8 Steps for Moving on after an Affair ...

Have you ever tried moving on after an affair? Infidelity rocks even the strongest relationships, and can lead to years of pain, anguish, hurt and mistrust. You’ll get advice from everyone you tell, from your parents to your cat, and be told that time heals all more times than you’ll care to imagine. But it’s not true, really. Time doesn’t heal; it’s what you use the time for that does the healing. Here’s how to kick-start your recovery, and end the anguish when you're moving on after an affair.

1. Retreat…

The very first step to moving on after an affair has to happen immediately. The cheater needs to leave. This doesn’t have to be permanent; they can spend a few nights with their parents, friends, or in a hotel. It goes without saying that they shouldn’t go to the person they cheated with! This will provide both people with time to think, and process the new information. Keep calm, and agree to speak in a few days. Not only will you be able to work through things better this way, but it has the added benefit of showing the cheater exactly what they have to lose. If the cheater won’t go, you might have to go yourself. Pack up some things, and seek people who love you and will nurture you. You need to spend some time looking after yourself, and controlling your emotions, before trying to deal with the fallout.

2. That Way Madness Lies…

Don’t ask the cheater why they did it. It’s a very normal question to ask, and most people do, but the cheater won’t know the real reason. They might have 101 excuses, or 5 million reasons, from missing the excitement to feeling neglected, or trapped. Don’t listen to them. There is never any reason to look to someone outside the relationship to solve problems. It’s obvious that a new, exciting and forbidden relationship will seem more tempting than an old, familiar relationship. If you search for reasons, or beg for answers, you’ll just create a pile of excuses. You will get a reason, but not now. That way madness lies.

3. Be Independent…

Even before you’ve decided whether to stay or go, you need to re-establish some independence. Make sure you’ve got a bank account in your own name. Make plans to see friends more, or finally look into that class you wanted to do. If you are feeling low, get your haircut or go to a museum. Do things FOR YOU. If you are married, have children or own property together, see a solicitor to find out where you’d stand if you did split. Knowledge is power, so even if you don’t think you’ll leave, make the appointment.

4. Observe the Help…

Take a few minutes to analyse what the cheater is doing to make life better. For your relationship to have any chance of a future, they should be apologetic, and desperate to make it up to you. They should be willing to talk when you need to, answer any questions that you’ve got, and generally reassure you. They should be open to letting you look at their phone or emails, and let you know where they are – they have to accept that they shattered your trust, and try to build that back up. Purchase books such as “Not Just Friends,” and get them to read a copy too. The cheater should also go to counseling to talk through what they did and what motivated them to do so. If they are blaming you, or making excuses, they aren’t taking responsibility, and you can’t move on.

5. Deal with the Other Person…

When you first discover the affair, you are likely to hate the other person. You’ll probably blame them, subconsciously, for stealing away your partner. Resist the urge to contact them in any way at first. Give yourself a few days, and then rationally assess the situation. Don’t hate the other woman – that gives them an awful lot of power over you. And don’t make demands that she never contact him again – you want him to choose that, or he’ll just fall into bed with the next woman he has a chance with. Meeting the other woman can be cathartic for some people, and utterly destructive for others. If you do decide to meet, prepare yourself carefully, and behave with complete dignity. Don’t be aggressive or rude, and don’t make threats. Just be strong, and let all your feelings out when she’s gone. It might offer closure. If the other person is a woman, make sure that precautions against pregnancy were taken. It’s always advisable to have a full STD test, even if your partner claims to have used protection.

6. Revenge Hurts…

Revenge might be sweet, and best served cold…but it’s not healthy. In the early days, your brain might process all the pain and hurt by cooking up revenge schemes. That’s fine, and completely normal, as long as you don’t follow through with any of them. Instead, find a productive way to channel the hurt and get it out of your system. Exercising hard can help more than you’d ever believe, and painting and singing are also great ways. Yell, if you need to, or go out dancing. Talk to your friends. But don’t actually take revenge.

7. Be Aware of the Stages…

If you decide to give things another shot, be aware that there are a number of typical stages that you’ll go through. The first is a period of intense bonding. You might find that your sex life is suddenly on fire, that you are closer than ever, that you spend hours talking to each other. You’ll get a sense of euphoria, a sort of false security – and it can be very convincing. But this is a stage designed to help you through, and there are harder stages afterwards. Don’t be surprised when those tougher times come – your cocoon of closeness has to break for you to live normal lives, and to be able to work out what went wrong.

8. Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away…

Successfully moving on after an affair doesn’t mean you have to stay or go, and your initial reaction may change significantly over time. You might decide that it’s actually too hard, or that you deserve better. You might find out new details, and realize that you haven’t been told the whole story, or that the other person is pregnant. Or you might just want a normal, functional and happy relationship without the baggage. It is totally okay to change your mind. Disengage and walk away when you need to. Never stay together for the children, either. The idea that children will be damaged by a broken home is crazy; it is infinitely better for a child to have two parents that are healthy, happy and well-adjusted but live apart, than to live in a battleground. And it doesn’t matter if you don’t argue, or if you only discuss things when your children are asleep, or if you live in a strange faux-friendly family. You are teaching your children what to expect from relationships, and promoting their emotional and social development. If you are acting in the best interests of your children, you are usually much better off walking away.

Finally, remember that moving on after an affair is tough. You deserve love and happiness, but the path isn’t always smooth. You might find yourself waking up thinking about it in five years, and that’s okay. If your partner is truly sorry, they’ll make sure you are fully healed – however long it takes. Be kind to yourself, and listen to your heart and your head; they’ll get you through this okay. Good luck – and please leave your best tips here!