Maybe this was the wake-up call your faltering relationship needed to put you back on track.
Did you know an affair can be one of the best things to happen to your relationship? I know what you're probably thinking: how in the world could finding out that your spouse committed adultery actually be the best thing that ever happened to you?
Now, I'm not condoning or suggesting cheating or unethical behavior in any way. In fact, if you've been on the receiving end of a partner's affair, I'm very sorry. I've seen the devastation, pain, and confusion up close and I wouldn't wish that on anyone.
However, as a relationship coach who gets that agonized phone call or email in the aftermath, it's my job to help clients move forward through the devastation, and I can tell you that this might not be as unbelievable as it seems at first glance.
That's because I've helped couples in crisis turn it all around. I've had the family members who referred a couple tell me it was too far gone before I even talked to the couple (and it wasn't). I've even had clients withdraw an already filed divorce petition.
Why am I so confident that there's always hope, even when it seems hopeless? It's simple. An affair is one of those ultra-effective and powerful wake-up calls that just seems to grab — and hold — both partner's attention in a way that actually opens people to the far better possibilities I present them.
1. An affair is kind of like cancer.
Just like cancer is a sign of disease in the body, an affair is simply a sign of disease in the marriage. The thing is when you have a problem in your health, most people will go to a doctor. However, when you have a problem in your relationship, most people tend to sweep it under the rug, ignore it or hope it passes.
That's a terrible strategy and it often leads to the beginnings of a disease that lingers and festers. It would be so much better to get a little help and kill that monster while it's small. But instead, small disagreements or stalemates grow and morph into resentment, rejection and possibly even retaliation. Obviously, the best defense against a "cancer" — whether it's in the body or in a marriage — is choosing the healthy behaviors and lifestyle that are all about prevention.
Your second-best option is early detection, which is about being vigilant and aware of any unhealthy changes before it's too late and seeking treatment, counseling or coaching with a qualified specialist. However, even if it gets discovered after the cancer forms, it doesn't have to be fatal if you take it seriously and respond proactively and decisively.
2. It's an outward manifestation that your relationship is in an unhealthy state.
That's it. Granted, discovering an affair can often hurt a lot more than typical, painless diagnostic tools like an x-ray or a sonogram, but as with anything in life, the meaning you attach to it will dictate how you respond to it — and whether you survive it.
If you decide it's a huge wake-up call, chances are very good that you can not only survive, but you can even thrive again. On the other hand, if it's a dealbreaker, a "dagger to the heart" or a "stab in the back," it's a lot more precarious and could prove fatal.
The truth is whoever said "words will never hurt me" didn’t really fully grasp this concept. As soon as you hang a terrible label like a "stab in the back" on an event, you are literally limited in how you CAN respond to that. There is no measured response or positive upside when your language is so disempowering.
3. At the same time, this "cancer" can be a gift.
As I mentioned earlier, cancer and adultery are not death sentences. In fact, they can both come bearing huge gifts for those who have the good sense to seek them. As the saying goes, "Seek and you shall find it."
So, what if your spouse’s adultery was a gift?
Much like a cancer diagnosis, a marital affair can be the greatest gift you ever received... if you choose to see it that way.
My clients not only transformed their marriage, but they also learned tools that made them infinitely better parents, sons or daughters, siblings, peers or employees. They improved their businesses or careers.
The tools they learned that changed their lives also led to lifestyle changes and a newfound clarity about what was really important in life. They became more conscious and, in some cases, transformed their physical health, emotional well-being or even their spiritual connection.
Again, it was the shock of the affair that started the whole shift, and today they are happier and more fulfilled than they ever knew was possible. The truth is they literally found out that adultery wasn't the end of the world as they once feared. Instead, they learned it was actually the start of a whole new world that was far better than anything they imagined possible.
In addition to all the couples I've served professionally, you should know there's another even bigger reason why I know what I'm saying works. The truth is, I'm practicing what I preach because I got divorced about 18 years ago. There wasn't any infidelity involved in my case but the pain of that experience caused me to have a burning desire to learn what I clearly didn't know about relationships so it would never happen to me again.
Every day, I'm living, breathing proof that when you finally realize that what you thought was your "worst day" was actually your "best day"... it's a huge game changer.