Is it possible to heal from infidelity? Will it always hang over our heads? Will our marriage ever be the same? Can physical intimacy happen again without me thinking about the betrayal? Will there always be a darkness on certain calendar dates? Around certain locations? Can a marriage really survive infidelity?
Those were the questions that swirled in my head in the weeks and months after I discovered my husband’s infidelity. His affair went on for nearly a year and while I was actively standing for our marriage during that time, believing it could be redeemed, I also wondered if healing would happen.
Thankfully, after a year, Mark made a U-turn. He became a surrendered man who eventually did the hard work to clean up the mess he had made. I also did the hard work to look at what I had contributed to the dysfunction in our marriage. We both committed to getting the help we needed to heal from infidelity and move forward.
Now 12 years later, we’re not only thriving in our own marriage, but as marriage coaches we’re helping other couples heal from broken trust in their marriage. I’m grateful for how God has redeemed our relationship, but I remember the emotional rollercoaster we rode for what seemed like a long time. I remember the fears we faced. I remember the questions we asked both silently and aloud.
Infidelity can be a devastating experience for both partners, leaving deep emotional wounds that need to heal. It’s hard work to rebuild trust and intimacy after the betrayal of infidelity, but when both partners are willing to do the work, it’s worth it. It is possible to move forward, find healing, and even rekindle the passion and connection you long for.
What the Process of Healing From Infidelity Looks Like
Infidelity is a betrayal of trust, and the pain and hurt that comes with it can be overwhelming. It can feel like a death of the relationship. Couples that make it, though, begin to think of it as the death of their 1.0 relationship. They understand that a 2.0 relationship is what they’re now working towards. In fact, we call ourselves Mark and Jill 2.0 and we like those folks a lot better!
The process of healing often involves a lot of hard conversations and deep introspection. It takes a combination of individual and couple work. Typically it is one person who was unfaithful, yet both have contributed to the dysfunction of the 1.0 marriage. Healing from infidelity requires both partners to look at what they brought to the relationship that wasn’t helpful or healthy.
While the journey can have uncomfortable and painful moments, it can also be a chance to build a stronger, more secure relationship. That’s the beauty of the 2.0 vision. When you dig deep into the healing process you lay a stronger foundation for the relationship. We now experience deeper connection and intimacy than ever before.
Create a Safe Space for Communication
Getting communication into a safe space is one of the first steps in healing. This means creating an environment where each one feels heard. This may require the help of a marriage counselor or coach. If there’s ever a time when you need to ask for help, healing from infidelity is that time. Having someone guide you through communication and the steps of healing can make all the difference in the world.
Two things our counselor helped us do is first to listen well and second, to speak to one another with respect. That’s now one of our favorite things to do when we coach couples in crisis. That’s because safe conversations open the door to healing.
We learned to dial down the defensiveness by using reflective listening. This involved saying back what we heard the other person say rather than immediately offering our response to what they say. This immediately calmed our conversations down. We also learned how to respond with empathy and validation rather than correcting what the other person said or defending ourselves.
Both of us became more aware of the effect our emotional reactions had on the other person. While our emotions are God-given, they’re not good leaders. The more we let God’s Word lead us, the better we interacted with each other and experienced healing conversations. Staying grounded in God’s Truth helped us to stay more emotionally steady in the healing process. Sure, there were tears and anger at times, but when that was met with compassion and humility we found connection instead of conflict. Connection, even in the hurt, was an important part of rebuilding trust in our relationship.
Rekindle Intimacy and Passion
When you’re healing from broken trust, it can feel all-consuming. We found it helpful to plan some weekly outings where talking about the infidelity and healing was off the table. We needed to start having fun together again. All work and no fun stalls out the healing process. A lot of work and some fun mixed in is key to working through the past and creating a new present and future together.
Put a regular date night on the calendar and then commit to not discussing “issues” on those dates. Laugh, explore, and have fun together. Start to dream together again, too.
As you grow emotional intimacy outside the bedroom, you begin healing inside the bedroom. There may be tears the first few times of physical intimacy. If that happens, slow things down and hold the hurting partner. Be grace-filled and patient with the reality of the healing process. Healing from infidelity happens in layers, so expect that it will take time to work through those layers. This can be particularly evident inside the bedroom.
I wondered if we’d ever make love again without thinking about the hurt and betrayal. What I want you to know is that we don’t even give it a thought anymore. We’ve done the work, we’ve experienced the healing, and infidelity is truly in the rear-view mirror of our marriage.
God is the Redeemer and the Re-Dreamer
Infidelity can be a devastating experience, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the relationship. With hard work and dedication, it is possible to move forward and find incredible intimacy and connection in your marriage. We’re living that reality out now and you can too if you’re both willing to do the work. What we’ve found is that God is not only the Redeemer who exchanges ashes for beauty, but He’s the Re-dreamer, allowing us to dream new dreams together and experience the new vision of a 2.0 marriage.
If you’re the only one believing your marriage can be healed, move your eyes to how God wants you to mature and change even while you wait. This can be a powerful time of growth for you personally. Don’t miss that opportunity. If both of you are ready to heal, ask for help and go all in. Now’s the time to be intentional about seeking help, measuring your words, listening well, having a humble heart, sharing deeply, and connecting with your spouse’s heart. Yes, it takes a lot of effort to make that happen. What I can tell you from personal experience is that healing from infidelity is worth every bit of time, money, and energy you invest in your journey.