How Long Does It Take To Heal After An Affair?
The 7 common characteristics of couples who heal sooner.
Although there’s not a quick one size fits all answer,
because every couple is different depending upon what they’re
EACH doing to heal from the affair, and what they’re doing as a couple too.
But, in a general sense, most experts in infidelity recovery agree it takes at
least 2 years until a couple will start healing.
(With healing being defined as reestablishing trust, intimacy and connection).
Ultimately, the real answer to this question
is it usually takes longer than you think it will,
and there’s no quick path to getting over it, unfortunately.
Hearing that it can take 2 years will really worry some of you, I know.
It did us.
You might think you can’t wait that long, or that your marriage will never make it.
But keep in mind, things will be getting better along the way, as long as you’re doing
the right things (which I’ll share what those are in a minute)
… so although it might not be as good as you want it in 1 year, you’ll see how far you’ve come since D-day just the year before.
However, those who try to sweep it under the rug, forget about it, and go back to ‘normal’ usually suffer later as a result.
It’s like having surgery to remove cancer- nobody wants to go through it, but if you just ignore it,
it’ll grow into something worse than you started with.
For some couples, I’ve heard it taking much longer than 2 years,
yet, some couples will start to heal much sooner than 2 years.
Why is that? Why do some couples seem to heal from an affair sooner than others?
There seems to be a common thread in the couples that express healing from the affair quicker.
Here’s 7 things the couples who heal quicker all have in common:
1. Both the betrayed spouse, and the unfaithful spouse,
seek outside help and support when possible.
The sooner you can get good help the better you’ll be.
This might mean each seeing individual counselors, and then together seeking help
from a marriage counselor (preferably specializing in infidelity).
Read my post about choosing a marriage counselor here.
I realize not everyone has the ability to see a counselors, so look for alternatives to that when possible.
I’ve heard of good results from online counseling sessions or coaches that specialize in affair recovery work.
For the unfaithful wife, you’ve got a lot of work to do yourself.
Ending the affair is only the beginning.
For your marriage to be restored, YOU have to also be restored and learn how to heal your soul of whatever
it was that left you looking elsewhere for fulfillment.
2. They have realistic expectations.
They keep their expectations realistic and understand it’s going to take patience and time to get through this.
I wish it was just a matter of wanting it to happen badly enough- but recovery work takes time, and
consistently doing the right things over time.
I know, I hate that too.
But if you can hold onto your end goal (of a happier, restored marriage or growing old together),
and keep that in your mind during the hard days, it’ll make the time manageable.
Healing also requires a lot of patience with each other, and with the process.
There will be days when you’re going to get on each other’s nerves and feelings will be raw
and it’ll be easy to say things you shouldn’t.
Have patience with each other-
(this is especially important for you unfaithful spouses to
have empathy and patience with the roller coaster emotions your spouse is understandably feeling).
There are no short cuts, as I mentioned..
I’ve never been the most patient person so this was really hard for me.
Especially when it seemed like some days we took 5 steps backwards…
but remember, you’re in this for the long term with each other, and
those 5 steps backwards might have actually come after 6 forward.
So hey, even 1 step forward in the end is still progress.
3. They both learn how to manage intrusive thoughts and feelings.
There are many ways we can each learn to manage intrusive thoughts
through cognitive therapy techniques and the science that goes along with that.
Both the betrayed and unfaithful have to learn how to do this-for different reasons.
We can’t expect to reach a place of healing and peace within our own minds, if
we allow every thought to stay and take root.
Our thoughts create our feelings and those feelings drive our actions (or behaviors),
so learning about HOW to take control (or take captive) thoughts, images or worries
will be very important for healing after an affair.
It’s a skill that takes time (that word again) to master, but it’s a key piece to the
healing of those couples who seem to recover quicker.
But getting past obsessive thoughts will gradually diminish over time and you’ll
eventually realize they’re not tormenting you like they used to.
I teach how to get control of obsessive thoughts in my End Your Affair course.
4. Many couples found their faith was a key part in their recovery.
There’s a reason many recovery programs call upon God to help them through the difficult healing process.
I know we wouldn’t have made it without God in our lives and I don’t mean some trite prayers and church on Sunday.
We were in crisis mode and our prayers were desperate cries for help, and I knew He heard them, even if I didn’t see
immediate change. The peace and comfort from His spirit helped us weather the storms that were too big for us on our own.
We began praying together every night again, like we had in our early years together.
There’s something powerful about praying together, as you join with God and hear your spouses heart and
believe for restoration that you’re both acknowledging to the Almighty you can’t muster up on your own strength.
God’s in the miracle working business. He loves taking those things that are broken and look hopeless
and making them new and beautiful. He did it with our marriage and he can do this with yours if you’re willing to
believe and have faith.
5. Have one D-day and minimize any new disclosures.
When more facts are uncovered little by little (also called trickle truth), there is always going to be more damage done.
Sometimes this happens because the unfaithful purposely withheld information, sometimes they legitimately forgot some
details or facts and sometimes they only shared partial facts.
All of that is obviously damaging to a betrayed spouse, and to the foundation of trust trying to be rebuilt in a marriage.
I suggest being honest from the beginning with a full confession of the truth.
To aid in knowing where your ground zero for healing is, figure the last contact with an affair partner is the starting point-
because a couple cannot really heal whenever there is still any contact with the affair partner.
You can read my breaking up with an affair partner series here.
This is often a key sticking point in recovery, after an affair is initially disclosed;
when many unfaithful spouses make their second biggest mistake- not ending it immediately.
If you’re the unfaithful wife and you haven’t fully been honest about when contact with your AP ended,
when it comes out later, it’s often the most damaging secondary disclosure to your marital recovery.
So don’t drag it out. Do whatever it takes to end the affair right after D-day, and be honest from this point
on to eliminate any new discoveries.
As an unfaithful, you need to be willing to answer what your spouse needs you to answer and
don’t try to control the situation by withholding facts.
There are reasons they want to know about the affair, as part of their healing process.
It’s not easy but it’s necessary.
With that said, I’ll say to you as a betrayed, to really think about whether you need to know the details-
because many betrayed husbands have told me they wished they didn’t ask for so much.
It’s hard to UN-know things.
6. Be willing to forgive.
I don’t say this one lightly, as I know how hard this is to do. But it’s still a requirement if you want to heal your marriage.
How can a couple move forward together, after an affair, when the betrayed spouse keeps holding it over the unfaithful spouse’s head.
Yes, you have a “right” to be angry and that will take time to process through and won’t happen overnight.
Nobody should expect you to just get over it overnight, and you won’t.
But at least being willing to work on forgiveness (this is where outside help comes in), will free YOU inside of the
bitterness that is going to tear you up anyway.
Some people have asked me “does infidelity pain ever go away?” “Will we ever be normal again?”
I can tell you that our marriage is different because we know what we survived together, so we have a new normal.
Yes, infidelity pain goes away in time.
My husband would tell you it can be much better, but it’s like we walk with a limp.
That’s not a bad thing, it keeps us aware of how far we’ve come and we never want to take each other for granted again.
But it would never have happened if he was not willing to forgive me.
His forgiveness was absolutely a huge part in our healing,
and I am forever grateful to him for showing me Christ’s love and forgiveness in a way I’d never experienced before.
7. Take breaks from affair talk to reconnect.
Nobody can talk 24/7 about an affair without it wearing on you after awhile. It’s important to talk about it
and get things out to eliminate new discoveries (see #5), but if the next 2 years are only about the affair, you’ll likely
find healing very slow going.
We made it a point to have a set amount of time each day (30-40 minutes is what we started to do)
to talk about the affair and whatever questions he had for me,
and then we stopped and tried to do something together that was fun or create good memories.
It’s a critical part of your recovery.
So, although it might take at least 2 years to really start feeling healed, it doesn’t have to mean the whole 2 years are miserable.
Take time to go on a date, take a walk, and enjoy each other- yes, I know that might sound strange when you’re both at odds in the
early stages of affair recovery. But it’s the important practice that all couples learn to do on their healing journey.
I’ve heard it said that affair recovery takes as long as the affair lasted and that probably has some truth to it, but a healing timetable is different for every couple.
The important thing for an unfaithful spouse to remember is the work is only just beginning on D-day, whether you confessed or it was exposed.
Please understand that although you’ve been in the affair for x weeks or months or even years, your betrayed spouse is only just learning about it on discovery day,
and just coming to terms that this is their new reality takes time, no less trying to heal from it.
It takes a long time to work through. The recovery to healing is hard, I’m not going to lie.
You both have to be willing to go through a lot of pain to get to the other side.
There will be some bad days, and good days, and then some very discouragingly bad days again,
but soon you’ll see the bad days are less and the good days have taken their place.
And you’ll wake up one day and realize how far you’ve come, and life is sweeter than it ever was before because you pushed through
the worst thing a marriage can endure and you got through it together. You’ve received the gift of a healed and restored marriage and
know something most married couples don’t understand or appreciate- how to never take it for granted again.
So don’t give up my friends. It’s always hardest right before the breakthrough.