You got caught. The two worlds you’ve been living in have come crashing together. Your wife is a wreck. Her mind is now contaminated and her anxiety and anger consumes her. She feels crazy and she is making you feel crazy. You were unprepared for her intense agony. You are wondering if she will ever be able to forgive you, move on and stop asking relentless questions. The short answer is that this depends almost entirely on you and how you behave from this point forward. Though intense, her response is a normal reaction to trauma. Yes, trauma. The foundation of her life – her husband and intact family – has been threatened and her mind will react accordingly. Her blind faith in you has been shattered and she will need time to process and grieve this loss. If you want to spare her further agony, follow the below steps.
- Research the symptoms of Post Infidelity Stress Syndrome. This is what your wife is experiencing 24 hours a day. You need to be empathic, supportive and patient during her recovery. There is a direct correlation between how empathic you are to her thoughts and feelings and how quickly her symptoms will lessen in frequency and intensity.
- Find a licensed marriage counselor with experience in affair recovery. Do not put this off. The sooner you have a professional to shepherd you through this recovery process, the sooner you can get on with your lives.
- Apologize, apologize and apologize some more. Do not underestimate the power of hearing “I’m so sorry”. Every time she hears you say these words, she hears your remorse and she feels safer. In the early stages, her emotional safety is your number one priority.
- Be patient with her endless probing. Her mind is reeling and trying to make sense of this agonizing experience. She will have hundreds and hundreds of questions. Answer them directly. The more direct and honest you are, the faster she will be able to regain trust. If you deflect, hesitate, get defensive, try to move on too quickly or resist in any way, she will believe that you still have something to hide. Remember, her emotional safety is your top priority.
- Be an open book. Offer to share all of your passwords, provide unlimited access to your phone or computer and never, ever react defensively when she asks for information.
- Reassure her that she is wanted and desirable. She previously believed that she was special and irreplaceable. Her mind is torturing her with, “What does she offer him that I don’t?” Now she feels she has competition for your affection. She’s hyper aware of all of her perceived deficiencies. Choosing another woman shakes the very core of her self-esteem. Make sure she knows you would marry her all over again.
- Be patient with the process. The path to recovery is not a straight line. You will have ups and downs, setbacks and gains. You may feel like newlyweds one moment and ready to throw in the towel the next. Be patient with your wife and be patient with her recovery. Never forget who is responsible for the depth of her wound.
- Don’t miss this opportunity. Times of great suffering and vulnerability are opportunities for emotional connection. Emotional connection is what binds us together and protects the marriage. Maybe the loss of emotional connection was a contributing factor to the affair. Don’t let the pain and turmoil drive you apart – use it to grow closer than you’ve ever been. Recommit to a new marriage. Write new vows. And choose to live happily ever after.