Discovering that your partner's been unfaithful is one of the most painful experiences anyone can go through. Infidelity creates intense emotional pain. You'll experience a number of different emotions: disbelief, anger, hurt and betrayal. Infidelity shakes the marriage foundations to the core and leaves you wondering whether it can weather the storm.
Affairs can happen in any relationship: opposite sex, same sex, married couples and co-habitees—anyone in fact, in a committed long-term relationship where being monogamous is part of the contract made between the two people involved.
So why do affairs happen? There are, of course, as many reasons as there are people but we can make loose categorisations. Usually, there's a problem in the relationship, which is being resolved externally rather than internally within the marriage. There are those who have an affair to expose the fact that something is wrong and unconsciously leave evidence around; there are those who want to leave a relationship and use the affair as their escape route; there are those where boredom and lack of passion in their full-time relationship makes them seek an affair in order to feel alive again; and there are those who see an affair as a way of maintaining their marriages by getting those needs that aren't fulfilled within the marriage met elsewhere.
What To Do?
Sadly, there isn't one definitive answer and route to follow to stay married. Even if you are angry with your partner, I believe if you want the relationship to work, you have to take action even if you have been betrayed. It takes two to make a good relationship when things go awry and both of you will need to change your behavior even though it's your partner who's broken the trust.
Remember that, although it might feel like your marriage is over, it almost certainly isn't. Marriages can recover from affairs and go from strength to strength. Although there's no blueprint for this, there are a number of steps you can take. You may well find yourself going back to some of these steps several times and taking them in a different order. That's fine—you need to do what's best for the two of you.
Top 10 Tips
- Agree with your partner that you both want to repair your marriage. This will take time but it needs to be a joint goal.
- If you going to get through this your partner needs to agree that they'll stop seeing the other person with immediate effect. It's impossible to re-build mutual trust while a lover is still around.
- You may well feel you need to find out why the affair happened. You don't need to agree with the reasoning, but let them explain. If you want to ask questions, that is your right but think about why you're asking. Is it to help move things forward or to have more reason to be hurt and angry? Express your anger, hurt and disappointment. They need to know how you feel. Say what you need to say now. I know this will be hard but the less resentment you bottle up, the easier it will be to move on.
- Talk about what's lacking in your relationship from both your points of view.
- You'll need to feel that they are truly sorry for what they've done and they have taken responsibility for their behavior. There were other ways to deal with difficulties other than cheating.
- You need to be convinced that you can forgive your partner over time.
- Agree what you need in the short-term. For example, this might include your partner letting you know their movements—what they're doing and with whom. It's reasonable for you to want to know, but do so sensitively, otherwise it may feel like they are being policed.
- Discuss how you'd like your life together to be. Find ways in which you can connect with each other. Think of things you could do. Re-start activities you used to enjoy doing together.
- Introduce some physical intimacy. One of the blocks that often occur when you re-kindle this part of your relationship is the concern that your sexual practices and proficiency will be compared with your rivals. This is a normal response. The important thing here is that you and your partner talk about it. You may want to start just by cuddling and touching each other. For some, it takes a long while for this part of their relationship to be healed; for others, it's the first area tackled although the sense of trust may well take a while to return.
- Don't imagine that this will be resolved in one conversation. It will take a while, maybe months. You'll find yourselves going back to different stages on numerous occasions before you're finally back on an equal footing.
You may feel that your marriage will never be the same as a result of your partner's affair and, in some ways, that's true. But, equally that doesn't mean it can't be good again. Once through this really horrible patch, you may well have a stronger relationship, both physically and emotionally.
It's often very hard to sort these things out on your own. Counselling really can help. Contact me at www.experiencemattersorg.uk if I can be of help.
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