Hindsight is always 20/20. Always. It’s just too easy to look back on an event and not see the signs, find the flubs, and scrutinize the details that were missed.
When you discover that your partner has had an affair, it’s common to press rewind on the last year of your life together and look for all the signs you should have seen and things you missed. The times they were out late and didn’t invite you, the times they were on the phone way too long with their work colleague and you gave them the benefit of the doubt, not wanting to rock the boat.
When hindsight is 20/20, it’s easy to place blame on yourself for missing the signs, or not acknowledging them or acting on your gut feeling in the moment. But the truth is, relationships are generally built on trust and it isn’t foolish to trust someone you love and are committed to.
As much as you’d probably like it to, the past can’t be erased, and the future of your relationship is what matters.
Many times I have clients who say things like, “I guess the last year was just one big lie. When we took that romantic vacation, and he said all those wonderful things to me, it must’ve been a lie!”
I beg to differ. Your partner saying they love you, and having an affair are not dependent upon one another. People can compartmentalize things in such a way that makes this possible. While I acknowledge that it’s confusing, I don’t believe that what is said in a moment of romance between you and your partner isn’t true for them. Just as what’s happening for them in the moments they share with someone they are having an affair with are also very real.
What you do in the aftermath of an affair is what matters most. How you handle and set new boundaries for your partner moving forward is where you can take charge, and ask for what you need.
I have seen clients that feel as though it is now their duty to punish their partner at all costs after discovering their affair. They tell their kids, they tell their friends, their family, and anyone else who will listen in an attempt to get their partner to feel shame for their transgressions.
When this happens, it creates a space that is no longer safe. Trust is one of the most difficult things to rebuild after infidelity, but when the injured partner creates a space of punishment at every corner, things can truly backfire and this often sends the straying partner back into the arms of the other.
So while you are not to blame for your partner straying in the first place, it is your responsibility to create a space and relationship after the affair where communication is open, and you are both able to be authentic as you push towards creating a new normal.
Looking back on the signs that you missed won’t do a lot of good. What will be beneficial is to identify your responsibility and contributions towards the rocky patch in your relationship that lead to your partner’s affair.
Did you stop communicating? Did you put your job ahead of your relationship? Did you stop nurturing the friendship between you and your partner? Once you can identify your role, you will have a good place to start the healing process.
You can only control yourself, and you can only work on changing yourself in the aftermath of an affair. You can change how you relate to your partner, how you communicate with them, and how you show up in your relationship, but without looking at yourself and really taking an inventory of what you need to change, there is no starting point.