to ask the offending partner multiple detailed questions about the intricacies of the affair. Meyer is aware that the answers to these questions have the potential to create even more hurt and trauma for her clients, so she is honest with couples about this possibility and guides them through the process.

Alsaleem provides a brief example of how counselors can determine the appropriate level of disclosure when clients share their affair stories (but he advises clinicians to seek further training before trying this approach). He first asks the offending partner to be proactively transparent when sharing the affair story. They shouldn’t hide anything, he says, and they should go out of their way to show the injured partner(s) the unpleasant truths that led to the affair. This is done not to traumatize, he emphasizes, but to show the offending partner’s capacity to be open and honest.

Alsaleem also tells injured clients that they can ask anything they want about the affair. But before they ask, he helps them determine whether the question will help them understand what type of affair it was or why the affair happened. If so, then it is a fair question, he says.

For example, a client dealing with a partner’s sexual infidelity may want to ask, “What specific sexual activities did you engage in?” If the partner who was unfaithful is dealing with a sexual addiction (an individual issue), then the specific sexual activity is not important to understanding the motivation or what went wrong in the relationship, Alsaleem says. However, if the infidelity occurred because of a compatibility issue (a dyadic issue), then that would be a fair question because the betrayed would discover in what ways they are no longer fulfilling their partner’s sexual needs, he explains. 

“The need behind the question [can be] healthy and appropriate, but sometimes [clients are] not asking the right question because they don’t know how to address that need,” Alsaleem adds. He advises counselors to ask clients what they are trying to learn about the story with their questions and help them figure out if these questions are the best way to obtain that information while avoiding further traumatization.   

Affairs can evoke intense emotions in session, especially when discussing the affair story. To ensure that emotions don’t escalate to an unproductive level, Meyer uses a preframe such as “You seem calm at the moment, but this is difficult, and I want to ensure you can both talk without being interrupted. If things get out of hand, I’m going to ask for a timeout. You can both ask for a timeout as well.”

Meyer also uses her own body language — such as scooting up in her chair or standing up — if clients start yelling uncontrollably, or she physically separates them for a few minutes by having them take turns going to the restroom or getting a glass of water. These subtle changes help clients calm down and not get stuck in fighting, she explains.

Creating an imbalance to facilitate healing

Usatynski, an ACA member who specializes in couples therapy, approaches infidelity counseling differently from couples therapy where betrayal is not the presenting issue. In ordinary couples therapy, she strives to keep therapy as balanced as possible, focusing equally on the complaints of both partners and the unresolved issues that each brings to the relationship. But when infidelity is involved, she intentionally creates an imbalance of power and initially allows the injured party to have all of the power. The offending party, on the other hand, does not get to bring any of their complaints about their partner or their relationship to the table until they have successfully addressed the injured partner’s distress. This treatment works only if the offending party expresses true regret for the harm they have caused their partner and expresses a genuine desire to rebuild the relationship, Usatynski adds.

Usatynski’s approach comes from a psychobiological approach to couple therapy (PACT), which is a fusion of attachment theory, developmental neuroscience and arousal regulation developed by Stan Tatkin. When betrayal is the presenting issue, this method requires that clients move through three phases as they process and attempt to repair their relationship.

The first phase addresses the trauma the injured client has experienced by allowing them to express all of their emotions about the betrayal. “It’s when people feel like they have to hold back [emotions] or they can’t get angry or there’s nobody there to listen to them that actually creates trauma or at least makes it worse,” Usatynski says.

The partner who was betrayed can also ask any question they want about the affair during this phase, and the offending partner has to answer honestly. Many therapists who work with betrayal are concerned about the injured partner being traumatized by finding out the truth, Usatynski says. She admits this is a valid concern, so therapists should support the injured partner throughout the process. However, she advises that therapists not shy away from the truth coming out because, as she explains, the only way to repair the relationship or build something new is with total transparency.

If clients are hesitant to ask about the affair, therapists need to explore this hesitation with them. The injured partner may say that they don’t want to know what happened out of an inability to deal with feelings of loss and the practical implications of the relationship ending, Usatynski adds.

During this initial phase, the offending partner has no power to negotiate. They must simply sit and endure the rage and inquiry of the person whom they betrayed, Usatynski explains.

The second phase of PACT involves the offending partner providing the betrayed with whatever support is needed to correct the injury to the attachment bond between them, Usatynski says. This phase could involve declarations of commitment, appreciation or praise, as well as loving actions on the part of the offending partner. However, only the injured partner can decide what behaviors are reparative, she explains. The goal of this phase is resolution.

During the third phase, the injured partner lets the offending partner out of the “doghouse” and, together, the couple decide the new rules and new relationship contract they will have going forward, Usatynski says.

According to PACT, the dysregulation of one’s nervous system (such as during states of hyperarousal or hypoarousal) may lead to discord between the couple, Usatynski says. Thus, counselors should not only track clients for signs of dysregulation but also teach couples how to track each other’s nervous systems.

When Usatynski notices a client showing signs of dysregulation (e.g., changes in skin color, posture or vocal tone), she will ask the other partner if they recognize the change. For example, she might say, “Did you see how your partner’s skin color just changed when he or she said that? What do you think is going on with him or her right now?”

The goal is interactive regulation — the couple learning the specific strategies that soothe, regulate and excite each other, Usatynski notes. “These tracking skills are particularly important in the aftermath of betrayal because … [they help the offending partner] develop a greater awareness of how their behavior affects their partner. These skills also boost sensitivity and empathy,” she explains.

A silver lining?

Alsaleem compares infidelity to a heart attack for the relationship. “It’s a critical wake-up call,” he explains. “It forces [clients] to really lay all the cards on the table and make an informed decision.” Do they commit to fixing all of the deficits and work toward having a better, stronger relationship, or do they end their relationship and find new, healthier relationships?

Alsaleem says several of his clients began therapy devastated by the trauma of infidelity, but by the end, they admitted they were almost glad it had happened because it ultimately led them to having the relationship they always wanted with their partner. For some people, infidelity is the catalyst that ultimately allows them to get unstuck, he explains.

When clients decide to repair their relationship, Meyer helps them develop a new, explicitly stated contract regarding the rules in their relationship moving forward. She asks them to write down their agreement about these new relationship rules (including how quickly they would inform their partner that they experienced a compromising situation and what constitutes infidelity going forward) and ways they could be vulnerable to future affairs.

“As counselors, we can’t assume every couple wants or needs strict monogamy,” Meyer adds. So, this new agreement can take many forms depending on the relationship. For example, partners in a committed relationship may agree that being involved with another person sexually is OK as long as they discuss it first with their partner or keep everything in the open.

Of course, clients in infidelity counseling may also decide to end their relationship. Even so, by showing up to counseling, clients have taken the first step toward ensuring that infidelity does not define the rest of their lives, Alsaleem notes.

“Infidelity is an awful event, but it doesn’t have to be devastating. It actually has a silver lining. Infidelity — as awful as it is to experience, as awful as it is to happen — can actually be a good thing to help people change their lives,” Alsaleem says. “If treated appropriately, it can actually enrich people’s lives and make them more resilient and make them better in the long run.”



Related reading: An online companion article to this feature, “Helping clients rebuild after separation or divorce,” provides strategies for helping clients to process their grief and start over.



Lindsey Phillips is a contributing writer to Counseling Today and a UX content strategist. Contact her at [email protected] or through her website at


Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

Affair Recovery | How to get over cheating – Dr. Wyatt Fisher

I'm going to talk about the highly sensitive topic of affair recovery. Research shows around 50% of all marriages will experience infidelity on some level over the course of their relationship. In my private practice at least half of all the couples I work with are recovering from infidelity and they want help with "how to get over cheating." But before going further, let me define my terms. 

What is affair recovery? 

Affair recovery is the process of healing a relationship mentally, emotionally, and physically after it has experienced infidelity. Affair recovery usually takes anywhere from six months to two years and is often a painful process yet a possible one for couples who possess humility, compassion, and tenacity.

An affair can be anywhere from an emotional affair all the way to a sexual affair. The emotional affair is when you develop an inappropriately close emotional attachment with someone other than your spouse and that person becomes your best friend, your soul mate. You share everything with them and you start falling in love with them. With an emotional affair, it's usually just a matter of time before it turns sexual unless it's stopped. Obviously, a sexual affair is when there's sexual contact. Emotional affairs are usually more difficult to recover from instead of one night stands because of the attachment. In an emotional affair, a strong attachment has formed, which can be hard to break. In contrast, a one night stand often involves little to no attachment so is much easier to break. 

All forms of affairs are highly traumatic to marriages across the globe. The number one thing that rocks the foundation of security in a relationship is infidelity. No matter what language you speak, no matter what color of your skin, no matter what ethnicity or cultural background, infidelity rocks the foundation of relationships like nothing else. The betrayed partner usually develops symptoms akin to PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, because of the massive pain and loss of control. A lot of the symptoms can include intrusive thoughts, irritability, panic attacks, flashbacks, feeling numb to life, etc. The following steps are designed to help your relationship heal. 

FREE Masterclass on 5 Affair Recovery Mistakes To Avoid! 

Step One- Cease all contact

The first step is you have to stop all contact with the person you've had the affair with. That may require a variety of things. Depending on your situation, this may include quitting your job, moving to a different neighborhood or state, changing churches, etc. You have to cut out all contact with the affair person because if you don't, the affair will linger. A lot of people are under the misconception that they can stop the affair but still be friends with the person or still see them once in awhile. That is impossible. An affair is an addiction. The feel good chemicals in your brain were low because of things going on in your life and your marriage. Then, this person came around and met your needs and flooded your brain with feel good chemicals, which turned them into an addiction. Just like any type of addiction, whether it's heroin or cocaine or whatever, if you get around it, you're going to fall back into it. Likewise with affairs. If you've had an affair with somebody, that person has become your addiction so if you come in contact with them on any level, most likely you're going to fall right back into the affair. In addition, each time you have repeated contact with the affair person it will retraumatize your spouse and all healing in your marriage will be lost.

If you're the betrayed partner reading this and your partner won't end all contact with their lover, your first round of offense is to expose the affair to all your family and friends, which creates social pressure for your partner to end it. The intent is not to shame your partner but to have trusted family & friends confront them about their hurtful behavior to snap them back into reality. When you're in an affair, you often don't realize how devastating your behavior is because you're living a fantasy. If that social pressure doesn't make your partner end all contact with their lover, your next move should be separation with zero contact until your partner can prove they have no more contact with their lover. This is important for two reasons. First, it allows you to establish a boundary so you're not continually emotionally abused by your partner's ongoing contact with their lover. Second, it gives your partner a chance to see what life without you would be like. If after 3-6 months your partner still hasn't ended all contact with their lover then proceed with divorce.

Also, it's important for the wayward partner to take an STD test in case they contracted something during the affair. It's important for the betrayed partner to go with them for the results to hear it firsthand. This should be required even if the wayward partner promises it was only an emotional affair and nothing physical happened. You don't want to take any chances. The only thing worse than recovering from an affair is also getting an STD from your partner because of their affair.

Step Two- Open all accounts 

Step number two is you have to share all accounts and your phone with your partner to show you have no more contact with your lover. This is also recommended for couples where there's been no infidelity to foster trust and transparency. It communicates, I have nothing to hide. You have to voluntarily give your phone over whenever your spouse desires it. You've broken trust. To earn that trust back, you have to open up all accounts. Sometimes it can be tempting to have secret accounts. But if you really want your marriage to recover, there's no point in having any secrets. You have to turn it all over. It will help your betrayed spouse slowly start trusting you again because at this point your word means nothing. You've broken trust, you've lied. What you say doesn't matter. Your actions are what matters. Voluntarily opening up all accounts and  sharing your phone with your partner will help them start to heal. They can't start the healing journey until they know you have no more contact with your lover. Practicing openness also helps the wayward partner because affairs thrive in secrecy. Therefore, if there's no opportunity for it to grow in secrecy it will eventually die.

If your partner refuses or is angry about sharing all accounts and their phone to prove they have no more contact with their lover remember the two steps of offense above. Expose the affair to all friends and family to create social pressure and if that's not enough for them to cooperate get a separation until they do. If your partner is angry or resistant about sharing everything with you it's probably because they are trying to stay in touch with their lover and don't want to end it. 

One way to think about affairs is the person who steps outside the marriage and has the affair, that's 100% their fault. However, the climate in the marriage that made them susceptible to stepping outside the marriage is usually both partner's fault. 

Step Three- Show remorse 

Step three is you have to show sincere remorse. If you've had an affair then act indifferent toward the impact it's had on your spouse, recovery is not possible. You have to take ownership for how devastating this has been to your relationship. Even if you were unhappy, even if your needs weren't being met, you broke your vows to your spouse and betrayed them. Therefore, it's critical to take ownership for how much you have rocked the foundation of your marriage. Heartfelt remorse for having the affair is paramount. If you don't take ownership for the affair and aren't remorseful, it's going to be next to impossible for your partner to forgive you.

Step Four - Process the hurts

Step four is processing through your hurts, which may go both directions. Obviously the betrayed spouse is going to have a lot of hurt they'll need to express. But the wayward partner may also have hurts because perhaps one of the reasons they had the affair is their needs were unmet repeatedly for years despite their frequent complaints. So both of you need a method to get out your hurts. I teach couples a conflict resolution method called the reunite tool, which is a set of guidelines on how to keep conversations safe. When the hurt is not fully vented and released, it will come out in destructive ways through yelling, harsh comments, and contemptuous remarks, which will only make matters worse. Hurt people hurt people but that just damages the relationship further. So, having some type of method to work through your hurts constructively is key. You may need to work with a relationship coach to effectively do this. 

FREE Masterclass on 5 Affair Recovery Mistakes To Avoid! 

Step Five- Discuss the details

People often wonder how much detail should be shared about an affair. Some betrayed spouses want to know every detail while others only want a summary. Usually the wayward spouse doesn’t want to share any details, so the betrayed spouse keeps asking for them, sometimes for years. Each time the affair gets brought up, it re-traumatizes the relationship. The betrayed spouse should be in charge of how much detail is shared, not the wayward spouse. However, remember the more detail you hear the more devastated you may become. Therefore, consider carefully how much information you need to know and why. Make a list of all the questions you have about the affair for your wayward partner. Some request their wayward spouse to answer the questions while connected to a lie detector test to increase the trustworthiness of their answers. That's a personal decision up to the betrayed partner. If you're the wayward partner, your job is to work much harder at healing the marriage than your spouse so if they request a lie detector test, do it! However, after the questions, both partners should agree not to bring up the affair any longer, excluding triggers, because each time it's brought up the marriage will suffer.  

Step Six- Manage triggers

Part of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is getting triggered. Those who have been in combat will often experience flashbacks of the horrors they went through. Those who have been through natural disasters will often experience flashbacks of the devastation they experienced. Likewise, those who have been betrayed by an affair will often have flashbacks of the pain they suffered. Therefore, learning how to manage triggers is important for all couples who have experienced an affair. When triggered, the betrayed spouse must avoid two extremes. The first is not mentioning the trigger and suffering in silence, which will make you withdrawal emotionally. The second is becoming verbally aggressive toward your partner, which will lead to conflict. The third and recommended approach is to express each trigger with your tender underbelly. The tender underbelly is the tender feelings underneath your anger, such as sad, hurt, insecure, fearful, etc. For example, a tender underbelly statement when triggered could be “I was watching a movie last night that involved an affair and it triggered me with your affair and brought up all the feelings of sadness, hurt, and fear.” The job of the wayward spouse is to respond with empathy, an apology, and reassurance, such as “I can definitely see how the movie would have triggered your feelings of sadness, hurt, and fear with the affair and I’m so sorry I hurt you, and I promise never to do something like that again.” This type of response to triggers creates healing opportunities for the marriage and if handled in this way triggers will decrease with time. The opposite is also true. If the betrayed partner expresses triggers with anger and the wayward partner responds with defensiveness, triggers will increase with time.

Step Seven- Develop compassion

Step seven is developing compassion toward your partner's hurtful behavior. Working on compassion is step seven because it's only appropriate after the wayward partner has cut off all contact with their lover, opened all accounts, expressed sincere remorse, has listened effectively to your hurts, has cooperated with answering your questions about the affair, and has responded well to your triggers. Only then does it make sense to start working on compassion toward their hurtful behavior. Developing compassion doesn't excuse away their hurtful behavior but it helps explain why it occurred. There are four questions to answer to foster compassion toward your partner's hurtful behavior and it's important to review these four areas whenever your hurt rises. First, what about your partner's upbringing or past may have influenced their affair? For example, many adults raised in a home where they felt inadequate are at higher risk for an affair because an affair makes them feel extremely wanted and important. Second, what about your partner's circumstances may have influenced their affair? For example, the more stress people are under the less willpower they have to resist tempting situations. Third, what was your pattern of behavior that may have increased their susceptibility to an affair? For example, perhaps you had been avoiding emotional or physical intimacy for an extended period of time. Fourth, what about your past is getting activated by the affair? For example, perhaps you have a history of feeling rejected or abandoned growing up so that's heightening your reaction to the affair. The goal of the questions is to help you understand all the variables that contributed to the affair. If you don't understand all the variables, it's difficult to move forward. Reviewing the answers to the four questions often acts as ointment to the affair wound when it rises by cultivating compassion.

Step Eight- Watch your self-talk

Step eight is reflecting on what you think the affair says about you. The betrayed spouse will often have negative thoughts, such as,  "If I stay in this relationship I'm a fool" or "I'm unlovable or else they wouldn't have cheated." These statements are generalizations and need to be adjusted. The wayward spouse may also have negative thoughts about themselves, such as "I'm a piece of trash for cheating" or "I don't deserve a second chance. " How we think determines how we feel and how we behave. Therefore, getting our thoughts straight is paramount. To adjust your negative thoughts start by writing them down so you can look at them more objectively. Next, think of an alternative statement that's more balanced and truthful beside each original thought. For example, if the original thought is "If I stay in this relationship I'm a fool" an adjusted thought could be "If my partner hadn't cut off all contact with their lover, opened all accounts willingly, and expressed sincere remorse, I would be a fool for staying in this relationship. However, they have done those things so my decision to stay in the marriage is warranted." Another example, if the original thought is "I'm a piece of trash for cheating" an adjusted thought could be "I made a very poor decision to cheat that was extremely hurtful to my spouse; however, it doesn't mean I'm a piece of trash. I was in a bad place in life and made a terrible decision."

Step Nine- Fill your love buckets

Step nine is discovering the top things you need to fill up your love bucket to feel loved and satisfied and the top things your partner does that drains your love bucket. We all have a love bucket inside of us and we all need certain things to fill it up. Some common fillers include adoration, affection, sex, emotional closeness, thoughtful gestures, etc. Some common drainers include criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, contempt, not sharing power, etc. When you're dating you naturally fill up your partner's love bucket. However, after you're together for awhile most people stop filling their partner's love bucket and start draining it instead. Before long, the full bucket that made you fall in love with your partner becomes more and more empty until it's dry. Dry buckets increase susceptibility for affairs. Therefore, one of the best ways to affair proof your relationship moving forward is making sure you're both excelling at your partner's fillers they desire while minimizing the drainers they dislike to keep your buckets full. Here's an article to learn more about this model and reversing a loveless marriage.

Step Ten- Develop boundaries

The last step on recovering from an affair is discussing what boundaries you both will follow moving forward to reduce your affair risk. What's that going to look like for your relationship? For example, how should boundaries look when you're traveling away from one another? How should it look if you're going out with your friends for the night without your partner? What boundaries should you have around colleagues? What about at the gym? What should your limits be with alcohol when you're not together? What's not acceptable to discuss with the opposite gender? Working through these questions is vital to develop a unified front against future affairs. So many couples fall into affairs because they put themselves in risky situations without realizing it. Don't let that happen to you. Discuss what your boundaries as a couple will be to fortify your marriage from affairs moving forward.

As you can see, the road to affair recovery is narrow, but there is a road! Couples who follow these steps faithfully will discover the answers to "how to get over cheating." 

For further reading check out the articles below.

Surviving infidelity

Is my marriage over?

Should I get a divorce?

Sign up for Dr. Wyatt's FREE resource on the Best Way To Improve Your Communication. Get it here!

Leave a comment below on which step you feel is hardest in affair recovery and why.

How to survive infidelity - Afisha Daily

Bombora publishing house published a book by family psychologist and sexologist Marina Travkova “Infidelity. Why do loved ones change, is it worth forgiving, is it possible to avoid. We are publishing a fragment of a book on how to take care of yourself and deal with the pain of infidelity.

The pain you feel when you find out about the betrayal shows that you are human and that you are a normal person. Pain is a signal: “this is wrong” and “it shouldn’t be like this.” It hurts not because you are weak, can't cope, or lack the pride to "cut off" and leave, but because you are a living person, because this relationship was dear to you.

“But he is right,” clients tell me over and over again in approximately the same text, “because he told me that he did not like this and that, and if I knew ...” Yes, hindsight is almost always possible remember all sorts of signs foreshadowing trouble: complaints, dissatisfied looks, sighs about weight and age, statements that “we live somehow insipidly”, or others that “I want a bright life”. But does this relieve your partner or partner of the responsibility for direct and clear expression of their feelings? Apart from complaints, were there alternatives offered?

Quite often we underestimate the cumulative effect of quarrels. They may seem petty, and if reconciliation comes after them, it’s hard to understand why saying “take out the trash” 199 times was a reason for conflict, but then reconciliation, but the 200s led to flirting with “such an economic neighbor, who, probably, , there is nothing to be reminded of"? And yet, none of us can read other people's minds. And such a “pattern of communication”, where one is offended, but at the same time he waved his hand and is silent for a long time, and the other does not even realize that they are “hoarding” annoyance at him (or guesses, but does not guess about the scale), - such a “pattern” of a couple put together, so the responsibility for this can be safely divided into two.

Relationships are always built by both parties. How they reached a dead end (if it is a dead end) and why and what is your role in this - this can be analyzed.

But if they were unfaithful to you, and your analysis begins with thoughts about what your fault is, stop. This is the act of the initiator of treason. He himself is to blame.

Life goes on. Not all of us can afford to be sad for a few months, drop everything and leave. We have things to do, work, responsibilities, children. You have to live somehow. But it will be easier if you don't pretend that everything is the same as always . Especially if it's not like that at all. This is a difficult period, and it needs strength. This is not a sprint, but rather a marathon with stops. Therefore, it is better to immediately accept that you are "sick" and start taking care of yourself.

Do not expect exploits from yourself

Treat yourself as a person who bears the disease on his feet. After all, if you had the flu, a temperature above 38, or a broken leg, you would understand the need for treatment or the impossibility of pole vaulting tomorrow. Unfortunately, many people, having received the trauma of rejection - having learned about the betrayal of a partner, try to save face - behave as if nothing had happened, maintain the same pace and rhythm of life.

Mental anguish costs strength - do not consider it weakness. Don't consider it a lack of will. Stop reproaching yourself for the fact that your heart is not made of stone , for what you loved and probably still love. Emotional experiences cost strength, and these forces need to: a) spend less, b) replenish more. You can spend less by postponing or removing from your life some things that are not the most necessary and not too pleasing to you.

Make up for more - pampering yourself, taking care of yourself, giving yourself little joys: everything that is available to you, everything that can cause at least some positive emotion. A cup of your favorite tea? Book? A conversation with a close friend? Sport? Taking care of yourself is the first and surest remedy.

Don't be alone

Ask for help from people you trust. Create a list of people who can come to your aid. Perhaps someone can distract you and take you to the cinema. Someone to lend money if needed. Someone can just sit next to you while you cry. Most importantly, don't be silent and don't be alone. Who can you call in critical moments? Maybe someone will look for a psychologist for you, and someone will bring valerian. Don't isolate yourself.

But! In no case do not share your feelings with people who are trying to explain to you that you yourself are to blame.

Do not listen to anyone's version of why what happened to you and your couple or family happened. All people look at the situation through the filters of their experience, but no one knows it better than you, so advice is of little relevance here. Often, when infidelity occurs, the injured party tries to rely on the extended family: on their relatives or partner. Unfortunately, in our reality, this is one of the surest ways to get additionally injured. The relatives of your partner or partner, and even your own, are people who probably care about both you and your half. So it is more difficult for them than for anyone else to remain neutral in this situation. Their first reaction may be - why is he/she doing this to you? It may seem to them that if they find the cause in you, then everything can be corrected through you. Don't let these kinds of thoughts enter your brain.

Physical activity

Mandatory. Any sport available to you, as well as long walks. Even if you don't want to get out of bed and move. Even if there is no money for a subscription to a fitness room. Move. Leave early and walk a couple of stops. Turn on the music and dance. Run in the morning. Push up from the floor. Even a few squats - and they will save every time they "cover".


Yes, this is one of the important components in the fight against acute stress. You need to eat, even if you don't feel like it. Four times a day - and make sure that the food is varied and includes fruits and vegetables. If you are one of those who tend to "seize stress", especially follow the usefulness of the diet. And drink more water. Imagine you are experiencing stress right now. Your body works like a small biochemical factory, in your blood now, most likely, is a cocktail of stress hormones . Meals and liquids (healthy liquids, not alcohol!) reduce their concentration in the blood, and it becomes easier.


If you have difficulty with sleep, appetite, you experience irritation, lethargy, tearfulness, then you should not neglect a visit to a doctor: a therapist, neurologist or psychiatrist. It is they who can prescribe sedatives, sleeping pills, and nervous system strengthening agents that are right for you.

A doctor is needed for more than just writing a prescription. The reaction to the drug is always individual. The specialist must remain in contact with you to understand how you will react to this or that remedy, so that he can adjust the dose or change the remedy in case of intolerance.

Dealing with Intrusive Thoughts

Many cheating survivors complain that they can't get rid of the thoughts that creep into their heads uncontrollably - about the partner, about what happened, how much they deserved it and why it all happened. This "thinking chewing gum" does not give rest, interferes with concentration and work, and with a rich imagination, it can give rise to more and more fears. One of the simple and accessible ways is to talk about what happened with a person who is accessible to you, reasonable and on your side. Talking to friends or girlfriends - it helps, but only partly.

There are other ways: for example, write letters to your abuser. But - and this is important! — do not give them to him. The technology is quite simple: you write a letter to the wrong partner / partner or to the one with whom they were unfaithful to you. Write without censorship, without restraint in expressions, without choosing a style. Pour on paper everything that is and how it is. Then you put this letter aside (just make sure that it does not catch the addressee's eyes), take it the next day, read it as if you were the recipient. Then answer yourself / yourself on his or her behalf in the way you think you would be answered, also without choosing expressions. In a day, take this answer, read it as if you were really answered, and write your own on it. And so you can "correspond" until you run out of emotions or some logic of what happened and how you feel about it becomes visible in the letters.

If you get stuck while doing this task - you write for a long time, get even more upset, then limit yourself in time. Set a timer for 10-15 minutes and tell yourself that this is the time in which you should express your thoughts. As soon as it rings, you stop, even if the phrase breaks off in mid-sentence. It also helps to keep a diary if you like this way. Better not arbitrarily, but using diary practices.


Cheating devastates emotionally. Perhaps you will have days when it will seem to you that there is not a drop of joy left in the world. It is all the more important during this period to turn to everything that you love and that brings this joy. To every possible little thing. Delicious cake? Extra hour of sleep? Favorite song? Imagine that in your place, in exactly the same situation as you are now, there was someone very dear to you and loved. Your girlfriend, sister or even daughter. And her reactions are the same as yours now. How would you take care of her? What would you like to do for her? If you have an answer, do it for yourself. A massage, a new haircut, shopping - all means are good if they make you happy.

Sleep disturbance is one of the most alarming signs that should not be ignored. In a dream, we restore our resources, and a stressful situation spends them many times over. So you need more sleep. Nightmares at first time are normal, but if you fall asleep badly and wake up in a bad and depressed mood, if your sleep is interrupted, if you jump up from something like panic or pain in your heart and cannot fall asleep for a long time - then pay attention to the point about pharmaceuticals and to the next paragraph.

"Eat Pray Love"

Don't take this literally. This phrase is the title of a book by Elizabeth Gilbert, in which the heroine makes sense of herself after a divorce. The central message of the book is simple - life is wonderful and it goes on no matter what. Try new things consciously and thoughtfully. New experiences, new people, new places - everything you come into contact with will allow you to learn something new about yourself. What do you like or dislike. What are they capable of or not. Live, not just
walk through the days as a gray shadow and meet the world around you. Even if traveling, changing jobs and other life circumstances are not available to you, you can always organize novelty with less effort: move furniture, change curtains. Once I talked with a person who considers himself a shaman, and received advice.

When we walk around the apartment along the same paths, and along the street - the same routes, then we become visible to demons, and they pursue us, and with them - troubles and sorrows. So confuse your demons! Park in an unusual place, go to the store the other way, change the brand of perfume - shake it off yourself, because the demons are looking for us by the smell of sadness that has settled on the usual routes of our soul.

I don't have to be a shaman to tell you that our brains are neuroplastic. When we "feed" it with new things - tastes, touches, impressions, activities - it builds new neural connections, and the more of them, the easier it is for us.

Help from specialists

It's not a shame! You must understand that the nervous system may need the same attention as, say, the skeletal system, that is, your skeleton. If you twist your finger or break your hand, you will definitely go to the doctor. If your nervous system fails, you need a doctor too! If you cannot get sleep for a long time, you have increased anxiety, depressed mood, irritability, loss of appetite, unwillingness to communicate with people, apathy, headaches, panic attacks (rapid heartbeat, fear, lump in the throat, it is difficult to breathe - as if out of the blue), suicidal thoughts - you need a therapist or psychiatrist. The word "psychiatrist" in this context does not mean that something is wrong with you or that you are crazy. The spectrum of diseases that are not diseases of the mind, but are diseases of situations - reactions to acute grief, to catastrophic events - are treated with medication, this is the medical field. And to help you get through the loss, experience strong feelings and make new plans - all this can be done with a psychologist. Remember that asking for help in a difficult situation is not a sign of weakness. The ability to calculate one's strength and understand their limit is a sign of adulthood . And, most importantly, in the most difficult moments, remember: the night is darkest just before dawn. Everything really does pass.

Publishing House


How to survive betrayal, forgive the cheater and move on

370 743

Cheating Man and woman Relationship crisis Marshall. “Having survived the betrayal of a loved one, they decide to save the relationship, but even if everything looks good in a couple, many still periodically return to what happened in their thoughts and cannot completely forgive their partner.”

In such cases, he advises to write down and analyze your thoughts and emotions, as this will help you manage them. And in working with such clients, he uses an approach based on five simple techniques.

Accept your feelings

Please don't reproach yourself for not being able to magically leave it all in the past and move on as if nothing had happened. Perhaps your husband's infidelity has been the biggest shock in your life so far and it poses a serious threat to your well-being, so I'm not surprised that the pain keeps coming back and the same thoughts are spinning in your head. And you still can't understand how this monstrous betrayal could even happen.

Action #1

Saying your feelings out loud instead of letting them bubbling up and down inside is really helpful. Tell yourself, "I feel angry, I'm worried, I'm confused" or something else. You don't have to do anything about these feelings - just acknowledge them.

Sometimes I ask my clients to start keeping a diary of feelings, where they record the time, the feeling and the reason that caused it at the moment

Keep it for several days or weeks, and you will find certain patterns. Believe me: if you notice your feelings, observe them, and do not suppress them, they will gradually weaken and become more manageable over time.

Work on your thoughts

Many feelings arise as a result of our thoughts. We tend to believe everything that our inner voice broadcasts as the ultimate truth. However, he often exaggerates or combines events from different life situations to provide us with irrefutable evidence that life is over. (I call this "catastrophic thinking.")

Reception #2

Don't let bad thoughts poison your life, write them down. Write as if your inner voice is dictating to you. And when you write everything, word by word, you will see that there is nothing particularly frightening there. Go back to the beginning of the text and look for exaggerations. For example, you wrote: "I'm so tired of thinking about cheating every day." I would be hooked by the phrase "every day." I think the word "often" reflects reality more accurately.

I know it's a very minor change, but the new word doesn't feel so helpless anymore, does it?

And then you might want to add a few clarifications. And write: “I often think about cheating and sometimes feel exhausted after it, although it also happens that after that I feel better.” I guess that the latter option is not only softer, but also more accurate. Reread the text again and pay attention to “always”, “never”, “should”, “should” and other words from the category of black and white vocabulary.

Think about what these memories want to tell you

You remember your husband's infidelity for a reason. Not because you are a bad person and are not able to forgive the betrayal of a partner or do not want to save the marriage. Most likely, your feelings are trying to tell you that some issues remain unresolved and that your relationship needs to be given more attention.

For example, your sex life has become too insipid, or your husband is constantly in conflict with your daughter, and you are forced to be torn between them, as if between two fires. If you continue to ignore these warning signals, your unconscious mind will send them over and over again.

Session #3

Go back to the diary entries that your inner voice dictated to you. Once you've filtered out the exaggerations, you're left with a few fairly straightforward tasks.

For example, balance work and home life; go out somewhere together, because you have not done this even once in the last couple of months. Since you have already guessed what the memories are telling you, it would be quite logical to take practical steps to solve these problems. For example, turn off the phone after 9pm or book a table at your favorite restaurant.

Stop expecting the impossible from your partner and move on

If a person works as a secretary in the reception, you are unlikely to expect that he will balance correctly or conduct excellent business negotiations. But I sometimes meet pioneers who expect from their partner some special spiritual subtlety, the ability to be aware of their own and other people's feelings, which in no way corresponds to his upbringing and character traits.

In particular, to the question “Why did you need this novel?” in many cases, the answers will be incomprehensible, simply because up to this point no one has asked a person about motivation. You may be counting on your partner to listen and sympathize even when you get angry, criticize, or shame him, when what he needs most right now is to work with a therapist who can get through the shell to the person who is looking for support.

Reception No. 4

We tend to see our partners as we like to see them, rather than as they really are. And yet, for some reason, we are sure that they think exactly the same as we do. Although girls are usually raised differently than boys, the appearance of children affects women and men differently. Try to accept in a partner not only his strengths, but also his shortcomings. Be aware that there is something impossible for him, beyond his strength.

Get rid of perfectionism

The most destructive of all emotions is shame. You will feel embarrassed for the recent tantrum or outburst of anger, and even more ashamed of you for being cheated on, and for the fact that you, apparently, are not good enough.

Since this feeling is unpleasant for us, we try desperately to avoid it. The most typical way is to try to be perfect in everything and hope that this will protect us from possible future suffering. We try to be the best for our partner and hope that he too will turn out to be the perfect repentant sinner.

I also often meet people who portray their relationship before their betrayal as ideal and then become doubly angry at their spouse, who ruined this whole idyll.

Reception No. 5

I like the phrase of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant: “You can’t cut anything straight out of such a crooked log as a person.” In other words, we cannot be perfect because we are human. And when we make a mistake or fail to achieve the impossible, we are nonetheless ashamed of it.

Returning to the first point, take this feeling in yourself and analyze the thoughts that arise about this.

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