Difficulties Couples Encounter Trying To Heal From An Affair

The revelation of an affair is frequently a shocking experience.

In long-term relationships the fidelity of one’s partner is, more often than not, taken for granted, providing an emotional foundation for the couple. Trust and a sense of security rest on this foundation. Strength is derived from this secure bond. This strength enables each partner to function relatively smoothly in the world, and to be open to new and growthful experiences that life offers.

If either partner has a history of having been at the effect of infidelity, betrayal, deceit or abandonment, either by previous partners or during childhood, things can be more complicated. The sense of security with a partner takes longer to develop, or may only partially develop. For these individuals the revelation of an affair can be their worst nightmare come true. In order to protect themselves they might caution… “if you ever have an affair, it’s over.” In these cases, (more…)

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Questions and More Questions About the Affair

It might seem like the questions will never stop, or that there are no answers that can satisfy.  However, there is a kind of “healing intelligence” behind these questions, and they usually occur in roughly the following sequence.  Although there can be more than one motivation for asking a question, a bit of introspection will reveal the core of what you are searching for.

Shock:  “How could you do this!?”  “How could this have happened!?”  “Do you have any idea what you have done to me?”  These first questions frequently are the emotional equivalent of shaking your partner by the shoulders as (more…)

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“I Told You If You Ever Have an Affair It’s Over!”…

you remind him, glaring.  And so begins many courses of marriage counseling.

It’s a predicament.  You’ve just found out you’ve been betrayed in the one way you vowed you would never tolerate.  This is awful enough.  But the idea of breaking a vow that you made to yourself, as well as your partner can be making you feel (more…)

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Why Don’t I Want to Apologize for the Affair? Part II: Beliefs

Everyone has their own personal beliefs about affairs.  These beliefs can stem from how we saw adults around us behaving with each other during our childhood.  They can stem from how our parents and other relatives talked about and regarded affairs, from the particular culture you grew up in, and your religious upbringing and beliefs.  Sometimes beliefs about affairs are really rationalizations that allow the affair to go on.  If you really believe these things, than you don’t feel that you should have to apologize and you may be truly shocked at how traumatized your partner is upon discovery.  Janis Abrahms Spring lists some beliefs that justify affairs (and I’ve added a few of my own):

It’s okay if I truly love the other person.

It’s okay if it’s just for sex and my partner remains the most important person to me.

It’s okay as long as we don’t actually have sex.

What my partner doesn’t know won’t hurt him or her.

A one-night stand (more…)

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Why Don’t I Want to Apologize for the Affair? Part I

It can be confusing to know that you have betrayed your partner’s trust, to see him or her so devastated, and yet be unable to feel true remorse. This lack of remorse can be the final nail in the coffin of a marriage.  You can see that it leaves your partner feeling more betrayed, enraged, disgusted, and/or withdrawn.  You can see their panic and feel the tenuous threads holding you together fraying.  What you might not know or want to think about is how your lack of sincere apology leaves your partner feeling as if they now mean nothing to you and the lover, everything.  However, sometimes that is not the case at all, yet you still don’t want to apologize. Here are some common reasons:

Deep down, you had the affair to get out of your marriage. This is commonly referred to as an “exit affair.”  But sometimes this motive is not experienced on a conscious level.   In my experience, it can take someone a long time to come to grips with the desire to leave a marriage and the familiarity and/or safety that it represents.  Acting out the wish by having an affair can be the first step towards this realization.  Ironically, acting out feelings can keep us from being in touch with them.

You’re too angry. You haven’t been able to get through to your partner all of these years, either because (more…)

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How to Help Your Partner Heal From Your Affair

The discovery of an affair is traumatic for everyone involved. However, there are important things you can do to help your partner heal over time.

It can be useful to think about trauma as something that actually wants to heal.  If provided with the appropriate conditions, it frequently does. Your partner  probably feel that his or her  world,  life,  identity, and  marriage has been shattered.  Natural reactions  include feeling betrayed, panicked, rageful and vengeful, and ultimately very deep, and previously unimaginable pain. I frequently hear “the ground opened up under me,” or (more…)

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Who Should I Tell About the Affair?

Whether you are the other person, the discoverer, or the discovered, virtually all of your relationships have been altered by the affair.

Especially at first, the impulse to keep the affair a secret is usually very strong. Certainly, the person having the affair doesn’t want anyone to know, and the secrecy can even add excitement to the affair relationship. However, if you are feeling conflicted about the affair, it may be painful (more…)

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How Does Your Culture Affect Your Beliefs About Affairs?

The following discussion is not meant to imply that all members of a particular culture experience affairs in any particular way.

Extramarital affairs are most frequently experienced as completely traumatic and immoral in the United States. If a public figure strays from their marriage they are frequently disgraced and followers and fans can feel tremendously let down and disillusioned. If this person holds public office, their capacity to lead is frequently questioned, as is their entire character. A spouse who discovers a partner’s affair frequently breaks down emotionally.

In some European countries (more…)

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How Do Affairs Affect Children? (Part II): Should We Tell Our Children?

Your Role as Parents

No matter how devastated you are, you are still faced with the task of keeping it together for the children. This can be a double-edged sword. The immediacy and sometimes enormity of children’s’ needs can function as a welcome distraction from the pain you are in on the one hand; on the other, you may be feeling depleted emotionally and physically and not have much to give. With regard to the latter, it is very tempting to then turn to the children for support, which is a role reversal that is, in the end damaging for children. Whatever you end up disclosing to your child, the overall message should be, (more…)

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Can Relationships That Start as Affairs Succeed?

I came across an interesting statistic recently; 25% of relationships that start as affairs succeed. “Succeed” is defined as the couple staying together, rather than by the quality of the relationship.   I was surprised by the statistic.   If I had to guess, I would have thought the figure to be much lower. (For an update on this statistic go to “Can Relationships That Start as Affairs Succeed? Revisited”). But a statistic is just that, and doesn’t tell you anything about any particular situation.

Feeling torn between two lovers can be an agonizing experience. Besides the guilt, and fear of discovery, there is usually some degree of awareness that sooner or later one of those relationships will end.  Trying to decide which one would be the most painful to lose  may lead some to wonder what the chances are that a relationship that starts off as an affair will succeed. (more…)

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