One of the biggest betrayals in a relationship is when one partner steps outside the relationship and begins an affair.
Decades ago infidelity and affairs were defined very differently. In the past, the definition of infidelity was when a heterosexual married man had sex with someone other than his wife. Times have definitely changed and so hasn’t the definition of infidelity.
Today infidelity encompasses all sexual orientations and is not limited to physical sex but emotional & virtual infidelity as well. Bottom line is, if you are in a relationship, infidelity is how you and your partner define it, in the contexts of your relationship.
Healing from an affair can be both painful, healing and ironically can make a couple closer than ever before. I know you might not believe what I am telling you especially if you have dealt with an affair and it didn’t turn out to be a positive experience, but when a couple is committed to one another restoring their relationship CAN happen.
For clarity and to remain gender neutral let’s identify each party. The “Involved Partner” is the one who stepped outside of the relationship and had an affair. The “Affair Partner” is the one outside the relationship that the “Involved Partner” had an affair with, and the “Hurt Partner” is the one in the relationship who did not have an affair.
Not talking about or not dealing with the affair is like having a puppy that goes to the bathroom in the house where no one wants to pick it up. Family members walk around it, don’t’ look at it, act like it isn’t there, and often blame each other for it. They avoid it, so they don’t’ have to touch, smell, or deal with it. Well, we all know what happens if we leave it there… it starts to stink and gets worse!
So, let’s talk about some first steps and key ingredients for people who want to remain together and work on their relationship. If you are on the proverbial fence of whether you want to stay with the Affair Partner or just end your current relationship this recipe isn’t suitable for you.
To move forward with Affair Recovery both people need to recommit to the relationship. They need to identify for themselves why they want to be in the relationship. Recommitting to the relationship just for the kids or finances is probably not the best reason to work on the relationship nor will it have long term lasting positive effects.
2. CEASING CONTACT
The Involved Partner MUST be willing to cease all contact with the Affair Partner.
3. BEING TRANSPARENT
Transparency is key. The Involved Partner must be willing to allow the Hurt Partner to begin to have some reassurance by having access to things like passwords, accounts, phone, etc. when he or she wants to without fight or argument. These actions begin to rebuild trust, the main factor in building a stable foundation to grow upon.
4. TOLERATING & COMMUNICATING
The Involved Partner must tolerate the emotions of the Hurt Partner. The Hurt Partner also must learn new communication skills on how to express himself or herself without constantly blaming or criticizing the Involved Partner. The Hurt Partner’s feelings are absolutely valid, but constant and chronic berating of the Involved Partner can create further distance in the relationship. This is something that a therapist skilled in working with couples can assist with.
5. BEING RESPONSIBLE
The Involved Partner needs to take full responsibility for the ACTIONS of the affair. This means that the Involved Partner needs to accept 100% responsibility on how he or she chose to deal with the negative things occurring in the relationship. As a couple begins to re-establish the trust, communication and connection they can then begin to explore what led up to the affair occurring.
This is a tender process with a lot involved and if you are trying to heal from an affair I suggest you find a professional with an expertise in affair recovery. If you live near or visit the Ft. Lauderdale area I would love to support you and your partner through this process.