When you break your arm, you know you’re healed when the doctor removes the cast. When you have chicken pox, you know you’re healed when the spots go away.
How do you know when you’ve healed from a broken heart associated with infidelity? I’ve listed several waypoints you can look at in your life to confirm that healing has taken place. I hope they will help you gauge your progress toward healing. But first, I want to draw your attention to some factors that do not necessarily confirm that healing has taken place.
Time is not a factor. A friend recently told me the story recently of a woman whose husband cheated on her when she was a young mother. He ran off and married the other woman. He lived his life with the other woman until he died, but his first wife could never speak of him or be at any family holiday where he was present.
As a grandmother in her late 60s, her ex-husband passed away. Only then did she acknowledge the full extent of her grief as she gave old photos of him to their son. She had kept busy with the kids and grandkids for decades, but she hadn’t dealt with the pain and grief of her own life. She had never been able to let it go. She must have suffered immensely. Decades did not heal her heart and they won’t heal yours either.
Returning to a normal lifestyle and routine is not a viable sign of healing. Sometimes a couple will believe that they have healed from the affair simply because their marriage has a sense of normalcy to it again. But this simply means they found their old relationship rhythm or they developed a new rhythm that is working for them right now.
It does not mean that they have processed their emotions in a healthy way. It does not mean that they have forgiven each other or trust each other. It does not mean that they have a healthy emotional response toward the third party. It does not mean that the betrayer has taken responsibility for the affair and made amends. It does not mean that the betrayed partner has received sincere apologies for the betrayal and the damage that was done. It does not mean the unfaithful spouse has provided the emotional support the betrayed spouse needs. The emotions of rage, bitterness, blame, etc can still be underneath the surface of their daily life. They have been shoved “under the rug” so to speak.
This situation can be one of the easiest responses to an affair. They kissed and made up–sort of. They didn’t really solve anything though. The foundation for a healthy marriage has not been laid. This kind of “healed” (but not really) marriage is likely to crumble in the future. If the marriage remains intact, it is probably because one spouse (usually the unfaithful) has the upper hand in manipulating the marriage and the other spouse (usually the betrayed) is either unaware of what’s really happening or too fearful to change the situation.
Lack of anger is not a sign of a healed heart. Anger can easily be replaced by other unhealthy emotions such as apathy or cynicism.
How can you know that you have healed in a healthy way?
When you can think of the affair as an issue that had nothing to do with your appearance, your sexiness, your intelligence, your personality, or anything that you did or should have done. A healed individual knows that every marriage has strengths and weaknesses, but none of those weaknesses made the partner cheat.
When you can say the affair partner’s name in your mind or out loud without it making you sick. After you discovered the affair, you most likely called the third party all kinds of names. It felt better that way. If you ever met someone that had the same name as the third party, you may have rolled your eyes or had some other sort of physical reaction. Those feelings and reactions fade as the healing takes place in your mind and heart.
When you sleep, eat and think normally again. Obtrusive thoughts don’t keep you awake anymore. Flashbacks of what may have happened with your spouse and the third party don’t sabotage your mind. Your appetite returns. You don’t eat for comfort (if you didn’t before the affair). You no longer have dreams that include the third party because your brain no longer needs to sort things out in your subconscious.
When you no longer experience nausea, tension and headaches associated with the betrayal. Your body will eventually return to a normal state of health after betrayal. You can facilitate this process by examining what you believe about yourself, your partner, the third party and other events surrounding the affair. You may need to come to a place of peace in your mind that life is not always fair. You may need to acknowledge that sometimes bad things happen to good people. You may need to let go of turning your life into a drama. You may need to let go of rehearsing your side of the story to anyone who will listen.
When you’re able to think about your spouse’s affair partner and feel compassion for them. It takes a mature and emotionally healthy individual to recognize that the affair partner was a broken person, not a malicious one. He or she was trying to fill a void, find an escape, or fulfill an unhealthy urge. Taking the perspective that people’s bad choices sometimes have side effects that damage innocent people (like you), allows you to be able to have compassion for the third party and move on with your life without negative feelings toward them.
Do these points give you some clarity about where you are in the healing process? Do you have more work to do than you thought? Are you farther along than you thought? Rest assured that complete healing is possible. Keep working for it. Surround yourself with people who bring you closer the healthy emotional state that you desire to have. Seek professional help if you need it.
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