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Will I Ever Stop Feeling Consumed By My Spouse’s Affair?

How to heal from the pain of betrayal and finally move on.

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Susanna Gentili
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I write frequently about surviving infidelity in my marriage — in part, because my husband’s workplace affair was made public via our local news and social media. As such, our friends, family and community found out about his indiscretion at the same time I did. So the perceived gag order (adding insult to emotional injury by keeping the hurt stuffed inside) that so often seems to be in place for the offended half of a couple trying to recover from unfaithfulness …  didn’t apply to me.

While at first the public nature of my husband’s affair seemed too big a burden to carry while trying to heal from the worst emotional trauma of my life, I quickly realized using my voice to tell my story could help others walking through the same flames I was made to — especially those with no one else to talk to.

As a result of writing and publishing my experience with betrayal over the last few years, I receive a plethora of private messages and emails from people who are battling back from infidelity. One of the questions I’m asked the most is, “Will this pain ever go away?”

People who’ve been cheated on want to know if they’ll ever be able to stop replaying the confession, the discovery and/or the details of the affair in their head. They wonder if they’ll ever feel fully healed. They’re concerned they’ll never be able to trust again or feel like anything but a shell of their former selves.

My answer is you will absolutely heal from the pain of betrayal. You will eventually be able to stop replaying hurtful events that bring you misery. And there will come a day when the affair and its unsettling aftershocks won’t consume your every waking thought. IF you want that outcome, that is.

For there’s a certain payoff to staying steeped in pain for a time. Pain and suffering, after all, are two of the best teachers you’ll ever have. I’ve come to believe that once they arrive in your life, both tend to linger until you acquiesce to learning whatever it is they came to teach you.

I’m five years out from the onset of my marriage trauma and the pain and uncertainty of it all no longer consume me. I can hear an infidelity joke or watch a movie involving an affair without going back to that dark, suffocating place I once felt stuck in while I was healing. I can get angry at my husband for something unrelated to his unfaithfulness without feeling the need to dredge it all up again or throw it in his face.

I arrived at a place of full-enough healing — where the twin tutors of prolonged pain and suffering finally deigned to depart — in part, because my husband owned his behavior, 100 percent. He took full responsibility for the choices he made and expressed sincere remorse and heartfelt apology. He indicated the desire to change his behavior and coping skills — and then actually did so.

We went to couples counseling together, where we laid everything between us bare and we didn’t stop going until there was nothing left to talk over and no further action steps toward healing left to incorporate into our relationship.

My husband was patient with me and the number of times I needed to review what had happened and why, even though it was challenging for him to revisit his past behavior, again and again. We put God back in the center of our marriage, where he belongs, so he can help preserve it.

Ultimately, we weren’t able to stay in our marriage, though. We’d both neglected it for too long, thus it wound up decaying and crumbling. But we were able to stay with each other and start a brand new marriage together. We chose to make and keep new, more meaningful-to-us vows to each other — to love each other with action, for no reason and no conditions — and to give only each other our first and best from now on.

Recovering from an affair and staying with a spouse who has cheated takes an all-in approach and attitude from both parties — just one can’t undertake the grueling and uncertain work of repair on their own. While this truth seems like a no-brainer, what is surprising to me is that my staying and us healing together is what brought me to the realization that I could’ve left and healed on my own eventually, as well.

Whether you choose to stay or go after an affair isn’t what your future healing depends on. It depends on you — on you realizing that though you may have played a role in your marriage struggles, you didn’t deserve to be betrayed. On you coming to terms with the fact your spouse cheated because of what was going on in their head at the time, not because you weren’t young, thin, pretty, giving, worthy or anything else enough.

All humans let each other down in some way at some point, and none of those letdowns are reasons to have an affair. All such “reasons” are manifested within the mind of the person who decides to cheat. It’s learning this and coming to understand other truths about betrayal behavior that foster the healing you’re searching for.

You will absolutely heal and move past your betrayal — when you are ready to, and usually not a minute sooner.