Posts Tagged ‘survive an affair’

How to Survive an Affair

Affair_0Extramarital affairs come in all shapes and sizes, and they usually do not end well. Whether it’s a reckless one-time fling or a long-term affair, this all-too-common betrayal is the ultimate deal breaker and can prove devastating to a relationship.

Experts say that 68% of women and 74% of men admit that they would have an affair if they knew they could get away with it. Of course, most people don’t – get away with it, that is. The novelty and thrill of a clandestine affair creates an endorphin rush that can cloud judgment, reality and common sense. As a result, the cheater may become careless and get caught, or the affair can seem more important than his or her vows, leading to an unsolicited admission of guilt.

An affair often begins innocently enough with a friend or perhaps a colleague at work, but the moment boundaries are crossed – and all couples know what those boundaries are—the relationship will never be the same. It’s a point of no return, a jumping off place where everything that was once assumed sacred and true is now thrown into question.

So, is it possible for a relationship to survive an affair?

The answer is yes, and in fact there is evidence it can actually thrive. Whether you’re the cheater or the betrayed, here are a few things you can do to increase your odds of a happy ending in the face of an affair.

• Avoid making rash, irreversible decisions. The immediate feelings of hurt, rage and resentment are natural, but they can cause you to say and do things you might regret later. A third party professional like a marriage counselor or therapist can help you manage those feelings, take a breath and gain some perspective. Can you still love this person? Are you willing to work through your anger and pain? Is the relationship worth salvaging? Seeking outside help highlights your maturity and dedication to the love you share with your partner.

• Commit. Once you’ve made the decision to try to work it out, you must commit yourself fully. You must recognize and discard all your learned defenses and be willing to talk about uncomfortable, painful feelings and events that you may have avoided in the past. Again, an experienced therapist can help you learn (and implement) some simple communication skills that have probably been missing in your relationship from day one. As you develop your emotional intelligence, you will both become more aware of each other’s feelings and be able to listen to each other and articulate them in an honest, respectful and mature way.

• Admit to any other secrets that may be festering. As the saying goes, “you’re only as sick as your secrets.” And if one partner is sick, the chances of your relationship healing are slim to none. Secrets are a cancer that slowly eats away at the integrity of the love and respect that holds a couple together. This is best time to lay everything on the table. It’s now or never, but if either partner is going to hold back, you may as well throw in the towel now.

• No private correspondence. Agree that no email, voicemail, phone conversation or any other form of communication is off limits to your partner. This only makes sense, since secrecy and lies were what fueled the illicit affair. Mutual trust must be re-built, so even if you’re not the cheater, your personal interactions should be an open book. If you’re uncomfortable with the thought of your partner being privy to private communications—even if you aren’t ‘doing’ anything—then you may be sharing your deepest thoughts and feelings with the wrong person–someone other than your mate. This is not constructive and suggests you should be working harder at honest communication. You should be able to tell your partner anything and everything, no matter how embarrassing or hurtful. Ultimately, emotional transparency is the goal. No inner secrets.

• Talk to others who have experienced infidelity. Learning about other couples’ experiences (and triumphs) can pull you out of the devastation and loneliness you’re most likely feeling. It can help you to see that you are not the only one who has experienced this – far from it – and that there is life after betrayal. The emotional roller coaster you’re currently experiencing is nauseating but common. If you don’t have friends who have been in your situation, or if you can’t sleep and it’s too late to call someone, there are plenty of online discussion forums. A word of caution: Don’t make the mistake of kibitzing too much with divorcees, even if they are close friends. Someone whose marriage has failed will tend to use you as a sounding board for their unresolved issues and vitriol. Their advice is suspect, because your situation is likely to open personal wounds. Stick with the winners, those who put in the work to salvage their relationships and have made it through to the other side better off.

• Rediscover your partner. Once you’ve worked through the initial hurt and anger and are sorting through your deeper feelings, make it a priority to learn how to appreciate your partner. Remember why you fell in love in the first place. What are the characteristics about him or her that attracted you in the first place? What makes him special to you? What’s good about your relationship, and why do you make such a great team? In the end, make sure you both know that no matter what, you will be there for one another.

• Remember romance? Start making time for each other – in the morning, at night and in between. Make a date at least once a week for lunch à deux. Go out with friends and re-establish yourselves as a couple, since socializing with others helps to establish boundaries and reinforce trust. Spend the night together somewhere on a regular basis, even if it’s just a local hotel.

It may seem impossible in the heat of the moment to reconcile a partner’s infidelity, but if your heart, head and gut tell you that you want to make your relationship work, it is possible. But reconciliation is a fluid process and doesn’t happen all at once. If you can survive the initial emotional hurricane and take a breath—if you can begin to sort through your deepest feelings while remembering all the good things about the person you fell in love with—then your odds of success are good.

Remember: Don’t go it alone!  Gather a positive support system that values your relationship (friends, family, counselor etc.). Allow yourself to be angry and to grieve for a period of time, and then make the choice to do whatever it takes to get through this difficult time with the person you love. With an open heart, there is always hope!

PS – Do you have a story about infidelity that you’d like to share? …Don’t worry, we’ll support you with love.