After the Affair – How to Forgive, and Heal a Relationship From Infidelity

After the Affair - How to Forgive and Heal From Infidelity

Infidelity happens for plenty of reasons. None of them good ones. It happens because of ego or stupidity or breakage. Or because of smugness or ignorance or a widening ache or an emptiness or the need to know ‘what else is there’. It happens because of arrogance or a lack of self-control or because of that thing in all of us that wants to feel adored or heroic or important or powerful or as though we matter. It happens because there’s a moment when the opportunity for this to happen is wide open and full of aliveness and temptation and it’s exciting and it’s there and it acts like it can keep a secret and as though it won’t’ do any damage at all.

It happens because of lies, the big ones, the ones we tell ourselves – ‘it won’t mean anything’, ‘nobody will know’, ‘it won’t do any harm’. It happens because there is a moment that starts it all. One small, stupid, opportunistic moment that changes everything, but acts as though it will change nothing. A moment where there’s an almighty collision between the real world with its real love and real people and real problems that all of us go through, and the world that is forbidden and exciting and hypnotic with promises. And all the while these worlds, they feel so separate, but they become tangled and woven, one into the other, and then that real world with its real love and its real people are never the same again.

Whatever the reason for an affair, the emotional toll on the people and the relationship is brutal. Infidelity steals the foundations on which at least one person in the relationship found their solid, safe place to be. It call everything into question – who we believe we are, what we believe we had, or were working towards, our capacity to love, to trust, and our faith in our judgement. It beats down self-esteem and a sense of place and belonging in the relationship for both people, but it doesn’t have to mean an end to the relationship.

Does infidelity mean a falling out of love?

Anything we humans are involved in is never black and white. The versions of grey can make good humans look like bad ones it can make love that is real feel dead for a while. Most people who have affairs are in love with their original partners. And most people who cheat aren’t cheaters. They aren’t liars and they aren’t betrayers and they aren’t bad. What they are is human, and even the good ones will make catastrophic mistakes sometimes. We all will.

Affairs often aren’t about people wanting to be in a different relationship, but about wanting the relationship they are in to be different. Relationships change shape over time and with that, sometimes the very human needs that we all have will get left behind. These needs include validation, love, connection, affection, intimacy and nurturing – but there are plenty more. This is no excuse for an affair, but understanding what drove the affair is key to being able to move forward. It’s a critical part of healing the relationship and any repairing any breaks in the armour around you both that made it possible for someone else to walk through.

Does an affair mean the end of the relationship?

Affairs will mean the end of some relationships. Others will tolerate the betrayal and although they might never thrive, they’ll stay intact. For some people this will be enough. For others, an affair can be a turning point, an opportunity to grow separately and together, and reconnect in a way that is richer, stronger, closer and more sustainable. For this to happen, it will take time, reflection, brutal honesty and an almighty push from both people. 

There are plenty of ways to hurt a relationship. Infidelity is just one of them.

Affairs cause devastating breakage in relationships, but they aren’t the only thing that can hurt a relationship. Sometimes an affair is a symptom of breakage, as much as a cause. There are plenty of other ways to hurt a relationship – withholding love, affection or approval, a lack of physical or emotional intimacy, and negativity, judgement, or criticism. All of us, even the most loving, committed devoted of us will do these things from time to time.

How does an affair happen?

There is no doubt that infidelity is a devastating act of betrayal, but it can also be an expression of loss or loneliness, or the need for novelty, autonomy, power, intimacy, affection, or the need to feel loved, wanted and desired. These are all valid, important needs and in no way represent a neediness or lack of self-reliance. They are the reasons we come together, fall in love and fight to stay in love. They are also the reason relationships fall apart.

We humans exist at our very best when we are connected with other humans, especially ones that we love and adore and feel connected to. The needs for human connection, intimacy, love, and validation are primal. They can be ignored, pushed down, or denied, but they will never disappear. These needs are so important, that if they remain unmet for too long, they will create a tear in the relationship wide enough for someone else to walk through and claim the opportunity to meet those needs that, when met, can fuel intimacy, desire, alchemy, and attraction.

When an important need remains unmet, there are two options – and only two. We can either let go of the need, or change the environment in which we’re attempting to meet the need. It will be this way for all of us. When the need is an important one, letting go won’t be an option. This will create a splintering in the relationship, and the very real temptation to change the environment, as in, find someone else to meet the need/s that we actually want met by our partners.

Affairs often aren’t about wanting the person who is the target of the affair, but about wanting the way that person meets a need. If the person having the affair could have anything, it would most likely be to have the person they love – the one they are hurting – to be the one to meet the need. But things don’t always happen the way we want. And needs get hungry and people get tempted.

When affairs happen, it’s likely that at least one of three things has happened for the person having the affair:

  1. an awareness that ‘something’ is missing, without awareness of what that something is; 
  2. an awareness of exactly what is missing – an important need that has been hungry for too long – but a catastrophic lack of honesty and openness within the relationship about this; 
  3. repeated unsuccessful attempts to be honest and open about the existence of the unmet need, and repeated unsuccessful attempts to have it met within the relationship.

How to heal from an affair, together or apart.

For a relationship to heal from betrayal, there is a need for brutal honesty from both people. If a relationship has been devastated by an affair, healing will take a lot of reflection on what went wrong, and what is needed to make it better, but if both people believe the relationship is worth fighting for, it can find its way back. 

First of all, where do things stand.

Is the affair over? Or has it been scared into submission, just for now.

If the affair is still going, and you’re pretending to work on your relationship, just take your partner’s heart in your hand and squeeze it hard. It will hurt a lot less and it will do less damage to your relationship. If the affair is genuinely finished, the one who has been hurt will need ongoing confirmation of this for a while. Probably for a long while. This is why, for the person who had the affair, the privacy that was there before the affair (texts, phone calls, messages, emails, info about where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re doing it with), will be gone for a while. Some questions to explore together:

  • When did it end?
  • How did it end?
  • How do you know you won’t go back?
  • How do I believe that it’s over?
  • What if he or she gets in touch? What will you do?
  • What moves have you made to stop them contacting you?
  • You risked a lot for the affair to continue. What stopped the affair being worth the risk? What might make it worth the risk again? 
  • I’m suspicious. I’m paranoid. I’m insecure. I’m scared. I don’t trust you. I never used to feel like this, but now I do. I want to trust you again and I want to stop feeling like this. I want to stop checking and wondering and panicking when I can’t reach you, but I’m scared that if I stop, I’ll miss something. What can you do to help me feel safe again.

Is there genuine regret and remorse? 

Healing can only begin when the person who has had the affair owns what has happened, and shows regret and remorse, not just for the damage and pain the affair has caused, but for starting the affair in the first place. What’s important is that there is a commitment to protecting the relationship above all else, and letting go of the affair.

  • Would you still regret having the affair it if it wasn’t discovered? 
  • What do you regret about the affair?
  • How do you feel about it ending?
  • How do you feel about what it’s done to us and to me?
  • What was the story you told yourself to let the affair keep going?
  • Where does that story sit with you now?

Do you both genuinely want the relationship? And be honest.

Is there anything in this relationship that’s worth fighting for? Is there a chance of love and connection? Or will it only ever be one of convenience and a way to meet mutually shared goals, such as raising children. There are no right or wrong answers, but if one person is satisfied with a relationship of convenience and the other wants love and connection, the healing isn’t going to happen. What’s more likely to happen is that the relationship will be fertile ground for loneliness, resentment and bitterness, and it will stay vulnerable. For a relationship to work, the needs of each person have to be compatible. They don’t have to be the same, but they have to be compatible. 

Do you genuinely want each other?

The truth is that sometimes, people outgrow relationships. We can’t meet everyone’s needs and sometimes, the relationship might no longer be able to meet the important needs of one or both of you. Sometimes letting go with love and strength is better than letting the relationship dies a slow, bitter death.

  • How to you feel about [the person you had the affair with]?
  • What do you miss?
  • How do you feel about me?
  • What did you miss?
  • What do you miss about me now?
  • What made the risk of losing me worth it?
  • What’s changed?
  • What is it about me that’s keeping you here?
  • What is it about us that’s worth fighting for?
  • How do you each about the relationship? 
  • How do you feel about each other? Can either of you see that changing?
  • What is it about the relationship that’s worth fighting for?
  • What is it about each other that’s worth fighting for?
If the decision is to stay, how to forgive and move forward.

How did the affair become possible?

For the relationship to heal, and for there to be any chance of forgiveness, there has to be an understanding of how both people may have contributed to the problem. What was missing in the relationship and how can that change? This is not to excuse the person who had the affair. Not at all. What it’s doing is finding the space in which the relationship can grow. If both people are claiming to have done everything they could and the affair happened, then there’s no room for growth and the relationship will stay vulnerable. 

Let your energy turn to an honest and open exploration of the motive behind the affair. This will probably hurt to hear, but it’s not about blame. It is about responsibility, as in response-ability – the ability to respond. There can’t be an empowered, effective response if there is no awareness around what drove the affair and what needs to change in the relationship.

The person who had the affair delivered the final blow, but it’s likely that there were things that lead up to the relationship becoming vulnerable. Healing will happen if both people can own their part in this. This doesn’t excuse the affair, but it will help it to make some sort of sense. Many hard conversations will need to happen.

If you were the one who was betrayed, you’ll be hurt and angry and scared, and you’ll have every right to feel that way. As much as you are able to, try to be open to hearing the information and make it safe to explore. This is the information that will grow your relationship and repair the holes that have made it vulnerable. 

Somewhere along the way, the person who had the affair and the person he or she had the affair with, had information about your relationship that you didn’t have. This was vital information that fuelled the affair, sustained it, and drained your relationship. They knew what the affair had that the relationship didn’t. This is the information you need to know for the relationship to get its power back.

If you were the one who had the affair, it’s critical to look with honesty, courage and an open heart, at what you were getting from the affair that you weren’t getting from your relationship. It’s not enough to fall back on insecurities or deficiencies or your own personal flaws as excuses. This doesn’t answer anything and it lacks the courage and commitment needed to start putting your relationship and the one you love, back together. 

Explore together:

  • What did the affair give you that our relationship didn’t?
  • How did the affair make you feel that was different to the way you felt with me? More powerful? More noticed? Wanted? Loved? Desired? Nurtured? What was it?
  • Have you ever felt that way with me?
  • When did you stop feeling that way?
  • What changed?
  • What was the biggest difference between [the other person] and me?
  • What would you like me to do more of? Less of?
  • I know you want this relationship to work, but at the moment it’s not. What’s the biggest thing you need to be different. And then I’ll tell you mine.

Be honest. Can you meet the need? And do you want to?

    When you can understand what drove the affair, you can look at whether that need/s can be met within your relationship. Sometimes it becomes a case of either not being able to meet the need, or resentment and hurt wiping out the desire to even try. Both people need to honestly look at what they want from the relationship and what they are able to give to the relationship moving forward.

    Sometimes the distance between two people becomes so vast that it can’t be put back together. If that’s the case, acknowledge it and decide openly and with love and strength, whether or not the relationship is worth saving. Nothing is more painful than fighting to hold on to something that isn’t fighting to hold back. If this is the case, be honest. Relationships in which somebody has important needs that can’t be relinquished and that aren’t being met, will be unsustainable. 

    Moving forward, staying forgiven and getting close. 

    To the one who has had the affair: Now is your time to stand guard over the boundaries of your relationship.

    As with any trauma, finding out about an affair will create massive potential for the trauma to be re-experienced over and over. Let me explain. Every time there is a gap in knowledge in your relationship – an unanswered text, a phone that is off or that goes through to voicemail, something that doesn’t make sense, not knowing where you are, being late home, not being where you said you would be – anything that can be associated with the affair or with the possibility that the affair is still continuing, can recreate the feelings associated with the betrayal. These feelings might include panic, sadness, fear, anger, suspicion, loneliness, loss. This will keep happening until the trust has been restored. This will take time and it won’t be hurried.

    If you’re the one who has had the affair, your job now is to help your partner to feel safe again. To do this, make sure there is 100% accountability for as long as it takes for your partner to know that there is nothing else more to find out. The privacy that was there before the affair is gone, and it will be gone for a while.

    Know that for your partner, he or she he or she doesn’t want to be that person who doesn’t trust, and who is suspicious and paranoid – but that’s what affairs do. They turn trusting, loving, open hearts into suspicious, resentful, broken ones. It would be that way for anyone. How long it stays that way will depend a lot on how you handle things moving forward. Be accountable every minute of every day. Be an open book. Let there be no secrets. Knowing that there is nothing going on is critical to healing the anxiety and trauma that has come with discovering the affair. Looking for information isn’t about wanting to catch you out, but about wanting to know that there is nothing to catch out. 

    For healing to happen, it will be your turn to take responsibility for standing guard over the boundaries of your relationship for a while. Be the one who makes sure there are no gaps, no absences, no missing pieces in the day. And no secrets. If the person you had the affair with contacts you, let your partner know. Be the one who makes things safe again. For the one who has been hurt, there will be a period, sometimes for a year or more, where there will be a constant need to find evidence that the affair isn’t happening. It may become an obsession for a while. Finding out about an affair is traumatic, and the way to find relief from this is by searching for proof that the relationship is safe, that the affair is finished, and that it’s okay to trust again. 

    To the one who has been betrayed …

    Forgive yourself for feeling angry or sad or hateful or for not knowing what you want. Forgive yourself for everything you’re doing to feel okay. Forgive yourself for not knowing and for not asking the questions that were pressing against you when something didn’t feel right. And let go of any shame – for leaving, for staying, for any of the feelings you felt before the affair or during it or afterwards. None of the shame is yours to hold on to.

    Every relationship has a make it or break it point. Some relationships will have many. Forgive yourself if you missed something. This relationship involved two people. If you weren’t giving your partner something he or she needed, it was up to them to tell you so you could put it right. There will have been times that your needs went hungry too. It happens in all relationships from time to time. It’s the intensity and the duration of the unmet need that does the damage. You deserved the chance to know that something wasn’t right. And you deserved the chance to put back whatever was missing. You have that now. If you aren’t able to give your partner what he or she needs moving forward, forgive yourself for that too. Sometimes two great people don’t mean a great relationship. Sometimes it’s not the people who are broken, but the combination of you.

    You will always be someone’s very idea of beautifully and imperfectly perfect. Most likely you have always been that to your partner, but somewhere along the way, life got in the way and things fell apart for a while.

    Right now though, you are going through a trauma. Give yourself plenty of time to forgive, and to start to feel okay again, whether that it is in the relationship or out of it. Be kind to yourself and be patient. You deserve that. You always have.

    And finally …

    Every affair will redefine a relationship. It can’t be any other way. There will be hurt and anger and both of you will feel lonely and lost for a while, but if your relationship is worth fighting for, there will be room for growth and discovery. The heartbreak won’t always feel bigger than you. Some days you’ll hold steady and some days you’ll be okay and some days you’ll wonder how you’ll ever get back up. This is so normal and it’s all okay. You’re grieving for what you thought you had and what you thought you were working towards. You’re grieving for the person you thought you were with and or the relationship you thought you had. Those things are still there, but they’re different to what you thought. That doesn’t mean better or worse, just different. 

    Good people make bad decisions. We do it all the time. We hurt the ones we love the most. We become, for a while, people we never imagined we could be. But the mistakes we make – and we all make them – impress in our core new wisdoms and truths that weren’t there before. An affair is a traumatic time in a relationship, but it doesn’t have to define the relationship. Rather than collecting the broken pieces and scraping them from dustpan to bin, they can be used put the relationship back together in a way that is stronger, more informed, wiser, and with an honesty and a love that is more sustainable.



    Hi I’m kiara I’m 17 years old and I have found the love of my life or what I thought was being in love we were together for a year and I found out that 3 months into dating me he started just sexting and sending nudes to girls then around the 5 or 6th month of being with me he slept with another girl. After a year of being together I found out. Then I found out 3 months later that I was pregnant.He says he’s sorry and he won’t do it again and that he feels awful. He told me that he was stupid for doing it and that it was his bipolar. I never really found out why he did it’s I’ve stayed with him for a year after this happened. I don’t feel like anything has changed. I don’t feel like I can honestly forgive him for what he’s done. I want to because I love him but I don’t know if I can. It’s been a year since I found out. Now we have a 2 month old and I honestly wanna stay for her sake of her growing up with parents that are in love and I wanna stay for the sake of being in love but I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it. Do you have an advice?


    Relationships take work and effort besides love. Love can be the motivation to work towards a common goal, but ultimately relationships need work.

    He has to be willing to work with you on this. If you’ve tried to communicate with him and he does not respond well to your attempts, take note of how he handles crises in a relationship. Try to communicate reasonably but draw boundaries for yourself. Recognize when bottom lines are crossed. Recognize the meaning behind how you each handle this crisis. Is he a reliable partner with whom you can go through life together?

    Staying in an illusion of a loving relationship does not provide a child with the love and security she needs. A child can have two loving parents who are friends but not partners in life. She’ll likely have a better life if you’re both happy. ‘Staying for the sake of a child’ is a huge burden to place on a baby. Are you sure she wouldn’t rather have two happy individuals as her parents and role models, even if they are apart?


    Thank you for the article. Been married two years. 8 months ago found out he cheated two months before wedding and 2 days after getting married before going on honeymoon. Went to therapy, but quit. Said it was temptation, cried, is very transparent now, but I don’t love him.


    I’m struggling to forgive my husband we married 13years and this is or was his third affair pls help I don’t know what to do…he wants to go on but show no remorse… please help the other two times he showed remorse and showered me with love but this time it’s just different like he dont love me anymore…they were seeing each other for a month and a few weeks could it possibly be that he is in love with the other woman? We have 4 beautiful daughters that loves their father so much part of my confusion. He talks positive things like buying a new house and say that we will find each other again
    but when will he truly apologize


    Thank you for this article. I recently found out by a chance discovery of thousands of intimate IG messages that my husband of 19 years has been engaging in a 6+ month emotional affair with an attractive younger woman, who happens to be a PT at the gym he attends regularly. The depth of intimacy in the messages is earth shattering. They would meet up and have deep conversations in person as well. My husband only as smitten to going to the coffee shop next to the gym a few times with her. Initially, he informed me that it was a lot of what he described as “random” conversation comprised of made-up fantasy closeness. Their communications reflected a mutual love and admiration for one another. They also spoke about how they’re marriages were not satisfactory to them in various forms. He only admits to kissing her a couple of times, and said it made him very anxious each time. Nothing further. I found out pretty quickly by viewing her social media that her son (she is married to), was the playmate our 6 yo twins referred to from the skatepark my husband takes them to fairly frequently over the past few months. She just happens to live in the neighborhood adjacent to the park. They told me over the summer they had seen their little friend at the beach, which is 30+ minutes from our home. I knew it seemed odd, but never put two and two together until I realized her son’s name. Now he admits to these, but discloses no further encounters. Knowing him for so long, I confronted him at least 10 times in those months that I felt he was withdrawn, that his attention was elsewhere and he admitted nothing.

    The night he was “busted”, He seemed remorseful. He endorsed that they tried to break it off a few times, but would reach out again. He told me they broke it off the next morning for good. He became cold and withdrawn again immediately after, sleeping in another room. Until one night I was so crushed, that I cried and asked him to hold me for reassurance. He ended up sleeping in our bed that night, which gave me some reassurance. After all, I thought he was sorry. The next day when I came home from work, his pillow was back in the other room. He drove around for hours that evening and I went to bed, having to be up early for work the next morning. I went to him in the middle of the night to hug him. I saw his phone next to him and couldn’t resist the urge to look at what might be on it. Again, extremely intimate and loving messages between one another. He took a screenshot of a romantic song, and told her she was his sunshine, amongst other things. I went absolutely crazy!! I told him to get the f out of the house. Even threw half of his clothes out of the window. After all, I told him on that first night if he spoke to her again, we were done. That obviously didn’t stop him. He said she was heartbroken and he was too young to slowly let her down easy. Ultimately, thinking of our children I said he could stay but things needed to be different. That he needed to break it off the next day. Well, it actually took him 3 days to claim he broke it off. This was just yesterday.

    I run a hospital program full time and handle the majority of child care and other responsibilities. The perceived burden of my responsibilities have made me a less than happy wife over the past few years. I understand that he has needs, but he never shared them with me. He says he thinks it would have just turned into a fight. I’ve always thought he was a good man and father who would never betray me. I am so crushed a disillusioned by this. I don’t even know who he his, despite us literally spending our entire adult lives together. He says he wants to work things out, but I fear his heart is with this other woman. I am trying to give him space, but I keep envisioning that he is still planning on keeping his affair going. How do I overcome my grief for our children when I can no longer trust the person I thought was my soulmate?


    *You* are not *your children*. They will have their own grief. Projecting your own feelings about the situation will only serve to hurt them. I hope you can find a way to avoid throwing their dad under the bus because you’re so hurt and want to hurt him too. It’ll hurt him, but also those kids. Perhaps you two have been unhappy for a long, long time, but unhappiness tends to be insidious. We learn to cope in many ways, talking ourselves into “this is just temporary, a phase, tough times”, we drink more, maybe even start therapy, Prozac. Anything to avoid facing the reality of the situation that maybe a life apart would be best for all involved. We have appearances to keep up to family, friends, neighbors, colleagues. We can’t possibly “fail” at our marriages, when in reality we already may have done so. It’s incredibly painful, reading about your experience. It hits home in so many ways. I highly recommend reading Glennon Doyle’s Untamed. And have a really, truly honest conversation with your husband. If you can, without hurling insults and accusations (and belongings). Maybe you’d be best as partners, parents, and eventually friends. It’s hard to see clearly now, because you are betrayed, and what he did was undoubtedly wrong. I imagine there are a lot of hurting folks right now, including him and the other woman. Vengeance is a bitter pill, and contrary to popular belief, hurting him and her will not make you feel better in the end. I wish you clarity and peace.


    I strongly recommend and their programs to help you heal from the affair. also has really good articles. There are some good books by Andrew G Marshall to helping you and your spouse understand what is going on “Why Did I Cheat?” and “How Can I Ever Trust You Again?” and one by David A Clarke “I Don’t Love You Anymore” that has a plan to end the affair. also has a plan. Good luck. I’m 19 months past dday from a 1 year physical affair that my husband had with a friend. It has been painful and gutwrenching, but we are almost on the other side of this nightmare.


    We were 12y toheher, of which 8.5y were (legally, still is) marriage. We have three children (from 4y to 8y).
    In January of this year, it was suddenly “we are fundamentally different” and “no, there is no other woman”, in February he moved out of the apartment where we lived together for 10.5y. In June, he told me via message “it’s a matter of years of disagreement and that wasn’t life, it was torture” and he mentioned the official divorce for the first time. In late August, I found that he had begun an emotional relationship with a co-worker only 30 days later. She has been present in his life since the first day we met, she knows me, I know her…hey she was at our wedding! During these 12y, on several occasions, she was presented to me as a fat fool who does nothing and has that position at work only thanks to the love relationships she had with co-workers from the same company only from other region.

    And now I should to beleive that his relationship with her didn’t exist before, while he was still living with me and the children?! By the way, this relationship seems very serious because after only 2m (from the alleged beginning of the relationship) he introduced her to our children (ofcourse not as his girlfrend) and only 4m (again from the alleged beginning of the relationship) he introduced her to his mother.

    2 weekends ago he celebrated to our youngest daughter a birthday with her, her and his family … even if they are really together since April this year (but I really can’t believe it, I don’t know if I’m right or after so many years I know nothing about male-female relationships) it is already a relationship of a full 8m, and he has not yet presented it to the children properly …. they still do not know who she really is to their dad.

    I know the two of us were distanc ourselves and that I put the kids in the first place (it may have been my fault), but with so much of his business commitments (long office stays and frequent business trips), my job, 3 kids and housekeeping, makes me that distancing is inevitable. But I looked at it this way: children are growing, becoming more independent and there will be more and more time for the two of us. I was obviously wrong… and he never said anything.
    And in all of that, he always had my maximum trust, I believed and I still believe that our marriage was almost perfect and that “almost” was that we both lacked more time for each other.
    It is 10m since he moved. Hey 10m! A new life is born in 9m, and I am still desperate and broken, my whole world has collapsed!

    How can I accept and move on when (somewhere) I don’t want to ?! He was everything to me, my whole world!


    I’ve read many articles on affairs. Most look for gaps in the marriage, only a few recognise another reason which is gaps in the adulterer as an individual. Most who have affairs and are discovered will look to find flaws and fault in their relationship. Not because they’re the real reason for the affair but because they want to relieve themselves of total responsibility. All marriages have gaps if you look for them. However not all marriages suffer infidelity. It’s hard to be the bad guy! Affairs can happen because of marital gaps but they can also happen because people are greedy, selfish, bored and sometimes simply for some, because they just can. There’s not always a deeper reason.


    I agree. It is not always problems in the marriage. Your spouse cannot fulfill every need. My husband had childhood insecurities that began resurfacing as he began aging and a best friend died unexpectedly, and a woman zeroed in on them. She knew we were happily married and targeted him and our marriage. She befriended us and gained his trust. She threw herself at him and at first he told her it could never happen again, but she persisted and the attention made him feel young again. It was so out of character for him and once he came out of the affair fog, he was devastated, ashamed and embarrassed by his actions. Affairs are very addictive and turn on chemicals in the brain like drugs. He could not understand why he couldn’t stop communicating with the AP when he had a “perfect wife” (his words) at home. Even after dday, he needed a few sessions with a counselor to break his addiction. He wasn’t addicted to the person, but to the way the affair made him feel. It has been a painful road of recovery for BOTH of us.


    We have been together for almost 3 years and a few months ago I saw messages on his phone with another lady he denied it and I told him to call the lady and prove me wrong but he called the lady with a different number and up until now I still feel that the issue has not been resolved I feel like ending the relationship (we have a child 9 months old)


    We have been together for 15 yrs now. I discovered his affairs 3 years ago. He had been cheating for 5 years. After my discovery he lied about everything. It took me the entire 3 years to discover the whole truth of what had happened, where, how many partners and how much money was spent. I only got the truth by meeting 4 of the 8 affair partners. Now that everything is out, I am having a very hard time wanting to continue this marriage. He is doing everything right….now. But for me it’s like to little to late. How do I explain to him that just because he is back to his old self after his mid life crisis, I have now changed. My feelings for him have changed. I really understand that phrase of loving someone but not in love with them. He thinks that time will help heal and we can get back on track. Yet I am always thinking of a future without him. I refuse to talk about retirement together. We get along great, buttttttt……. I don’t see him as husband material any longer.

    Michelle M

    I am so sorry for what you are going through. My husband of 31 years cheated during our 28th year of marriage. I am sure there were others, but I always trusted him and didn’t think he would do that. Until I caught him. He still hasn’t told me the entire truth. I am sure he never will. I am having the same feelings as you. I can’t see myself without him, yet I wish I could. I know I don’t feel the same way about him. He went from my night in shining armor to just another man. If pushed, I would even say I don’t like him anymore. We are getting along, and he is trying. But like you said, it’s just too little too late. I can’t forgive him for a six month affair. He chose her over me several times and the hurt is just to deep. Wish I was strong enough to leave him, but at this point I don’t even know if that would make me happy. For now I just live life, but don’t really enjoy it. If you can find your way back to happiness, whether with or without him, you need to do it. I wish I could.


    I am married 16 years. I had an affair and had a love child. The child was 1 when l told her about it. During that time l was flirtatious with my best friends wife (my brothers wife) in texts which my wife later found. We worked on our mariage and fell in love again. Trust a huge issue which is until now still fractured. A couple of years later l found condoms in her drawer which we don’t use. Raised big suspicions. l read her diary and read that she was in love with my brother.
    He is in our lives daily, and our kids adore him. Her behaviour changes around him which always triggers arguments and resentments. They never got physical but the attention and praise she gives him makes me feel like the third wheel.
    We have four children . I was expecting behaviours and uneasy feelings to have changed by now. But the triggers remain


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    For way too long, there’s been an idea that discipline has to make kids feel bad if it’s going to steer them away from bad choices. But my gosh we’ve been so wrong. 

The idea is a hangover from behaviourism, which built its ideas on studies done with animals. When they made animals scared of something, the animal stopped being drawn to that thing. It’s where the idea of punishment comes from - if we punish kids, they’ll feel scared or bad, and they’ll stop doing that thing. Sounds reasonable - except children aren’t animals. 

The big difference is that children have a frontal cortex (thinking brain) which animals and other mammals don’t have. 

All mammals have a feeling brain so they, like us, feel sad, scared, happy - but unlike us, they don’t feel shame. The reason animals stop doing things that make them feel bad is because on a primitive, instinctive level, that thing becomes associated with pain - so they stay away. There’s no deliberate decision making there. It’s raw instinct. 

With a thinking brain though, comes incredibly sophisticated capacities for complex emotions (shame), thinking about the past (learning, regret, guilt), the future (planning, anxiety), and developing theories about why things happen. When children are shamed, their theories can too easily build around ‘I get into trouble because I’m bad.’ 

Children don’t need to feel bad to do better. They do better when they know better, and when they feel calm and safe enough in their bodies to access their thinking brain. 

For this, they need our influence, but we won’t have that if they are in deep shame. Shame drives an internal collapse - a withdrawal from themselves, the world and us. For sure it might look like compliance, which is why the heady seduction with its powers - but we lose influence. We can’t teach them ways to do better when they are thinking the thing that has to change is who they are. They can change what they do - they can’t change who they are. 

Teaching (‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘How can you put this right?’) and modelling rather than punishing or shaming, is the best way to grow beautiful little humans into beautiful big ones.

    Sometimes needs will come into being like falling stars - gently fading in and fading out. Sometimes they will happen like meteors - crashing through the air with force and fury. But they won’t always look like needs. Often they will look like big, unreachable, unfathomable behaviour. 

If needs and feelings are too big for words, they will speak through behaviour. Behaviour is the language of needs and feelings, and it is always a call for us to come closer. Big feelings happen as a way to recruit support to help carry an emotional load that feels too big for our kids and teens. We can help with this load by being a strong, calm, loving presence, and making space for that feeling or need to be ‘heard’. 

When big behaviour or big feelings are happening, whenever you can be curious about the need behind it. There will always be a valid one. Meet them where they without needing them to be different. Breathe, validate, and be with, and you don’t need to do more than that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days and some things are rubbish, and that sometimes those days and things last for longer than they should, but we get through. First we feel floored, then we feel stuck, then we shift because the only choices we have we have are to stay down or move, even when moving hurts. Then, eventually we adjust - either ourselves, the problem, or to a new ‘is’. 

But the learning comes from experience. They can’t learn to manage big feelings unless they have big feelings. They can’t learn to read the needs behind their feelings if they don’t have the space to let those big feelings come back to small enough so the needs behind them can step forward. 

When their world has spikes, and when we give them a soft space to ‘be’, we ventilate their world. We help them find room for their out breath, and for influence, and for their wisdom to grow from their experiences and ours. In the end we have no choice. They will always be stronger and bigger and wiser and braver when they are with you, than when they are without. It’s just how it is.♥️
    When kids or teens have big feelings, what they need more than anything is our strong, safe, loving presence. In those moments, it’s less about what we do in response to those big feelings, and more about who we are. Think of this like providing a shelter and gentle guidance for their distressed nervous system to help it find its way home, back to calm. 

Big feelings are the way the brain calls for support. It’s as though it’s saying, ‘This emotional load is too big for me to carry on my own. Can you help me carry it?’ 

Every time we meet them where they are, with a calm loving presence, we help those big feelings back to small enough. We help them carry the emotional load and build the emotional (neural) muscle for them to eventually be able to do it on their own. We strengthen the neural pathways between big feelings and calm, over and over, until that pathway is so clear and so strong, they can walk it on their own. 

Big beautiful neural pathways will let them do big, beautiful things - courage, resilience, independence, self regulation. Those pathways are only built through experience, so before children and teens can do any of this on their own, they’ll have to walk the pathway plenty of times with a strong, calm loving adult. Self-regulation only comes from many experiences of co-regulation. 

When they are calm and connected to us, then we can have the conversations that are growthful for them - ‘Can you help me understand what happened?’ ‘What can help you so this differently next time?’ ‘How can you put things right? Do you need my help to do that?’ We grow them by ‘doing with’ them♥️
    Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
    How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting

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