Supporting Loved Ones in the Aftermath of Affairs (Part II)

This is the final part of last week’s post ( on supporting your loved ones through the fallout of affairs.
1. Multiple affairs increase the pain and the healing time. If this is not the first affair, then the healing will take longer. Now the person is angry with their spouse for cheating in the first place and angry with themselves for giving their spouse a second chance. Tip: Help them think through what would be best for them (not best for you). Just because you like or hate their spouse doesn’t mean your decision is the one they should make. Be there for them; don’t add to their burdens by weighing them down with judgments.
2. Making a decision is seldom easy. Regardless of who cheated—the man or the woman—making a decision to stay or go is a very difficult decision that takes time to make. Tip: Don’t tell them to stay or go. Help them think through what they want to do. Sit with them as they struggle through their journey and don’t make it about you. If they ask you directly what you think they should do, give them your honest answer and then let it go.
3. This marriage is not your marriage—you have no idea what they’re feeling. Often when someone is cheating s/he becomes cold, selfish and difficult to live with throughout the affair. Cheating is one part of the equation, but there are also the constant lies, spending money, being an absent parent and a total collapse of trust. You have no idea what it was like living in their home for those two months, six months, a year or, God forbid, longer while the person they trusted the most was having sex, sharing secrets, having fun and lying every day. Tip: Show compassion for their struggle, not frustration with their process. Tip: Don’t tell them what a great guy/gal their spouse is or that “everyone makes mistakes.”

Helping loved ones through the pain of betrayal is a very hard journey for all involved. You want your loved one to be happy and s/he wants to stop feeling so devastated. Although it’s tempting to try to push her/him along in order to be happy and go on with her/his life, that will only result in more pain. Believe me, no one wants to move on more than they do. They hate that they can’t just shake it off. They despise that they can’t stop being triggered even years later. They feel stuck themselves and want nothing more than to make a decision and live happily ever after. It doesn’t work that way, though. Although some people choose to immediately end the relationship, many don’t. Be a shoulder for them to lean on as they go through this very difficult process. The pressure is off you to “fix it.” The responsibility is on you to be able to simply sit with their pain and let them know you’re here for them. Anything short of that is not helpful.

Challenge: Do not underestimate the damage of affairs. The pain cuts far deeper than anyone speaks about and is far more difficult to heal than you can imagine. Be a shoulder for your loved one to lean on. Listen, be curious, loving, compassionate and, most importantly, be patient. They will come through this—in their time frame, not yours.


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