Due to the intense pain that extramarital affairs cause, it can be really difficult to accept that recovery is a possibility, as the shock, confusion, and heartbreak are often too overwhelming.
This, in turn, causes the recovery process to feel daunting because it requires healing across three entities, the partner who committed the affair, the injured partner, and the relationship.
When looking at the affair recovery timeline, it’s very probable that these three entities will need different time lengths to completely process and accept what has happened.
For those who are the injured partner, the general rule of thumb, is that it will take approximately one to two years, with eighteen months being the middle ground. It is important to note that the progression through the timeline steps are not universal and will be different for everyone.
Zero – Six Weeks: this stage is hallmarked by emotional instability as this is when the discovery is made or told to you. How the affair is discovered or told to you matters, as this determines your initial reaction.
Often a meltdown will occur due to emotional trauma. This is followed by the attempt to understand the why behind the infidelity. It is extremely important at this stage to not make any big decisions about the relationship as the heightened emotional state may cause regrets.
It is critical that the injured partner stabilizes themselves so that they are eating and sleeping as best as possible. Although the injured partner will experience many ups and downs from vigilance to anger, to hatred and disgust, they must not blame themselves.
The offending partner must cut off the other person completely in a way that their spouse agrees with.
Three to Six Months: permitting that the first stage has been stabilized, then core issues may be dealt with during this time period.
Unfortunately, during this stage, there may be a lot of fighting due to improper communication techniques and dominating emotions.
It is extremely important for the offending partner to show their spouse that they care (done through empathy and willingness) and that a “why” has been established for how the event happened.
There will be a lot of grieving in this period for what was and what has been lost which means that both partners have to regulate their emotions carefully with one another. The unfaithful partner should take the required actions to showcase and reassure their spouse is safe.
It is not uncommon for there to be depressive episodes, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive thoughts, and anxiety.
Months Nine to Twelve: this stage involves potential reconciliation and forgiveness as it is a time of acceptance. What is important here is that the hurt partner gets reassurance that their partner is committed to them.
Sometimes untrue thoughts will pop up, it is important that these are talked through in the open as to avoid hopeless feelings. Permitting that genuine remorse is shown, the third-party is removed, and there is understanding, both partners have a chance at starting over.
Months Twelve to Eighteen: this stage is about choosing to move forward as a couple. What is important here is that there is an improvement in conflict resolution and communication. If this has been achieved, then the couple should understand what one another needs emotionally.
Both partners need to open up and choose to reconnect as one entity. There will still be some bad days, but they will be considerably less jarring at this point.
Eighteen to Twenty-Four Months: generally speaking, this stage includes maintenance. Maintenance is different for every couple, but it should be about affirming marital satisfaction, stabilization, and commitment.
Now, this is just a general affair recovery timeline, so it will be vastly different for some couples than others.
For instance, couples who are dealing with sex addiction will find that it takes many years to even get to stage three and four while others may be able to get to stage two rather quickly but then take years to move forward.
Every individual is different and will take different amounts of time to learn to heal, learn to re-trust, and learn to deal with the pain and obsessive thoughts.
It is important that couples seek out professional advice, take courses, and learn how to communicate with one another as this helps with the healing process and the fights. Plus, couples must understand what has happened and why because only then can one choose to forgive the digression.
For the injured partner specifically, it is critical that a safe space is found and non-confrontational communication ways are learned so that there can be a reconnection without drama or ultimatums.
This will put you on the road to understanding the core issues quicker and allow you to advocate for yourself and what you need for moving forward.