Recovering From an Affair: Meeting the Needs of Hurt Partners

Recovering From an Affair: Meeting the Needs of Hurt Partners

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I'm idit sharoni, lmft
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in Affair Recovery, Betrayal Trauma, and Surviving Infidelity. The owner of Relationship experts private practice and host of Relationships Uncomplicated Podcast
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Betrayed, humiliated, and wounded. And now, tasked with the uphill battle of recovering from an affair, the aftermath of infidelity is often a maelstrom of confusion and emotion. At this point, do you wonder what a hurt partner needs most?

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An unfaithful partner might believe they need remorse or to know why. People outside the situation might need assurances and a fresh start. Some therapists might suggest the hurt partner needs to forgive and reconnect.

All of these things are true and necessary. Eventually.  But they are not the first or the hurt partner’s most fundamental need. After infidelity, a betrayed partner needs to know that someone hears their pain. 


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Imagine a good life by most standards in a middle-class neighborhood. A family with 40-ish parents, one young child, and two teens lives and thrives together. The wife and mother, Mary, chose to be a stay-at-home mother while her children were young. Now that all the kids are in school, she considers returning to work.

Jim, the husband and father, financially supports their family. He travels often and is relatively successful. As a result, the family enjoys a lifestyle that affords them private schools and resort-style vacations. 

It is no wonder, then, that learning of her husband’s year-long affair devastates Mary. Yet, she decides to stay and try to save the relationship. Still, as she and Jim work towards recovering from an affair, Mary feels stuck. She is angry, filled with rage, and finds no outlet for her feelings. 

  • Crying is out; the kids don’t know anything. 
  • Sharing is impossible; gossip spreads like wildfire.
  • Venting to her family is problematic; they’ll never forgive him. 

So, what’s left? Talk it out with Jim? That doesn’t work well either. When she tries, things quickly spiral downward. She lashes out. He shuts down. Progress is slow and messy.

Is This What Recovering From an Affair Looks Like For You Too?

If so, please know you aren’t alone. Initially, recovering from an affair comes with a period of deep loneliness and isolation. You and your partner may feel like you’re going crazy or driving each other crazy. 

This is all exacerbated by the betrayed partner’s disorientation in the relationship and their inability to feel heard, acknowledged, and validated. When those things aren’t rectified, it is impossible to heal. What can be done when it seems there are often too few opportunities for a hurt partner to express their pain?


The renowned Gottman Institute addresses such relationship difficulty with sound research and helpful tools. According to their findings, recovering from affairs is best approached in three phases. Atone, Attune, and Attach. Let’s explore the first phase below:

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What is Atonement?

This phase involves clearly hearing the betrayed partner’s pain. For this to occur, the unfaithful partner must remain open and patient. Defensive expressions, body language, and comments undermine atonement. Allowing the hurt partner to articulate their thoughts and feelings openly and honestly is the primary aim. 

The unfaithful partner also needs to express remorse. Committing to and remaining transparent is paramount when responding to the hurt partner’s questions. Even if the answer causes more pain. 

Peggy Vaughan, author and expert regarding extramarital affairs, corroborated the Gottman findings in her own book  Monogamy Myth. Dr. Vaughn pinpointed key differences between successfully recovered relationships and those that failed. Communication was the primary factor. Efforts to remain open, sharing thoroughly and honestly, made all the difference. Trying to move on without talking it through often resulted in permanent separation.


As couples therapists and affair recovery experts, we promise not to rush or encourage a hurt partner to “move on” too soon. Repairing the relationship is not helpful or productive before the hurt partner has their say.


If you’re the unfaithful partner, the following strategies ensure that you’re hearing your hurt partner well:

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Be compassionate.

Demonstrate that you care when your hurt partner shares how the affair hurt them. Listen carefully. Acknowledge and openly validate your partner’s emotions. Resist the urge to get defensive or express defensiveness in any way.

Initiate some of the discussion.

Refrain from making it solely your partner’s responsibility to discuss their pain. Acknowledge their pain by asking questions and checking in on them. Make a point of asking how they are doing and accepting a sincere response. Allow them to not be okay.

Make the time and prioritize your talks. 

Accept that talking about this is an everyday thing at first. Do what you must to make time and space for your discussions. If you have children, make arrangements for them. This is too important to put off, avoid, or ignore. You’ll likely be sorry if you don’t face the situation head-on.


If you’re the hurt partner, recognize that expressing your pain is more than simply talking about it. Honestly sharing something so painful is complicated. It requires more than you may realize. The following strategies are often helpful:

Take the time.

Inform your partner that you need to talk. Share your desire for them to really hear you. Something such as, “I need you to hear this and just listen,” communicates that you need them to be there for you. Stay connected to the situation and your partner by not avoiding or burying your pain. Don’t swallow the words or the hurt. It will only come up and out of you painfully later. 

Preserve your support system.

Yet, do keep in mind that your partner needs to hear and acknowledge what they did to you. Confiding in others will not suffice if healing your marriage is the goal.

Communicate how you feel concerning the affair.

Share the details. Describe what it’s like to cope with the breach of trust. Lashing out, name-calling and harsh criticism are not productive and off-limits. You don’t want your partner to retreat into their “shame room.” That kind of withdrawal is so agonizing and hurtful that it hinders recovery. 


The tasks above make one vital thing happen. The hurt is heard.

That’s it, the primary goal. That’s enough for now. Try not to get ahead of yourselves. One of my favorite couples therapists, Esther Perel, speaks of this period this way: “This is when you talk about what the affair did to the hurt spouse”. 

Later, there will be time to go deeper. Later, you will discuss meaning and intent. Then, you’ll address what the affair meant to the unfaithful partner. It is vital that you do not mix the betrayed partner’s hurt with the unfaithful partner’s inner psychological world right now.

Was this post helpful? We know how tough it is to begin recovering from an affair, but we believe you can do it. We hope that you feel more equipped to start expressing and hearing the pain connected to infidelity.


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If you need more support expressing your emotions and hearing each other out during affair recovery, we’re here to help. Let’s work together to determine how to help you create the supportive, solid relationship you both desire.  

You can take the next step towards recovering from an affair and healing today. Seek guidance and support at Relationship Experts. With our proven infidelity recovery coaching program, you and your partner can begin taking meaningful steps toward a renewed connection and genuine restoration. Follow these three simple steps to get started:

  1. Reach out for your free consultation.
  2. Meet our program specialist to learn more about our Affair Recovery Programs and how we can help.
  3. Begin healing your relationship!


Our team of experts at Relationship Experts offers various infidelity recovery services designed to help you and your partner heal and reconnect. Our private practice is US-based but our services are offered worldwide. You can connect with us online throughout the United States, Canada, and the UK. Additionally, you might find offerings such as Surviving Infidelity, for more tools and information helpful. We also offer a Quiz page to help you answer questions about your readiness for a recovery program.



Feel free to check out our blog page for more posts like this!

I’m Idit, your blog writer & podcast host.

practice owner relationship expert PODCASTER
blog writer

I am the owner of the highly respected Relationship Experts private practice based in Miami, Florida and focused on affair recovery. In over a decade and together with my team, we help couples with surviving infidelity and healing from betrayal trauma

A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in Affair-Recovery and Infidelity Counseling in The United States and worldwide.

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