Infidelity can be the most painful and challenging threat to a relationship. It can leave lasting damage to the partners, children, close friends, and family. Some couples break up immediately upon the discovery of an affair. Others stay in the relationship but never fully recover, and may eventually split. Importantly, however, some couples use the experience to grow their relationship to one that is stronger and happier than ever before.
Recovering from an affair begins with disclosure
Sometimes affairs happen out of the blue, without planning or forethought. A strong attraction can arise unexpectedly, sweeping a partner into an emotional or sexual relationship without forethought or intention. More often, a partner seeks or gives into an affair as an attempted solution to some form of unhappiness.
However it began, the cheating partner often actively hides the affair from their partner. They may be afraid of conflict, pain, and loss in their primary relationship. For example, they may be afraid revealing the affair will only lead to more pain and guilt. Certainly, most betrayed partners find the lack of openness and honesty to be the most painful part of the affair. However difficult it may be, full disclosure is the first step toward healing the primary relationship.
Affair recovery often takes professional help
When an affair is revealed or discovered, a therapist who specializes in couple work can help. The therapist can guide the couple through the initial emotional crisis. Next, the couple therapist can assist both partners to assess what went wrong, and determine whether they want to invest in rebuilding and repairing their relationship.
The choice to have an affair is clearly the responsibility of the offending partner. Yet it is often true that the relationship was vulnerable to an affair. Patterns of disconnection may have been blocking the potential for happiness and fulfillment in the relationship for some time. Unexpectedly, the affair can be the crisis that sparks the couple to transform a relationship that was in need of growth and healing.
Recovering from an affair addresses deeper issues
In the next and longest phase of treatment, the therapist guides the couple to understand and address underlying patterns that have blocked closeness, connection, and the ability to address individual issues. In this phase of treatment, the couple gains new understanding and appreciation for each other. As a result, old ways of coping are seen with understanding rather than judgement and frustration.
From a new place of understanding and emotional safety, the therapist guides the couple to heal the pain from the affair. Typically, both partners carried a great deal of sadness and pain around the affair, and both partners can now experience relief. The therapist can also guide the couple to experience relief from older and deeper wounds associated with relationship coping strategies that developed in childhood.
Lastly, the couple can leave therapy happier and wiser than ever. They can leave with a new ability to see each other more clearly, and to trust in each other for the understanding and support needed to successfully face life’s challenges and opportunities.
Consider, if your relationship was threatened by affair, would you be open to working together toward understanding, growth, and healing?