Affairs are destructive. The betrayal, hurt and deception from infidelity always causes deep, lasting damage. But does it mean the end of the relationship or can it be worked through and recovered?
Affairs come to light in different ways. Sometimes the partner having the affair may confess in the hope that something can now be done to change the situation. Or perhaps the other partner is suspicious and has done some detective work. Other times the discovery comes out of the blue, blindsiding what was a seemingly happy relationship. Which ever way the affair becomes known, each partner will have a different response. Usually one feels hurt, betrayed, angry. The other might feel guilty, scared or even relieved. Both partners often feel overwhelmed and confused.
What is an affair?
Everyone will agree that affairs cause damage but there are different views on what actually constitutes infidelity. There are different types of affair including:
- Physical affairs – ranging from kissing to full sexual encounters.
- Emotional affairs – where physical lines may not have been crossed but a partners emotional involvement with someone else can be equally or even more devastating than sexual infidelity.
- Online affairs – technology is increasingly becoming a catalyst or a means of being unfaithful. For example, Facebook often puts people back in touch with old flames or missed opportunities that eventuate into inappropriate contact. Whilst not physical, photos may be exchanged and words said that feel as much a betrayal as any physical contact.
The line is often blurred as to what actually constitutes being unfaithful. What really matters is that when trust has been broken or you feel that betrayal has happened, then it is a problem.
Why do affairs happen?
Affairs often happen when one or both partners are unhappy with the relationship and they are unable to address or change it. So, whilst infidelity is undoubtedly a problem, it may actually be a symptom of underlying issues.
For example, people often describe a lonely relationship that they did not know how to improve. This might be influenced by underlying conflict or disharmony or it could be a result of external factors or stressors such as work, in-laws or having children.
Sometimes there is no apparent discord. Perhaps a colleague offers a listening ear which over time progresses to grabbing lunch together, then a coffee, then a text outside of work hours. It might be difficult to determine exactly if or when the line was crossed.
To further compound things trying to discuss the subject is often fraught; one party feels suspicious which emerges as accusation, the other already feels some guilt which quickly becomes defensiveness. Accusation and defensiveness rapidly become fuel to the other ones fire and inevitably things become worse.
What do you do now?
When an affair is discovered or confessed it can be shocking, overwhelming and confusing. It is quite normal to feel devastated, enraged or numb.
Marriage counselling can help you process these difficult, intense emotions so that you can begin to understand things more clearly. It takes time to work through the initial shock. For some people the damage is so severe that the relationship is over. For others, the relationship is not over, but questions need to be answered and understanding needs to be gained so that you can work out if and how you can continue together.
Individual therapy can help if you find yourself in an affair and you want to make sense of how it happened and work out what to do.
Counselling for affairs can help you:
- Work through the intense feelings that arise when infidelity has been discovered.
- Identify and understand why and how it happened.
- Learn skills to address any underlying problems that contributed to the affair.
- Rebuild trust, or learn how to have a relationship where mistrust is not an issue.
These steps take time and everybody will have their own experience. It is a difficult task to recover from an affair alone. We can help.