Discovering that your partner has had an affair can be one of the toughest and most challenging things to overcome in your relationship. Many relationships can and do survive infidelity within the relationship, particularly when they get some professional help to navigate the healing process and rebuild the relationship.
How successful a couple are at restoring their relationship after the affair has come to light, depends largely on the attitude of both people and their willingness to work on overcoming this huge obstacle. It can be done provided you both really want the relationship and you follow some basic rules to help move past it.
A really important step that is often overlooked by couples trying to come to terms with the affair, is the fact that there was something within the relationship itself that allowed a third party to be involved. Recognising that the relationship was not perfect and that both people need to look at what was wrong can be quite confronting.
This is not to say that it is an excuse or that the betrayed spouse is to blame in some way. It simply means that if the relationship was in a strong, healthy place then no other person would be able to get in between the couple.
Accepting that the hurt and trust issues need to be worked through, but also that the relationship itself needs to be examined and repaired is a big step towards healing and creating a strong relationship. Some couples I work with accept this and find that while the affair was devastating initially, the result is that the focus is again put back into the relationship and an even stronger bond is established.
There are some basic steps that need to be covered to recover from an affair.
For the partner that had the affair:
1. All contact with the third person needs to be terminated if possible.
No casual coffees or calls no matter how innocent they are intended to be. Of course this is not always possible as often people may work together or have some connection in the community. If this is the case, then make sure the other person knows it is over and you are committed to your marriage. Ensure that interactions are kept to a work based level only and avoid social situations that you are able to.
If you do have contact with the person, then you need to tell your spouse about this. Be open about any contact or accidental meetings that you do have.
2. There needs to be complete transparency from this point onwards.
Trust is often very slow to rebuild and in order to help this, the offending partner needs to be an open book. Phone calls, texts, emails and social media need to be available to look at if required and not hidden in any form.
Some people find this very confronting, as though they are being continually checked on. The reality is, if you want the relationship to continue, then you need to prove that you are not hiding anything as the trust needs to be rebuilt slowly and with lots of reassurance.
This doesn’t mean that your partner is allowed to track you and check on you constantly, just that if they feel the need, you can show them that they can trust you by being open about all communications.
3. How much to tell.
One of the hardest parts for many people when dealing with an affair, is how much to tell their spouse about the affair.Often the betrayed party wants to know everything. When, where, how often, how much money was spent, who knew, what the feelings were etc. Most people are reluctant to share this information for fear of making the situation worse.
Unfortunately, by not sharing this information, you are creating a barrier between you and your partner and they are often left imagining the answers. Usually, they find it hard to move past the anger and hurt if they feel you are not sharing the details with them. So, as hurtful as it may seem, again you need to be completely honest and answer the questions.
Often you will get the same questions repeatedly, so try and stay calm and continue to answer them. It is an important stage and I never see couples move forward if they skip this level.
In order to restore the relationship, you need to be willing to talk about it and be honest and as open as your partner requires you to be.
4. Show empathy towards your spouse and accept that they are hurting.
Often hurt is expressed as anger and rage so expect that they may alternate from crying to anger and they need to be able to express this to move on.
Try not to defend your actions, but simply answer questions and keep reassuring them that the affair is finished and you are only focused on the relationship with them now.
5. Take responsibility for the affair and apologise.
As mentioned previously, there was something wrong with the relationship to allow this to happen, but they were still your choices and actions so you need to accept that.
6. Don’t try and get your partner to move on too quickly.
Often the guilty party feels it has been discussed and they now just want to put it behind them and move forward with the relationship.
Unfortunately this is often a long process and hurrying it and your partner and urging them to keep looking forward actually causes them to feel that their feelings are not important to you and they don’t feel validated. This again can cause further damage to the relationship, so let it go at it’s own pace. You may be ready to move forward but you can’t go there until your partner is also ready.
For the betrayed spouse:
1. Accept that the relationship was not healthy and strong and this allowed someone else to become involved with your partner.
Don’t take the blame for it. This is not about blame, but realising that you do have the power to make changes to your relationship so that it can’t happen again.
As hurtful as it is to find your spouse has been cheating, it can often be the catalyst to creating an even stronger and healthier relationship.
2. Try and listen to your partner when you ask them about it without getting angry and yelling at them.
If you want them to be open with you then you need them to know it is safe to confide in you and trust that it is a good thing for the relationship. It is not about vengeance and getting them back, it is about healing and creating trust.
If you find yourself getting angry when it is being discussed, take some time out and come back to it later. Avoid name calling and accusations about the person they are or their character. It is natural to want to hurt them because they have hurt you, but you need to weigh up whether you want the relationship or you want revenge. They don’t go together.
3. Keep it a big secret or tell the world
People that I work with in these situations tend to either keep it a big secret or tell the world. I find that neither of these options works well.
Firstly, you do need some emotional support through this and a kind, listening ear. Choose someone who you feel will listen but not judge. Resist the temptation to make your partner ‘pay’ by telling everyone. This tends to create a lot of judgement amongst your friends and while initially it can make you feel better as the injured party, it usually rebounds and creates another problem.
Your partner is left feeling ashamed and embarrassed in front of a wide audience and now needs to answer to a lot of people, rather than just you. It also means that if you do get the relationship back on track, there can be friendships lost and friction created in social situations.
So, confide in a couple of carefully chosen people and get the support you need without creating further damage.
4. Don’t let the event take over your whole life.
It is natural to grieve and be angry for a short time, but it is important to focus on other parts of your life in order to move forward. Look to friends so have social time that is fun and removed from the situation, try and keep up your previous hobbies and be aware of letting the negative thoughts intrude on every moment.
5. Be aware that while you have a right to raise the subject with your partner and to get honest answers.
If you raise it every time they walk in the room and that is the only subject to be discussed, then you will soon wear them out. Yes they need to talk to you but make sure there are times set aside for it and try to have conversations about other things with them too.
The temptation is often to ‘make them pay’ by continually bringing it up and bombarding them with questions. This can be managed for a short time, but even the most remorseful person has their limits so give them a break from piling on the guilt if you want to repair your relationship.
6. As mentioned in the previous section, complete transparency is vitally important now.
Your partner needs to respect the fact that they have lost your complete trust and need to rebuild this. It takes time, transparency and reassurance to get the trust back. If you need to see what your partner is texting or emailing, then ask them. Resist the temptation to constantly monitor their correspondence and go through their accounts.
Going through your partners belongings tends to grow out of control. Taking this too far can cause trust issues on the other side and can also be detrimental to the relationship. Resist the temptation to check up on them and if you are feeling uncertain, tell them and ask to see whatever it is that is concerning you.
Affairs are a very common theme in relationship counselling and I often get surprised by how well some couples manage this with a long term view of having a great relationship. Yes, they are angry and hurt and the trust has gone for the moment, but they can also see that the relationship has the potential to be very rewarding again if they can move past this event and work with their partner to achieve a strong, healthy and satisfying relationship.
An affair does not need to signal the end of your relationship but it does take work and perserverance by both partners to move past it. It often helps to get some professional help to guide you through the difficulties of repairing your relationship so don’t be ashamed to ask for help.
If you’re need professional help to guide you, feel free to call me on 0468 950 420 for a FREE 10-minute consultation to discuss your needs and find out how I can help you or press BOOK NOW button to find my available appointment and schedule an online booking.