Recovery From An Affair: How Long Should It Take?

It was a major choice, but you’ve decided to accept the fact that your partner was unfaithful and want to try rebuilding your relationship together.

Your spouse is happy you’ve made that decision but hopes you will recover quickly.

You realize that recovering from an affair will take time but, as the days and weeks go on and your resentment, anger and disappointment do not disappear, you can’t help but wonder how long you’re going to feel like this.

You may want to move on for yourself and your family but regaining trust and caring for your spouse comes very slowly.

The affair has compromised your ability to focus on work and enjoy personal interests. You may have withdrawn from friends and family and stopped taking good care of yourself.

You need to get your life and your marriage back on track.

How Long Does The Pain From Infidelity Last?

Most professionals tend to agree on a timeframe of about 6 months to 2 years for a successful recovery to take place after an affair.

Healing is gradual.

Every couple is unique, with its own issues and perspectives. Each partner has a point of view and a personal history. It is the commitment the couple brings to the recovery process that often determines how long it takes.

Some factors that come to bear on the recovery may also influence recovery time.

Some Factors Influencing The Stages Of Healing After An Affair

The Type of Affair 

Not all affairs are the same.

For example, there is the unintended affair, often known as a one-night stand.

Your previously loyal spouse slips up and sleeps with someone else. Perhaps they were intoxicated and made a genuine mistake or maybe curiosity or boredom drove them to cheat. This type tends not to have an emotional component, just sex.

Emotional affairs may or may not be physical, but the idea that your spouse became emotionally involved with a third party can be more devastating than a simple sexual encounter.

The Duration of the Affair

How long the affair lasted can certainly impact on recovery time.

If your spouse had an unintended affair but was previously faithful, you might be able to forgive the infidelity more quickly.

If the affair lasted a long time, however, over many months or even years, the magnitude of the breach is likely to be felt more profoundly.

Knowledge of the Affair

When a spouse is having an affair, clues or indicators can sometimes go unnoticed. Some partners are left in the dark.

Looking back, however, the hurt spouse may recall recognizing subtle changes, such as longer times away from home, an attitude change, changes in the connection between them like avoiding conversations or intimacy.

If you did not suspect your spouse being unfaithful you may have considered those behaviors as just a passing phase.

The impact of discovering the infidelity can be made even more painful as you chastise yourself for denying what now seems obvious.

This does not discount the impact of an infidelity on a hurt partner when there has been suspicion and that suspicion becomes confirmed.

The State of The Marriage

If a marriage has been happy; spouses getting along well, having fun together, being intimate and enjoying an emotional connection, it becomes even more difficult to accept an infidelity.

Here the deception is truly mind boggling for the hurt partner, making reconciliation even more of a struggle.

On the other hand, if the marriage has been conflicted or in distress, an infidelity, although surprising, may not turn out to be as shocking. The couple may have been distant emotionally and physically for some time, perhaps staying together for the sake of the children.

An infidelity under those circumstances may have been considered by both spouses as a way tolerating the relationship.

How To Tell If The Recovery Process Is Working

Recovery is not a linear process, and progress towards recovery can occur in fits and starts.

Here are some benchmarks that signal the recovery process is working.

The Unfaithful Spouse Takes Responsibility

Whether the relationship was conflicted or seemingly happy, the affair was the responsibility of the unfaithful spouse. If that partner takes responsibility and shows real remorse, the hurt partner can then begin to think about how to rebuild the marriage.

Less Personal Emotional Turmoil

At the beginning of the process any conversation about the affair might throw the hurt spouse into an emotional spin. It is often hard to regulate the way you feel when the subject is brought up at home or even in therapy.

Over time you might realize that you’ve stopped obsessing as much. You may be sleeping a little better, becoming more focused on self-care and generally sensing a more hopeful attitude.

Spouses Can Speak About the Affair With Fewer Arguments

Conversations that used to be emotional timebombs no longer cause as much hostility.

Partners have more productive conversations on their lingering doubts, fears, or concerns.

The unfaithful spouse plays an important role in this as they need to be ready to have such conversations, particularly when proper guidelines have been set for those talks to take place.

Ideally, the couple has the guidance of a professional in managing these conversations.

Looking Forward to a Better Relationship

Do you still miss your marriage before an affair rocked it? Of course, but you’re not as nostalgic anymore.

You recognize that even when you and your spouse put the affair behind you that your marriage will never go back to the way it was.

This can be a good thing, as recovery from the affair was meant to help make the changes necessary to bring you closer and stronger than before.

Recovery Outcome

Rebuilding trust and creating a strong emotional connection between partners after an affair, takes time and a commitment to change.

There will be ups and downs as the process proceeds  because emotions do not watch the clock.

To create a great relationship through more open communication about sex, intimacy, fantasy sharing, money, and being authentic, without the fear of judgment, is a wonderful goal.

However, even having a marriage that is simply back on track and working again, means that recovery is taking place.

Other articles of interest

How To Repair a Marriage After An Affair

Are You Codependant? Take The Quiz

Before You Divorce, Read This!

About the Author

Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist, clinical sexologist and life coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He works with couples struggling with powerful issues such as sexuality, infidelity, careers, and intimacy. He also specializes in treating addictions, anger, anxiety, stress, depression and work-life balance.