Recovering from an affair
Latest research reveals that 22 – 40% of married men and 11 – 25 % of married women are involved in an affair at any one time.
An affair is seen as a violation of a couple’s assumed or stated contract for emotional and or sexual exclusivity, and has a very destructive influence on the relationship. Understandably, affairs are one of the leading reasons for divorce.
Studies show that women tend more toward emotional affairs, and are usually more thoughtful and premeditated about starting an affair.
Men, on the other hand, tend to be more opportunistic, often while away from home, and more than 50% of them will do so even though they regard themselves as happy in their marriage.
Secrecy, deception and minimisation abound while an affair is taking place.
Can a relationship or marriage survive an affair?
The short answer is yes, but it takes a lot of work by both partners, particularly the partner who has cheated.
Counselling over at least the medium term is an absolute necessity in order to rebuild the trust and the relationship.
There are 5 major stages a couple need to go through in order to fully recover from an affair:
- The affair must stop. The partner having the extra relationship must have no more contact, in any form if the marriage is to survive and rebuild.
- The hurt partner must be given the opportunity to express their varied emotions ( shock, denial, hurt, anger, sadness, turmoil, betrayal, loss of face) while it is important for the affair partner to listen, accept and validate his or her feelings, and also provide reassurance that he or she indeed wants and values this relationship.
- The affair partner must take on the responsibility to rebuild the trust by being transparent and accountable. This means comings and goings, be findable at all times and be willing to have phone and emails open to share with his or her partner. This needs to happen for as long as it takes for the partner to feel that the trust has been rebuilt.
- Finding meaning. Both partners need to explore why this affair has happened so that it doesn’t reoccur again in the future.
- Forgiveness. In order for this to occur, the partner having had the affair needs to feel a very high level of humility, and deep sorrow for what he or she has done, as well as true empathy for the hurt the partner has been put through. In addition, there needs to be a commitment and hope for a better future together. Only then is it possible for the other partner to be able to forgive fully.
- Restructuring the relationship. In this stage the couple needs to work actively on fixing the problem and restoring and growing a healthy relationship so that the couple feel complete and whole.
I would urge you not to try and complete this process on your own. Almost all couples need help from a trained counsellor to successfully complete these steps.
In doing so, it is possible to heal and re-establish your relationship to an even healthier level than before, but it will take time and work, by both partners.
If you would like help in working through this process click here