Can Your Relationship Survive an Affair?
If you want to work through this, there are things you can do.
Posted April 6, 2011 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
If your partner having an affair is a deal-breaker, don't pretend it isn't. But if you want to work through this, there are things you can do. And a lot has to be done.
First, you have to decide which relationship you want to resolve. Your wasting your time, and mine as a couples therapist, if you're so hung up on the other person that you don't know if you really want to resolve your original love relationship. If your resolve dissolves when you're around the other, then you're too confused to know what to do at this point. I won't see a couple in marital therapy if one is still with their "other" lover, and are still actively having the affair.
The next crucial event that has to happen next is for the straying partner to be truly repentant. I bet you're wondering what does this mean. For me, repentance is a heartfelt, meaningful apology. An "I'm sorry and I won't do that again" that is sincerely given and can be received as being authentic. This is not something you should attempt until you are ready to really mean it. It's not something you should throw out to placate your partner.
The next step is tremendously difficult for many. Once your partner has truly repented, the other's task is to be forgiving. This is something most of us need a lot of training in and will be addressed in a future post.
When you are forgiving, it entails not bringing the affair up again. Certainly, you can't forget and forgiving does not mean you are pardoning. Many play anger games when they have been transgressed against. They pull the violation out of a mental trash can to use against their partner as it suits them. Repentance leads to forgiveness which leads to resolution.
How are we going to rebuild trust? The straying partner has to agree to be accountable. The expansion of cell phones and the internet has made this far more possible in 2011. Your partner is typically capable of being reached 24/7. A history of who has been called, texts, and emails is viewable. The problem can ensue, however, as the partner's desire to know what the unfaithful one is doing, coupled with their inherent distrust after an affair, can make them seem paranoid and controling. It's a fine line that can be crossed.
A Fresh Start
Restart your relationship by just being friends. Take it down to foundation. You have to start framing it, before you put on the roof and dry wall. The painting comes last. There's a long way to go. Be patient. I recommend you regress on an intimacy hierarchy to where you first held hands. Move up this hierarchy as is appropriate. Do what feels natural. Often after an affair, a couples sexuality can be intensified for all the wrong reasons. Time doesn't allow a full description of this process either, but will also be explained later.
Remember, all is not lost. Seventy-five percent of even married couples experience at least one being unfaithful at some point. Look at what both have done to contribute to this crisis.