Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

Affair Recovery Timeline for Healing After Betrayal

How long does this take?

When the pain is intense and life is undone, the process of recovery seems as slow as pouring thick molasses on a cold winter day. Actions can be taken that help facilitate healing, but it still takes time. At the risk of writing a boring article, I think it could be helpful to lay out the healing timeline. Let me stress that this timeline is hypothetical. Each couple travels through this process at their own pace, but this will give a general rule of thumb. Also, as you look at the timeline, don’t get discouraged. The intensity of the pain and the frequency of the intrusive thoughts should subside over time. The following diagram reflects the stages of the recovery process.

In a perfect world, and I’m afraid we are far too complex to let that happen, here are the general timelines for a couple’s recovery.

affair recovery timeline

  1. The discovery stage: zero to six weeks
  2. This stage is frequently characterized by shock and emotional instability. Hopefully, by the end of six weeks the story has been told. During this stage the couple tries to establish “WHAT” has happened. Until this initial stage is completed it’s almost impossible for the couple to move forward. If this stage take’s longer than six weeks, then it becomes more difficult for the hurt spouse to redevelop trust. Once this task is complete, it’s possible to move forward in the recovery process.

  3. The reaction stage: six months
  4. During the first six months multiple tasks have to be completed in order for both parties to feel safe about continuing in the relationship. The hurt spouse needs to feel that their mate cares. This is done through the development of empathy and a willingness to explore the reality of why this happened. A shared understanding of “why” this happened needs to be established before moving forward. Both parties have to learn how to regulate the emotions generated by the event. There is a grieving over the loss. The unfaithful spouse should be pursuing whatever actions are necessary to assure they don’t put their mate at risk of being hurt again.

  5. The release stage: Months 9 to 12
  6. This stage is characterized by forgiveness and this opens up the door for reconciliation. By this time, both parties have a better understanding of “why” this happened, and hopefully their mate’s personal pursuit of healing provides the hurt spouse assurance about their commitment to the marriage.

  7. Recommitment and moving on: 12 to 18 months
  8. During this stage the couple makes a conscious decision to move on with their life. The event will have brought new meaning to the couple, but it won’t define them. Rather, their ability to deal with the adversity created by the infidelity and to move forward, can provide new meaning and significance for the relationship.

    Please don’t think that because I said 18 months you’re beginning to freak out. Please don’t do that. If you’re on the right path you’ll experience a much improved marriage long before 18 months. However, the intrusive thoughts may still cause emotional swings into the process.

    If for some reason you feel stuck and are way off on this timeline, please seek help. Do all you can to move forward.



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My husband has had many affairs on me. I know of 3 only, he said I only know of the three. Insinuating that there were more. We have been separated for about 2 1/2 years now, he is living with his mistress during this time. He once told me there was no hope to our marriage, but he continues to stall putting his marriage settlement agreement into my attorneys office. He has been stalling for over 6 months now. I don't understand why he keeps stalling. He has put me through so much. We got back together for about six months, and again he went back to the mistress. He has asked me for a divorce twice, but never does anything about it. I'm the one who has filed, because he chose his mistress over me, his wife. A little back ground. My husband has been married three times and cheated on all three wife's, I'm his third wife. I'm so perplexed as to why he won't move forward. I do know his mistress want to get married as soon as the divorce is done. Also a little more info, My husband is 60 so am I, he left me for his mistress who is now 73. Please help me figure this out it is torture, being the estranged wife waiting for a divorce for a total of 3 years now, and he won't give it to me. I can't afford to move forward financially right now that is why it would be so much affordable if he would just put in his Marriage settlement Proposal. Can you help me figure this out?

My husband had an affair for

My husband had an affair for 1,5 year. It is our second marriage and we were married only 9,5 years when he started the affair. When he wanted out she did not want to let him go and threatened to tell his family. He tried to change her mind and that stretched the affair to 1,5 year.She told me, my kids, some colleagues and friends 1,5 years ago. That was the day that my world fell apart. It was so unexpected.We had a very loving, happy, fulfilled marriage and I never thought he would ever do this to me.We have watched the AR videos, went to a marriage enrichment weekend and after 1,5 years I have to say we are on the way to be happy again.To think that for 1,5 years he lived a double life. That he loves me, never wanted to leave me, and was scared to death that it would come out. I fear that the shock and pain of that day will never leave me. When I found out I landed in hospital with a blood clot, broke out in a skin rash and had to get depression meds and see a professional to get over the PTSD. TI I still look at him thinking how could you do that to me. He is the most caring, loving husband I could wish for and I do not understand why he ever needed more. It broke my spirit, my heart, my self confidence, my life. I got up and I do not want to loose him. He has done everything right to show that he has remorse and I believe him. Will I ever feel normal again. I am trying to look normal and act normal but my mind still turns this over and over in my head, daily. Will that eventually go away? Forgiveness is given, I love him, I don't want us to get a divorce and we are doing well, thanks to God, but the disappointment and unbelief will never be erased.

10 days out from d-day exposure

I’m on day 11 of discovering what my spouse of 5 years did. He had an affair with a woman at work for a year. His given me disclosure but I’ve had to dig quite a bit. I asked him if I hadn’t found out on his texting habits to her, (and other women!), would he have ever told me? He said no. I get that. Not only am I raw, in immense pain, and barely able to function as a mother, I’m looking for advice on self-care. I made my own personal therapist appt next week. He states he believes in us and wants to figure this out so we end up together, healthier, happier, after we do the work individually. I want that too. I’m just struggling with the day to day stuff, even functioning. I just started an anti depressant a week ago and I’ve noticed it does help lift me. My quick reaction to find my happy place with him is unrealistic. To wipe it away. The work has to be done and we both know that. I guess I’m trying to figure out how to give space to that as we were also best friends and communicated everyday. Any tips would be appreciated. Thank you

I was cheated on

How am I supposed to cope with something that's been going on for 2 whole months and you find out that your boyfriend or husband cheated on you and told everyone else what he did but didn't tell you, you found out on your own 1 day after your 1 year being together. As of right now I'm very confused and I don't think I'll be able to get passed this hurt

Multiple affairs

We are almost to 2 years since D day. He hasn't had any contact with the AP and has been going to counseling weekly since the beginning. He is working very hard but this is the 3rd affair he has had in our 25 year marriage. The first one was a couple of one night stands, the second one was 9 months long and was mostly an emotional affair with some physical interactions and the last one was 1 1/2 years and was both emotional and physical. I found out about the first one after d day for the third one. I had forgiven him completely after the second one and felt like we were in a much better place. The third one completely knocked me off my feet and I don't feel like I've really been able to get back up, even with all of the work that he's doing. I'm not sure what to do, I still feel so lost.


My partner had sex with 10 prostitutes over 2 years. We have been together 11 years and have children.
I found out 6 months ago but don’t feel any better at all.
I feel stuck and I don’t know where to turn. One minute we are ok and the next I can’t stand to be around him. We are in therapy but I don’t feel like it’s helping anymore.

I reached out to AP

After being in recovery for 8 months I failed and reached out to AP like a fool. Now my husband has found out I was talking to him for 3 months we were almost going to be a year out on recovery. I am completely sorry last time I was going with the motions didn't see the harm I caused my husband this time I am completely aware of his pain. We are now living in separate rooms he was merciful enough to let me back in the house. I am wondering if the timeline is the same for a failure like mine. I love this man with all my heart and it's hard to imagine going on a year without any connection to him as we are now just roommates he told me. Basically I am looking for some hope and guidance as to what I can do to help him heal.

How much time

How much time per day or per week is logical to spend on recovery work? For me the betrayed it is on my mind 24/7, I want healing NOW. I want to work on it all the time and figure out how to make this pain stop. For him he thinks 3 to 4 days a week at night? It seems like no matter how many videos we watch, no matter how many books we read it doesn't end. Our situation cannot be tracked with an app in his phone, or me looking at his email or bank statements. Affairs are easily had with no phone, hiding everything, hiding porn magazines, using work computers, buying another phone, and his eyes looking at other women. All things that cannot be seen or tracked using an app and where healing has brought us to a stand still. He works at the usps, where women are all over the mail and inappropriate. Joggers all over the roads and I feel hopeless.

TImeline at 3 years and still have a long way to go

At 36 years into marriage (a year after I retired) I found out he had been cheating on and off for the last 26 years! He began cheating in 1993 and was regularly (3 or more times a week) having intercourse with a close friend's wife for almost 8 years. (He is also an alcoholic.) Then because of moving and change of employment, he wrote, texted, phoned her for another 20 years! Meanwhile, he had multiple "emotional" affairs without sex, with co-workers where he texted asking for photos and often said he loved and missed them. Sometimes he texted them when sitting in the same room with me. All this was discovered when I picked up his cell phone and it was still open in a conversation with a co-worker. I tried Harboring Hope and made some wonderful friends. We attended EMS weekend after the initial 6 month separation after D-day. At that time I was frustrated that there was no "why." We are both still in counseling. The timeline is completely wrong for us, although it took almost 2 years for more truth to be discovered, admitted to, and apologized for. Trickle truth nearly killed me physically. At 3 years, I am still daily attacked with horrible reminders, intrusive thoughts an wicked nightmares. A year of EMDR helped a bit. I think now that even though he is so very remorseful, and changing for the better, that it still isn't enough to make me forget. Where is the happy - better than ever marriage others are talking about? Certainly not here at 3 years and the "why" he simply says there was no good reason - it was nothing to do with me - I was a wonderful wife.

I'm spiraling

My husband of 12 years cheated on me with a younger coworker she was 19 he was 29 turning 30 I was 27 this happen in 2021
She was supposed to be my friend before we became friends they started texted in 2020 i Recently found out by looking at the phone bill. But to the story mothers day2021 I caught him texting someone in a werid way so I said who's is it he lied and tried to show me something else I pushed the back button and he took his phone away lefted and came back and told me it was a girl from omegle and came up with this lie of why he did it. And then in July 2021 I saw him texting again weirdly and then that's when I found out it was actually her he has been texting all along . So I did all the asking and why how could you and he would come out with little truths every so often over the months he wanted it to just be a dark corner in the room to just forget not look or Discuss so one day I just couldn't handle it because he didn't even understand how much pain I was in and I was going to leave pack my things and go but he wasn't having it so I played a couple of songs for him and made him listen to how much he hurt me. It clicked he finally understood and the healing began but I find things sometimes I guess I should leave it but the phone bill logs said they been texting since 2020 and it's alot of texting her and then texting me I felt like a nobody to him seeing all those texts to eachother they haven't texted since I found out but I can't help but not feel safe with him the pain it hurt so much and still does. After 12 years together I would do anything ask him all the time are you okay. is there anything I'm not doing in the Relationship that you need what can I do better and he said I was doing amazing all before i found out but this still hurt almost 9 months and I'm back to Obsessing over if he is going to do again or if he is talking to a new girl. I use to be head overheal for him not anymore

Wife of 15 plus years cheated on me

So our relationship was a little rocky and I can admit that. Her affair started as I was spending extra time doing training for my job. I discovered some text and she denied anything happened and was remorseful.. I tried to get counseling and it never lined up. I deployed in March 2020 and thought although things were rocky we would be able to work more when I returned... My older boys contacted me in June to ask if I was on the phone with mom and I said no.. They sent me text through messenger but I couldn't receive it. They screenshotted it and it said I already read it (wife logged in and read it) she denied anything was going on said she was playing with toys.. Then I decided to look further. 7K text messages and 45 hours on the phone she denied it got angry and it took 3 days worth of talking to point out she never once said sorry or said she understood.. We seemed ok.. Months in more and more cash withdrawals etc... then in August my boys found some personal items with the persons name on it.. once again I was lied to... she never came clean until after I got home from deployment and she stayed out all night and I went looking for her because she said she was headed home at 1.. I found her in Wal Mart parking lot with the guy standing out the car.. she finally came clean but continued the affair and lies for another month.. it wasn't until I contacted his x girlfriend (which turns out they were still together) that stuff finally came to light. I found out so much all in one day.. She was pregnant at some point.. he was at my house and in my room/on my bed with all my kids there. He met my youngest...Its just so much to even balance.. she does have some mental health issues but I don't know how to weigh 15 years of a decently good marriage with what just happened over the last 10 months.. its absolutely disgusting... things are better she is no longer in contact.. she let's me see her phone.. but my oldest kids are scarred... its been 2 months since everything stopped but she hasn't setup therapy...

A betrayed perspective

My wife and I have been married for 42 years. We raised three children, now on their own. Unfortunately my wife had covid in August of 2021 and was in the ICU where they had to put her on a ventilator. Before the procedure she was texting me due to me not being allowed to be with her or even in the hospital. We were both scared and she wanted to clear her conscience before being sedated. She told me she had cheated on me for two years beginning in 2013 - 2015. Of course I was devastated, angry, confused and had many questions. Unfortunately there simply wasn't the time or venue to discuss it. I did know the infidelity's were with two "friends" starting with one and then ending after a second back-to-back affair. I spent the next two weeks crying, praying and angry. I decided I wanted my wife back from the hospital, healthy, whole and strong. I wanted her back with me and we would somehow work it out. Two weeks later she was able to come home. I was her sole caregiver for the next 10 months. We discussed details of the affair(s), We also found Affair Recovery on-line and watched multiple videos, took notes, discussed and prayed. To make a long story short these are just some of the insights I / we have gained through this journey; affairs can never be justified, the unfaithful must take full responsibility for their actions, relationships do not provide 100% of what a partner wants or think they want. The best you could expect from a partner is 80% fulfillment. The unfaithful doesn't think about sacrificing the 80% while fantasizing about the 20%. No logic can prevail when comparing a marriage to an affair. There is no love without some degree of pain, suffering and sacrifice. Forgiveness is paying someone else's debt that they are unable to pay. There really isn't any way for an unfaithful spouse to make it up to the betrayed. Don't compare yourself with the AP. Lastly do not fantasize about the unfaithful with the AP, you weren't there and it wasn't all that!

This was helpful.

Thank you!


This timeline is way too short. After 45 years my wife and I still have issues. I relive the event often and bringing it up with her causes her pain, depression and anger. Other than this issue we have a perfect marriage.

This is ridiculously idealized

This timeline does real harm, IMO. Most Betrayed can’t get full disclosure in six weeks!

Six months for Reaction Period? My UH was still blaming me 100% for months, then blamed me 50% for months. Add trickle truth and you might as well DOUBLE that time.

And at a year, ready for forgiveness? And 18 mo “the event has brought new meaning”?

Totally unrealistic.

And the “don’t freak out” because it can take a lot LESS time.

OMG I would like to meet or hear from one of these couples. The BWs weren't in my HH course! I haven’t seen but
Maybe one BW on these forums that hit that approx. timeline.

This is so defeating for those of us who work so hard while our BS’s take their trickle-truthing, defensive, deflecting, shame-induced time. And that’s provided you can find really competent affair recovery couples therapists.

My ex left me for a

My ex left me for a prostitute now she died and he wants me back.


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