An affair is often THE dramatic event in a relationship that forces the relationship over a huge edge.
As challenging as an affair can be, my hope and desire is that it becomes a catalyst for being more conscious in your relationship.
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Here are a few things that I can share with you from working with couples who have had affairs:
First of all, there is a huge amount of anger, sadness, hurt, guilt in the relationship as a consequence of the event. This is NORMAL.
Secondly, the process of recovering from affairs requires the active participation of both parties. As Ether Perel puts it : “If an affair is a solo enterprise, making meaning of it becomes a joint venture”.
1. For the one who has had the affair: you must acknowledge your partner’s pain, anger, sadness. Give him or her space. Stay connected. You will be blamed and blamed, it is important that you accept your share of responsibility.
2. The one who is “the victim” of the affair: you absolutely need to share responsibility for the affair: I know this is a hard one to swallow, yet the vast majority of affairs happen because something is not working in the relationship, i.e, they are the consequences of a loss of connection and intimacy rather than the cause of it.
Ask yourself and your partner: “who did you get to be in the affair that you could not be with me?”.
It is important that the one who has been betrayed gets past the “righteous victim” role, otherwise the constant blaming will not offer a chance to the relationship to re-create itself anew. This can only happen if his or her anger is acknowledged by the betrayer.
3. Take care of your SELF individually: the one who has been betrayed needs to take care of himself or herself to get past the hurt and anger; the one who has betrayed needs to process the guilt he is feeling as a consequence. Talk to a third party – therapist, coach- on your own!
4. Take care of your relationship: ultimately you both want to understand “what is trying to happen” in your relationship; why did this happen?
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Creating shared meaning out of this event will help you to bounce back as a couple and grow from it, move forward even more united than you were before. This can only happen if you are honest enough to look into yourselves and share responsibility. Otherwise, “the ghost of the affair” will continue to occupy your relationship and keep you trapped in the past.