Recovery From Affairs
Recovery from Affairs and Infidelity
One of the life’s most painful experiences may be the discovery of infidelity or an affair. The partner who is betrayed may feel like a bomb has gone off in their life. Their world has been turned upside down. Everything they thought they knew about their partner or their relationship has gone up in smoke. They may behave as if they have faced a trauma, having panic attacks, racing thoughts, flashbacks of the moment of discovery, even vomiting and wailing. They may be in shock. They have no idea where to turn, who to tell, or what to do, wondering, should I stay or should I go? Do I tell anyone? And most importantly, will I ever trust my partner?
The partner who engaged in an affair may be equally distressed, but for many reasons. They may feel horrified and embarrassed that the affair has been discovered. They may have mixed feelings; after all, they may not have been planning to end the affair at all. They may get defensive and deny that anything has happened until it becomes painfully obvious that they have been caught in several lies. They may even blame the partner for causing them to go outside the marriage or relationship to get their needs met.
Any way one views affairs, they can be really awful. But for many couples, the discovery of an affair is the first step in the journey toward healing or even improving a marriage. Both partners need to come to terms with the reality of what has happened. There needs to be a demonstration of remorse–perhaps on the part of both partners–as well as forgiveness. The couple needs to examine together what weaknesses lead to the development of an affair, and to remember and use what strengths they have to make a repair.
At The Buehler Institute, I can help couples recover from infidelity. Such couples may need to negotiate a new “marriage contract,” not a literal contract, but a negotiation of how they want to be as a couple going forward. This requires intense honesty, self-examination, and open communication. All of this takes time, but it is time well spent if a couple is going to remain together without continual anger and resentment.
Many therapists say that “an affair has nothing to do with sex.” Not true! Infidelity may have plenty to do with sex. People often have affairs to feel sexually alive, to engage in passionate sex, to experience desire, and to satisfy erotic longings. Naturally, these feelings often disappear from long-term relationships. The goal is not to get those feelings back, but to discover new ways to be intimate that may be even more fulfilling.
The therapist must help both partners identify what has happened to their sex life. If it was never truly satisfactory, then the couple needs to admit it and understand why. If it was satisfactory at one time, what happened? And how can a couple revive their sex life? Especially, how can a partner who has been betrayed accept intimate contact when trust has been broken? How can the partner who broke trust reassure their partner without feeling that they are settling?
It will do no good to sweep an affair under the rug, to chalk it up to “just one of those things.” I have learned that infidelity sends out rings of despair and resentment for years after they have occurred. Best to do the repair work early, before the wound gets overly infected.
Are you suffering from the discovery an affair? Don’t wait.
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