Skip to main content

Take the first step to the relationship you deserve and desire, right now: FREE RESOURCES

After the affair

Affair recovery is a brutal journey, filled with huge pain and uncertainty. At the Reconnection Institute, we are here to provide guidance, support, and understanding as you navigate this terrible time.

We know infidelity is one of the most painful experiences a couple can face, often compared to the grief of losing a loved one. Our goal is to offer valuable insights and advice to help you heal and rebuild trust. In this comprehensive guide, Michael will discuss the reasons behind the intense pain, the importance of considering reconciliation, and the essential steps both partners must take to recover and restore their relationship.

A personal message from Michael Myerscough

Founder of The Reconnection Institute

I am truly sorry for the pain and heartache you're experiencing. I’m sorry that your life has just become a lot tougher. I encourage you to read through the content below and apply the guidance to your unique situation. Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and we are here to help.

This page is long for a website. It’s long because I’m trying to share something with you that has real value and will help. I’d love for you to see it as a life raft that could prevent you from drowning in a sea of misinformation. There is a lot to talk about including, why recovering from an affair hurts so bad, why in most cases it’s foolish to leave, what you need to do to get better and what you each need to know about your roles in healing from such a situation. As the injured partner, I understand that you are probably busy just trying to survive right now. I truly hope you read all of this and that you find it helpful in one way or another.

Affair recovery is the bulk of the work I do. I’ve studied with many experts on recovering from an infidelity, including Terry Real, the Gottmans and Esther Perel. Furthermore, I have studied the integrative approach to infidelity recovery pioneered by professors Baucom, Snyder, and Gordon, and the Gottmans' 'Trust Revival' method. Notably, these are the only methods scientifically proven to assist couples dealing with the aftermath of infidelity. Other experts I’ve learned from include Emily Brown, Shirley Glass, Michelle Weiner Davis and others. The list goes on! Trust me when I say that there are a lot of conflicting ideas about how to recover from an infidelity but there are some common threads that the smartest and most trustworthy people are putting forward. Make no mistake, if you’re going to work on coming back from an infidelity, you need a therapist who’s very comfortable working in a war zone and can keep a level head. It’s why we created The Reconnection Institute; we recognised a real need to train other therapists to be much more effective with infidelity.

Let’s start by talking about what constitutes an infidelity. An infidelity occurs when someone becomes romantically, sexually or emotionally involved with someone else in a manner that violates significant expectations or principles within a relationship. Put simply, this usually means that another person or other people are being brought into your relationship in ways that should have only been reserved for your own intimate relationship. Whilst that is a wide definition, it’s accurate. If you can resonate with any of that, you are entitled to feel devastated as your relationship requires significant work. On this topic, I want to make it very clear that this is in no way limited to hetero-normative couples and transcends all social pairings. Hell, even people in open relationships will find a way to cheat on their partner.

One of my colleagues compares the shock of discovering that your partner has been having an affair to the sense that a bomb has just exploded in your life, and nothing will ever be the same as before. I’ve also heard it said that the experience of discovering that you have a wayward spouse is very similar to leaning up against a wall and falling straight through it. Something that was solid, trustable and dependable sadly no longer is.

When we experience waves of hurtful emotions, it becomes difficult to put one foot in front of the other and act as though nothing has changed. The bombardment of opposing thoughts about how on Earth this could have ever happened and the disturbing flashbacks and questions about what went on may be so distracting that you simply stop functioning. You might be feeling silly or embarrassed for not picking up on warning signs earlier. Perhaps you are now doubting t your own judgment or blame yourself for not listening to concerns that others may have raised previously. Perhaps your self-esteem has taken a battering, and you are wondering whether you fell short as a partner in important ways.

However, you feel, be clear about one thing: Your partner’s affair is not your fault. As you delve into your recovery process, I will support you to explore and strengthen your own role in creating your relationship with your partner. But for now, it is a non-negotiable that your partner takes full responsibility for their behaviour.

Traumatic events manifest in all kinds of different ways–natural disasters, plane crashes and yes, you guessed it, infidelity. No matter the nature of a traumatic event, they are overwhelming and often debilitating. Whilst natural disasters and mechanical failure are usually unavoidable, a partner’s affair is a result of deliberate actions by your partner—the one person who is supposed to be your biggest fan and ultimate protector, and the one who is supposed to treat you with honesty, dignity and respect. For many, few betrayals hit harder than an instance of infidelity.

michael-myerscough

The biggest question you are facing right now is “Can my relationship actually be saved?”

Whilst there’s a lot of doom and gloom, there is good news in sight. According to The Wall Street Journal, 76% of couples do get through infidelity. There is a very good chance that you can heal this pain if you seek and receive the right kind of help for coping with infidelity. Not only can you survive infidelity but, if you navigate the healing process correctly, you can come back together even stronger.

It’s important to know that, depending on whether you are the injured partner or the betraying partner, you are both probably wanting and needing two different things from your affair recovery. The injured partner is going to be dealing with a brutal sense of betrayal and all of the trauma that this raises for them. It is absolutely essential that this trauma is dealt with properly. Are you eating? Are you sleeping? Can you concentrate? Are you able to get out of bed? Make no mistake, I take your trauma very seriously.

Coping with infidelity

Coping with infidelity is horribly painful and traumatic and you are going to need to be able to talk about it. However, we’ve learned a lot about trauma in recent years and the research is 100% clear in that there is a right way and a wrong way to treat it effectively.

The issues and pain that you’re navigating right now won’t just go away with time. Sure, the level of pain and experience that you’re experiencing may decrease in time, but it won’t magically disappear. Without addressing the key issues that are essential to move forward, you will remain stuck in time. If you simply try to wait for the pain to pass or attempt to tackle your problems without considering the right sequence, you can easily make decisions that you’ll later regret.

Sadly, many couples believe that the only solution is divorce when it comes to infidelity. What’s even more sad is that family and friends might tend to try to steer you in that direction too. Whilst divorce sounds like an easy option, it is not the only option. Back in the day, it used to be that you’d get shamed for leaving a bad marriage, yet now you might find yourself being shamed for staying. As someone who has worked with countless couples over the years, there is absolutely no truth to the incredibly damaging and stupid statement ‘once a cheater, always a cheater!’

As you start your journey into affair recovery, your number one goal is to avoid doing more damage. As obvious as this step sounds, this is where many people struggle. Right now, you and your partner might both have some very strong and emotive views. At this point, it’s very easy to be misunderstood and to escalate into heated and unnecessary disagreements. It’s hard to avoid falling into the push and pull pattern of attacking each other and trying to defend yourself. In reality, the chances of recovering from an affair later down the track could be strongly affected by the decisions that you make now. Rather than jumping too far ahead, home in your focus on simply trying not to make things worse. This is especially true if you are male and the injured party. By default, we do not cope well with betrayal and are more than capable of setting fire to our lives when feeling heightened. Please, don’t be that guy.

Success Stories

“One year ago my world came crashing down when I found out that my amazing, seemingly perfect husband had been seeing prostitutes for 9 months. I am a mum with three small boys. I didn't know what to do or how to function. All I knew is that I had to hold it together for my children. After seeing several marriage counsellors who were unable to help, my husband and I found Michael. He listened, was straight talking and offered amazing coping mechanisms. Michael also helped us unearth the problems that were really going on. Unbeknown to us, my husband had been suffering from depression for a number of years which manifested itself in self destruction and a nervous breakdown. He was suicidal and deeply remorseful for what he did. With Michael's help, we rebuilt our marriage and our love for each other. I have gone from a wreck of a woman consumed with thoughts and anxiety brought on by the situation to a happy, strong person who is slowly learning to trust again. My husband is back to his normal wonderful self and is working through his depression. I know that if it wasn't for Michael, my husband would not be alive today. I'm so very grateful to him for helping us through the worst time of our lives. Today, my husband and I have a better relationship than ever and we are very much in love. Our family is thriving and life is good. Thank you Michael!”

Karina and John*

*Names have of course been changed.

Affair recovery: How to get over an affair.

Finding out that our partner has been unfaithful unleashes an unfathomable pain in most people. It also creates a mountain of emotional uncertainty, distrust and sense of abandonment that is specific to the experience of being betrayed by a loved one. The experts all agree that interpersonal trauma is the worst of all. Fundamentally, we must hold a sense of trust and commitment within our relationships if we are to feel loved or to want to extend that love to our spouse. That sense of safety has been badly injured and it’s a lot more like a gaping wound than a gash. If you want to recover from an affair, this wound must be repaired but, as you’re probably experiencing right now, it’s not that simple.

The foundation for healing after the affair and repairing betrayal is trust. Again, it sounds simple, but in reality, you’re probably wondering how you can trust what you don’t believe is true anymore. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced an earthquake, but it feels as if the ground that you’re used to being solid has suddenly turned to liquid. It’s shocking and it’s scary, and, like we touched on earlier, something you assumed to be trustable no longer is.

Affair recovery: how to survive an affair.

I know this doesn’t happen too much in Australia, but discovering an infidelity is a lot like dropping through the ice on a lake into cripplingly cold water. It’s a shock that reaches into every piece of your body and leaves you gasping for breath. You find yourself hyperventilating and panicking. I’ve had this experience and can assure you that it is crippling. The natural tendency to thrash about and panic tends to all too often result in death. The survival experts teach that it’s important to remain still for a few minutes whilst the body adapts to the shock. At that point, your mind clears, your breath returns and it’s often as simple as kicking your legs and climbing back up onto the ice with some assistance. However, if you’re already exhausted, this task becomes virtually impossible, and you’ve probably already done a lot of damage. Fortunately, I’m on hand and ready to pull you out.

The couples that come to me after an affair have sometimes spent months trying to work through a sense of abandonment on their own. Let’s face it, it’s not a conversation that many people want to be having in public. This is sensible because the general public, and a lot of therapists, can be incredibly judgemental about infidelity in a way that just isn’t helpful. I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but going it alone often doesn’t end so well. There’s a predictable cycle of self-healing where a couple will try to get through the effects of the adultery on their own. The injured partner can feel pressured to forgive too early, causing even more anger and resentment. The couple do their absolute best to get past the huge amounts of pain and uncertainty but find themselves arguing and fighting in horrible ways.

In moments of calm, they begin to reconnect emotionally and sexually only to have the entire cycle of pain and mistrust start all over again. This is not how to get over an affair. It is wildly optimistic for a couple to think that they can heal that level of trauma on their own, but I wouldn’t blame you for trying. If you’re not careful though, you can end up feeling as though you’re riding a never ending emotional roller-coaster, maybe you’ve even begun to feel a little crazy. This is totally normal if you’re trying to fix these issues alone as a couple. It’s just not easy, and in truth it would be more accurate to say that attempting to heal this way after an affair can be an absolute nightmare.

Key questions answered

What if there is so much pain after the affair that our relationship just blows up?

This should be a very real concern for you. Affair recovery is very complicated. If it’s handled badly and the injured partner is just encouraged to ‘vent’ at the betraying partner, it can quickly get out of control. This is the reason you need ‘a grown-up’ in the room with you who can make space for the different views and experiences. This is what I’m here to do.

You need someone that understands the difference between an unhealthy obsession with the sordid details (that will probably only hurt you) and deepening questions that help you to build a way back to your partner. You also need to know that there is a world of difference between being able to talk about a feeling of anger and becoming contemptuous or aggressive. It’s important to understand that ritualised floggings for the betraying partner aren’t going to pay off in the way that you hope. In short, it is incredibly optimistic to think that you can navigate all this in a healthy way on your own.

If you’re able to look for it, you’ll see that men will always offer you a glimpse into what’s really going on for them. It’s almost as though they test the waters to work out whether it’s really safe enough to be fully honest. If, as his partner, you fail to listen, get critical or become defensive, it’s easy to understand why he retreats back into his cave. Luckily, I can teach both of you how to get past this particular losing strategy very quickly.

Aren’t you just going to encourage us to break up?

Definitely not. I’ve been working in affair recovery for decades now and I’m just not that narrow minded. The method I’m trained in allows me to approach these matters from a very different angle which you can read about here. The best therapists are those who can apply a systemic approach and think about the bigger picture. If your plants keep dying, there is no point in just throwing them out and replacing them. It’s much better for your plants to think about whether they are getting the food, water, and warmth they need.

Initially, the injured partner is going to be in a shocking amount of pain and this must be worked with very sensitively. Just about everyone who comes through my door seeking help for coping with infidelity is in an emotional whirlpool that keeps sucking them down into shockingly icy water.

By working as a team, we need to accomplish three critical tasks: 1. Find ways to manage and minimise the painful emotions that are wreaking havoc on your relationship. 2. Explore and understand how the affair came about to begin with. 3. Reach an explicit, informed decision about how to move forward.

The first phase of work we do together is called containment. This is where I do my best to assist you to reconnect and figure out what has actually happened to end up this way. Ideally, we all agree to a contract that no one is going anywhere, at least for a while, which gives you the space and time to explore things at the pace that is needed. Getting over infidelity takes time.

How could this infidelity have happened?

Here’s something you might not know. According to one of my favourite teachers, Emily Brown, there are 5 main categories of infidelity. Each of them contains a gift that can radically improve your relationship if approached properly. However, trying to find that gift on your own would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. You will never find it. You need help.

Those 5 categories of infidelity are: The Conflict Avoidant, The Intimacy Avoidant, The Split Self, The Sex Addict and The Exit Affair.

There is no one size fits all for treating an infidelity properly and each of these requires a different approach to uncover the gift I mentioned above. Relationships are complicated because we as humans are complicated and more than a little conflicted about certain things. We know that roughly 55% of all men and 45% of all women will cheat in a long-term relationship. Well, we think we know that since the research is very difficult to gather as it’s hard to tell if people are telling the truth. However, given the numbers involved, I think it’s fair to assume that the betrayers can’t all be stupid or evil. There is more going on than meets the eye.

In not one of the above categories do I think that leaving the relationship is the answer. The overarching idea here is that if we contain the initial trauma well enough, we can heal it. The models I have studied make it clear that this is not quite enough. We believe that there are design flaws in that approach which you will see discussed in the video on this page. This is not something you just live through, ideally this trauma is transformational. It is not enough to just weather it. With the right kind of help, you will be able to gain a deep understanding of what really happened that will hopefully result in you moving out of the pain you are in. Real change is possible.

Seriously, you don’t think he/she should just leave me?

If you are the injured partner, I suggest you skip over this section. It’s potentially not going to be palatable given the level of pain you’re dealing with right now.

Okay betraying partner. This section is for you. You have potentially destroyed your marriage or maybe just consigned yourself to years of misery. Above I outlined the different types of infidelities. Each of them serves a bigger purpose. Whilst I would never recommend an affair as a way of jump-starting a failing marriage, it can be helpful. You know how someone might receive an earth-shattering cancer diagnosis and they turn their whole life around? Well, this is a bit like that. No one in their right mind would want cancer, we know that. It’s a stupidly high-risk strategy for changing a life, yet here we are together trying to figure out how to get over your betrayal.

Let me draw you a picture. Let’s pretend your partner was always critical, jealous and untrusting of you or perhaps never really gave you enough space. Well, you having an affair has just confirmed and justified all that controlling behaviour. If all you do is get through the trauma phase by begging for and gaining forgiveness, you will be living in an amplified version of what you fought against for so many years. If the two of you don’t eventually move to a place where a whole new conversation can take place, you’re just creating a new version of misery. Yes, two thirds of couples will work through an infidelity without any help at all, but you will be punished, potentially for the rest of your life.

Your initial role in healing this betrayal and engaging in affair recovery is about regaining the trust of your partner. This stage is absolutely essential. Your partner will in no way be interested in your feelings just yet (and probably not for a while) and that is healthy and normal. Your job for now is to work on cleaning up whatever part of your behaviour that you managed to justify as acceptable. I am no way interested in getting your partner to forgive you at this stage. Just so all parties are clear, the infidelity wasn’t okay, isn’t okay and never will be okay.

The one thing every injured partner is looking for is a sense of actual change in you and your behaviour. If you do the work properly, your whole approach to life and your relationship should radically shift for the better. This change in you will be obvious to your partner and that’s when the affair recovery begins. You can make all the promises you like but unless your partner sees some actual shifts in your behaviour and your relationship, they will be stuck in the thoughts like; ‘the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour’ or ‘once a cheater always a cheater.’ I know that seeking help for affair recovery might feel very alarming for you in terms of the shame and public exposure but bizarrely, you, in particular, have so much to gain from getting this right.

Hurt partner, I did say look away but, if you are reading this, know that good people do bad things for complicated reasons. It is way too simplistic and demeaning to both of you to decide that the person who you chose to commit to is suddenly “bad” or even dangerous. Try not to listen to those people who will shame you and tell you to ‘just leave.’ The stats show that roughly 35% of all couples will experience an infidelity. We can’t all be stupid, bad or evil.

Success Stories

“My wife found out about an 8 year emotional affair I'd been having. Somehow I'd convinced myself that it wasn't a big deal and that I wouldn't get caught. Well, I got caught and it was a huge deal. It was horrific. At points I was afraid that I'd either killed my wife or she was going to kill me. I had no idea this was going to cause such a big rupture or how I was going to repair what I'd done to our family. We saw another therapist who did not help at all and my wife was consuming information from the internet which made it a lot worse. I really began to believe we were done. As much as I know what I did was wrong, Michael was the first person to convince me I wasn't the monster that other people appeared to be painting me as. We have two kids and I was desperate not to have the family be destroyed by my bad behaviour. Michael taught me how to start asking for what I truly needed in my relationship rather than trying to get those needs met elsewhere. It's actually working and no one could be more surprised than me about how that can even be possible. My wife and I have not only stayed together but are communicating in a way we had never done before. Michael has brought hope to the future of our relationship and has coached us both to be better people and love each other more effectively.”

Gordon and Jenny*

“Michael knows exactly how to get a couple out of trouble and is fearless. Before working with Michael I was very sceptical about therapy for couples and did not believe that any outsider could fully understand me, my partner or our situation well enough to be of help. At best, I expected clichés and a quick fix that would wear out after a short time. Michael is different and not at all what I had imagined...”

Chris*

*Names have of course been changed.

Here’s to a future different from your past.

The simplest way of putting this is that you must really mean it when you tell him it’s not good enough. If you are waiting for him to feel as though getting help would be a good idea, you’re in for years of pain and misery. In 95 out of 100 cases, it is the woman finally INSISTING that they get help that causes him to agree. The other 5% are when he’s been caught doing something that he knows is a deal breaker and he’s desperate to get things back on track. Generally, it’s the very real threat that either something changes, or you are going to take the level of misery in the home to a whole new level. If there are children involved, it’s important for him to know that he will rarely be having breakfast with them in the near future if he doesn’t agree to seek help.

Until it reaches that kind of level, he is fully capable of filtering it out as some kind of background noise that could easily be perceived as your general dissatisfaction with him. Men often live with the sense that nothing they do will ever be good enough for you and, sadly, they continue to adapt to this over the years. Whilst this is such a terrible waste of what is actually possible between the two of you, the tragedy is this is the life that most couples are living.

As men, we are always looking for solutions to our problems. My approach allows men to feel at ease and helps them to gain confidence to show up in the relationship as a result. Where appropriate, I ask couples for a commitment of just a few months of work, never years. Men appreciate the sense of momentum and getting the job done as the end of their discomfort is always in sight.

When you are ready to give up the pain, distance and all of that discomfort, please get in touch or book in for a session now.

michael-myercough-relationship-councellor
short-squiggle