Successfully Rebuilding a Relationship after an Affair
There’s been an affair. Now what?
According to The Journal of Couples & Relationship Therapy (Atwood & Schwartz, 2002), approximately 50% of both men and women will have an extramarital affair at some time in their lives.
While we can spend time analyzing, being angry, or feeling hurt about the circumstances of an affair, how physical it was, why you didn’t see it coming, or the devastating effects of broken trust, none of these helps us answer one of the most important questions:
What Happens to a Marriage After an Affair?
Many people think affairs are about sex, but this is rarely the case. Affairs don’t occur because of sexual boredom. They happen because one partner is no longer attached to, or connected with, the other. They are basically lonely.
While it may be difficult to understand how a person in a relationship can be lonely, without a solid emotional attachment to a partner it becomes easy to wander. Sometimes all it takes is a smile from someone at the office and you feel good. You start to imagine what it would feel like to matter to someone again and you’re off and running toward an affair.
Affairs are a symptom of marital problems, not the cause. Therefore, partners have to determine whether or not they want to do the work necessary to repair their relationship and address the underlying issues that led to the affair.
Assuming a couple wants to recover and rebuild their relationship after an affair, one of the first steps must be opening the lines of communication.
Couples have to begin talking about what was missing from the relationship that left it vulnerable to infidelity, and they have to become aware of each other’s emotional needs. It is only by understanding, and learning to meet, each other’s emotional needs that your relationship will have a chance to recover, strengthen, and grow.
None of this is to imply that overcoming an affair is easy. Opening the lines of communication tends to include rather uncomfortable conversations, including conversations about the affair itself. However, as difficult as the recovery process can be, learning more about each other’s needs and desires can be a very powerful and positive experience.
Learning to Move Forward
While you’re unlikely to ever forget an affair, forgiving a partner’s infidelity and moving forward can be achieved.
For a certain period of time after an affair, examining the affair and the couple’s relationship history will be necessary. But, after awhile, looking back can become detrimental. If a couple is going to successfully repair and rebuild their relationship after an affair, they must learn to look forward to a new life together.
In order to move forward, a couple must create undivided time together. This time helps a couple create experiences similar to those that existed when they previously met each other’s emotional needs. This includes time for romance and sex.
As difficult as it may be for a couple to rebuild their sex life after an affair, romantic and sexual experiences will help both partners recreate intimacy in their relationship.
While open communication and creating opportunities to reconnect are vital for couples to overcome an affair and move forward, the need for some space should not be looked down upon or forgotten.
Successfully addressing an affair and rebuilding a relationship can be a very emotionally trying and tiring experience for both partners, and both will need some private space to deal with all the feelings that come up during this period. Being able to strike a healthy balance between sharing and internalizing will allow both partners to regain confidence and feel safe in their relationship.
The Benefits of Professional Counseling
The often overwhelming pain, anger, guilt, and regret that stem from the discovery of an affair can easily cloud both partners’ judgment and ability to think and behave thoughtfully.
Healing after infidelity is anything but easy. However, if a couple wants to salvage their relationship and restore the love they once shared, the professional assistance of a couples counselor or couples therapist experienced in helping couples resolve infidelity issues can be vital to helping couples work through destructive thoughts and feelings, and begin to rebuild the communication, connection, and trust necessary for life after infidelity and relationship success.
If you have any questions regarding this article, or if I may be of any other assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 408-309-5957 or email me at Talks2people@yahoo.com. I look forward to speaking with you and helping you create a life you truly love living!