These tips on how to heal after an affair are from a family therapist who had no idea her husband was cheating on her. You’re not alone in your struggle to rebuild your life!
“My husband had never mentioned that he was unhappy or thinking of leaving me,” writes Vikki Stark in Runaway Husbands: The Abandoned Wife’s Guide to Recovery and Renewal. “Until the moment of his revelation [that he was cheating and wanted to leave her], I was deeply in love and believed him to be, too….I had no idea.”
Stark’s husband lied to her for years. He took trips with his affair girlfriend, and lied about how he spent his time. She was shocked that he was cheating – but she found a way to heal after his affair. She and her husband didn’t save their marriage; she started a website called RunawayHusbands.com. To learn why men have affairs, read Why Your Husband is Having an Affair and How to Recover.
In her book Runaway Husbands, Stark she doesn’t just describe her story. She helps abandoned wives cope with the stress and shock of not knowing their husbands were cheating. It’s a solid, helpful resource for women who had no idea their marriages were in trouble.
How to Heal After an Affair
Here are three tips for healing after an affair from her book. They barely skim the surface of all Stark offers, but they’re a good place to start…
Realize that you are traumatized
It’s not just a shock that your husband was cheating and you didn’t know it…it’s a serious trauma that affects your mind, body, and soul. You may struggle with anxiety, stress, depression, despair, and even post-traumatic stress. “In trauma, the mind’s normal thinking process is flooded and temporarily damaged,” writes Stark. “To insure our survival, humans have a primitive need for our lives to have a reliable form and consistent meanings. Without it, we cannot adequately prepare for the future.” If your husband was lying about cheating, learn about surviving a trauma – not just healing a heartbreak!
Make a mantra
This is a wonderful way to overcome an affair: choose three words that describe the state of mind you’d like to be in. Repeat them to yourself when you feel sad, stressed, confused, or depressed. “[Your mantra] will act as shorthand to remind you of how you should be thinking and will replace other, more destructive thoughts.” My mantra is “freedom and forgiveness.”
In Runaway Husbands: The Abandoned Wife’s Guide to Recovery and Renewal, a woman who didn’t know her husband was cheating after 27 years of marriage says, “I wrote LET IT GO” on index cards and placed them everywhere I was likely to look…That constant re-affirmation of doing the only thing I really could do was a great help to me.” She was reminded that even though her life as she knew it was over, she had some free will, too.
Accept that your marriage is really over
“The wife often gets stuck in the rut of struggling to understand how things could have changed so radically and assessing if there is anything she can do to influence the turn of events,” writes Stark. “That requires deep thinking about what compelled her husband to leave and whether there is any possibility of repair. She may grasp at straws, trying to come up with a desperate deal to delay the inevitable.”
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If you didn’t know he was cheating, you’re not prepared for life on your own. But, the first step to learning how to cope when your husband leaves you for her is accepting that your marriage is over.
If you didn’t know your husband was cheating and you’d like to share your experience, I welcome your thoughts below.
For more tips on healing after an affair, read How to Let Go of Someone You Love – it offers 75 tips from psychologists, life coaches, and counselors.
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