The Grief of an Affair

Learn half one in all this two-part article: How Do Affairs Happen?

The revelation of a associate’s affair (sexual or emotional) comes as a shock to the damage associate, even when doubts exist. The lack of belief in a relationship isn’t any totally different from a bodily loss. The closeness of the connection and the damage associate’s notion of preventability had been recognized as predictors of the grieving course of’s depth and period in a research on human grief by Bugen. The predictors wouldn’t be totally different within the case of belief loss as properly.

The method of grief consists of 5 emotional levels to restoration from loss, as per the Kubler-Ross mannequin. This course of is just not linear, and the damage associate can discover themselves at any stage all through various timelines. The levels of belief loss, making use of the grief mannequin to the aftermath of an affair, can be as follows:


The damage associate struggles to understand what occurred and is commonly unaware of the Gottman-Rusbult-Glass betrayal cascade that the betraying associate skilled or is experiencing (Learn additional concerning the betraying associate’s struggles within the article, “How Do Affairs Happen?”). The damage associate tends to attenuate the ache of the affair initially and goes by the part of “one thing is amiss, and it will likely be set proper.” There’s a sturdy want to verify with the associate by asking questions in a number of alternative ways as they really feel that this can’t be occurring.


The damage associate begins to piece collectively the incidents from the previous, and the fact step by step emerges. There may be obvious anger concerning the betrayal, damage for being let down, and unhappiness about dropping the connection. The anger will be towards oneself for letting this occur, the associate who did this to them, and the liaison who shouldn’t have crossed the boundaries. However then, there’s additionally the concern that the anger might push away the very particular person they nonetheless love. The concern of dropping the associate ends in suppressing anger, which can erupt abruptly at totally different factors because the entirety of the scenario sinks in. There might also be self-doubt about their function within the case, which is overwhelming, given the immense emotional stress already persisting.


The sentiments of confusion, ache, anger, and different feelings appear insufferable and threaten the lack of management. It’s a helpless state intensified by highly effective feelings and subsequently comes a must regain management. The damage associate tries to reset the previous by exploring totally different paths, similar to “if solely I had stopped her that day once I noticed her messaging,” “what if the opposite particular person had misused the scenario and my associate is just not at fault,” and many others. There’s a battle to heal the ache quicker by offering logical explanations and intellectualizing emotions. The damage associate might attempt untimely closure to postpone experiencing painful feelings.


Right here one feels the total impression of dropping a trusted relationship. The affair erases every part the damage associate believed. Whereas the primary three levels are extra cognitive and solution-oriented, this stage is emotional and experience-oriented. It’d contain heaviness and isolation. The damage associate experiences intense feelings of anger, unhappiness, and doubts that may really feel like there isn’t any extra working away. Questions might come up like, “does my associate love me in any respect?” “I ought to have given extra time and a spotlight earlier than,” “What do I do now?” and many others. These questions tackle the considerations at a deeper degree, releasing intense feelings. It’s a tough part that may really feel foggy. Although melancholy might really feel like a consolation zone because the interior battle lessens, dwelling right here indefinitely is unhealthy and would want counseling help to maneuver on.


Acceptance comes regarding what occurred and what it means sooner or later. It isn’t an ideal decision and everlasting closure (with feelings and interpersonal realities) however a transformative stage following a major change. The damage associate might begin to have ideas like, “I’m conscious of what went flawed and may perceive the explanations,” “I will forgive and transfer on,” and many others. At this level, the attitude is extra on the current second and future moderately than the previous. Hope is renewed concerning the restoration of the connection. This stage feels totally different because the outlook in direction of a number of facets of life modifications.

Submit-Traumatic Stress Dysfunction (PTSD)

Shirley Glass famous that the damage associate usually suffers from a PTSD response following an affair’s discovery. In accordance with Drs. John and Julie Gottman, if the under signs persist, then the probabilities are that the damage associate is experiencing PTSD. 

  1. Recurrent recollections and intrusive visualizations: “Deja vu” occasions, days, areas, and many others., are likely to set off flashbacks of affair specifics. For instance, recurring dates of when the damage associate had discovered concerning the affair set off recollections and associated feelings that may induce flooding (stress) and panic assaults.
  2. Oscillating moods, confusion, irritability, and outbursts: Because the damage associate struggles between emotions of betrayal and acceptance, there are durations of emotional numbing adopted by explosions.
  3. Intense feelings of anger, damage, disgrace, grief, and frustration: There are ambivalent fears of anger, guilt, self-doubts, and many others., that may overwhelm the damage associate. Empathetic listening goes a good distance in therapeutic.
  4. Hyper-vigilance and startling: Harm companions can turn out to be startled and vigilant about mundane issues like message notifications, cellphone rings, delay in replies, and many others., and could appear to make unattainable calls for. Compassion and assurance will assist.
  5. Avoidance, detachment, and seclusion: The overwhelming emotions seem difficult, and isolation might appear to be the one possibility. The betraying associate usually misunderstands it as distancing and tends to remain away. It could improve the emotions of rejection within the damage associate when what is required is emotional help.
  6. Lack of focus and curiosity: The melancholy signs of demotivation, lack of curiosity, lack of vitality, irregular sleep, no urge for food, low emotions, and many others., can persist.
  7. Hopelessness concerning the future: Because the world, they know, collapses, there could also be hopelessness and helplessness concerning the relationship.

Though not all companions damage by an affair will develop PTSD reactions, many will expertise grief and melancholy. Harm companions might turn out to be obsessive about the affair’s particulars, really feel powerless with their feelings, and wish therapeutic help at such occasions. It is very important observe that these reactions are regular responses and may profit from couple remedy.

Last thought

An affair shakes every part that the damage associate believes of their understanding of themselves and the world. Gottman Technique {Couples} Remedy might help a pair study to atone, attune, and connect as they restore new goal and that means collectively.

Has your relationship skilled a sexual or emotional affair? The Gottman Institute is presently looking for {couples} for a global research on affair restoration. For extra data, please click on here.


Bugen, L. A. (1977). Human grief: A mannequin for prediction and intervention. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 47(2), 196–206.

Glass, S. (2007). NOT “Simply Associates”: Rebuilding Belief and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity. Simon & Schuster.

Gottman, J. (1995). Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last. Simon & Schuster.

Gottman, J. M. (2011). The science of belief: Emotional attunement for {couples}.

Gottman, J., & Gottman, J. (2017a). The Pure Rules of Love. Journal of Household Principle and Overview, 9(1), 7–26. doi: 10.1111/JFTR.12182

Gottman, J., & Gottman, J. (2017b). Treating Affairs and Trauma. Unpublished manuscript,  Gottman Institute, Seattle, USA.

Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (1986). Assessing the function of emotion in marriage. Behavioral Evaluation.

Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (1992). Marital processes predictive of later dissolution: conduct, physiology, and well being. Journal of Character and Social Psychology, 63(2), 221–233. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.63.2.221

Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (2002). A Two‐Issue Mannequin for Predicting When a Couple Will Divorce: Exploratory Analyses Utilizing 14‐12 months Longitudinal Information*. Household Course of, 41(1), 83–96. doi: 10.1111/J.1545-5300.2002.40102000083.X

Corridor, C. (2011). Past Kubler-Ross: current developments in our understanding of grief and bereavement. InPsych: The Bulletin of the Australian Psychological Society Ltd, 33(6), 8.

Holland, Ok. (2018, September 25). What You Ought to Know In regards to the Levels of Grief. Retrieved from being/stages-of-grief

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