How to Survive and Recover after an Affair

By Dr. Paul Kelly, Updated September 3, 2023

How to Survive and Recover after an Affair

Many people have told me that their greatest heartache came when they discovered that their partner was having an affair.  If this has happened to you, then you know how intense and traumatizing it can feel.  I am writing this post to offer some advice and guidance for both of the partners who have been affected by an affair.  Of course you will have to find your own way through to recovery, but your journey can be easier and less confusing if you have a good road map to help you find your way.

The advice in this blog post is based on the 2023 edition of an excellent book: Getting Past the Affair. The book has been extensively updated since it was first published in 2007.

The therapists at my Clinic often recommend this book for people in couples therapy and also for  people who come for individual therapy after an affair.  It is a very helpful book.  My copy is full of underlining and margin notes.  Obviously I cannot summarize a 294 page book in a blog post.  I have instead selected some key points to give you a sense of direction and hope for your future, whether or not you decide to stay in your relationship.

  • About 60-75 percent of married people stay together after an affair.
  • Couples, who commit to understanding and fixing what happened, can end up with a relationship that is stronger and more fulfilling after the affair.
  • If you decide to leave because of the affair,  then you should be able to start a new satisfying relationship.  But, before jumping in to a new relationship, allow yourself time to deal with the emotional effects of the affair.
  • In order to survive and recover after an affair you, as a couple, need to accomplish three tasks: find ways to manage and minimize painful emotions; understand how the affair developed; and reach an explicit informed plan about how to move forward.
  • The book, Getting Past the Affair, provides excellent guidance about how to work through each of these tasks.

5 Tips For Recovery and Healing From the Authors:

  1. It is better to continue to live under the same roof while you take time to decide what to do about the relationship, unless there is a risk of abuse or assault.
  2. It is important to avoid saying or doing things that make things worse.
  3. When you talk about the affair do not ask for explicit sexual details.  These details will stick in your mind and trouble you.  Hearing them will not help with your healing.
  4. Agree to have times and situations where you focus on everyday life and avoid talking about the affair.  You can learn how to get through the day, how to talk with each other, how to deal with family and friends, and how to take care of yourself.
  5. The authors also provide some guidance about when getting outside help for yourself may be a good idea.  They recommended you consult a therapist if you have severe or persistent anxiety, depression or rage, or if you find yourself doing things ‘out of character’ such as overusing alcohol or drugs, excessive shopping, neglecting your children, or being persistently unable to make any critical decisions.

Here are some last thoughts from me.  If you are dealing with the effects of an affair now, try to be kind to yourself.  The path to healing takes time.  It can be nurtured but not rushed.  I wish you well and I hope that some of the advice from the 2nd Edition of, Getting Past the Affair, will be of benefit for you.