The Ashley Madison hack has been out in the news for a while now, and this has risen the awareness of how prevalent infidelity is and how it affects couples and families as a whole. The types of infidelity have changed since the introduction of the internet, and even more so since social media became popular. Affairs are not only physical in nature. They can be emotional only, and even without meeting the partner face-to-face. An affair occurs when something is shared with someone outside of the marriage that breaks a relationship rule. Relationship rules are different for each couple, and they are sometimes spoken and other times unspoken.
SO NOW THAT THE AFFAIR HAPPENED, HOW DO YOU RECOVER FROM IT?
Working through an affair can help a relationship become stronger than before the affair took place. It sounds too good to be true, but it is true! Couples that are both committed to work through the process may experience a higher level of satisfaction than ever before. How is this possible? Well, an affair generally takes place as a symptom of the relationship in combination with personal issues that need to be addressed. It is an attempt, an ineffective one, to get something that is not found in the relationship. Therefore, the recovery of the affair is effective when the couple is committed to work on two different steps:
- Recovering from the affair.
- Working on the issues of the relationship that generated the space for the affair to happen.
The work needed to recover from the affair and work through the issues that caused the affair to begin with, is different for each relationship partner. Here are specific steps for each:
Work for the partner who pursued the affair
- The unfaithful partner needs to end contact with the affair partner.
- Answer all questions to the spouse as honestly as possible, being understanding, humble, and patient. Showing remorse is important; therefore avoiding reacting with anger to the spouse who is hurt by the affair should be considered.
- Personal understanding of how the affair took place is needed. The unfaithful partner needs to understand how boundaries were broken slowly with the affair partner, which lead to an inappropriate relationship. Most affairs do not happen intentionally; they happen little by little as each boundary is pushed, leading to breaking of a rule of the primary relationship.
- Understanding of feelings toward the spouse that gave room for the affair to begin. For example, this can be lacking emotional closeness, unfulfilled sexual closeness, too much arguing, trust issues that lead to feelings of anger, frustration, lack of self-esteem, or other negative feelings.
Work for the partner who was betrayed
- Working through the anger and how to communicate it. Utilizing peaceful and meaningful ways to express the pain of the betrayal allow more room to heal.
- Accepting at face value what the unfaithful partner provides as answers about the affair. The unfaithful partner should be practicing honesty, and this is the first step to start building trust. This means that when asking the deceitful partner about details of the affair, the spouse attempts to believe the answers. It can be hard to believe that the deceitful partner did not sleep with someone that had erotic conversations with, so working through acceptance of what the affair entailed can be beneficial to the process.
- Learning from the partner about their personal understanding of how the affair took place. This is a healing step on it’s own as it allows the spouse to see that the unfaithful partner learned about his actions. However, the spouse needs to be ready to hear this avoiding judgement as much as possible.
- Being open to work toward improving the weak areas of the relationship that generated room for the affair. This step does not mean that the spouse is to be blamed for the affair. This is why this is the last step, as the spouse needs to have been able to work through feelings of anger and hurt, as well as have learned from the deceitful partner about his/her personal understanding of how the affair took place.
Recovering from an affair is one of the hardest endeavors a couples may face, but it is also the most transformative when it’s done well. When there is motivation or even the doubt that marriage might work, give your relationship the chance to transform into a stronger and more satisfying one.
To your relationship success!
Your therapy friend,
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