Healing From An Affair.
As a part of my work as a Marriage and Family Therapist I often come across couples that have struggled with the devastating consequences of an affair. I have answered the most common questions I am asked when working with these couples in the hope that it may help someone who is going through an affair or maybe even prevent someone from making a poor choice.
Q: What are some reasons one person in a relationship would cheat?
I want to make it clear that there is never an excuse for an affair! I am well aware that there are cases and situations in which affairs occur because of selfishness, entitlement, and lack of self-control. These and other reasons as to why affairs happen need to be examined honestly. What I want to write about is another reason why affairs happen. Simply put, affairs happen as a result of emotional disconnection. For love relationships to thrive there has to be a strong emotional connection between two partners. This is the “glue” that holds a relationship together both in the good and bad times. All of us, at the core of who we are, need to know that our partners will be there for us in our time of need. We need to feel safe and secure and have our deepest emotional needs met. It is when the safety, security, and emotional bond fractures that people will often look outside of their relationship for that feeling of being loved, desired, and connected.
The reality is that it takes two people to either create a trusting bond or to create a toxic environment. This is why it is vitally important to look at the context that contributes to affairs. Understanding what factors contributed to the affair such as negative patterns of interaction, lack of emotional connection, distance, fighting, and lack of sharing deep emotions and emotional needs are all root causes of affairs. They result is disconnection from one another. I often tell my clients that the more disconnected you are the more susceptible you become to affairs. The goal in preventing affairs then is to keep fighting for the bond and to be there in an emotional way for one another.
Q: What type of impact does cheating have on a relationship?
Often times it will result in the end of the relationship. This is because in most cases the emotional bond is already in such a fragile state. Trust, which is foundational to relationships, is fractured or broken. However, couples can and do recover from affairs. The affair sheds light on areas of the relationship/marriage that need healing. It is entirely possible for a couple to not only recover from and affair but to also form a more connected, safe, trusting, and secure bond with one another.
Q: What advice do you have for the person who has been cheated on and the person who has cheated?
My heart goes out to the person who has been cheated on. I cannot imagine the level of hurt and betrayal you must feel. My advice is to surround yourself with people you trust and who will be there for you. If you decide to work on the relationship then please do not do it alone. Find a trusted counselor/therapist to guide you through the process and who knows how to identify and work with the root causes behind affairs. Working towards forgiveness and reconciliation is a difficult process, but it is not impossible. Hold on to the hope that trust can be rebuilt. Believe that a deeper connection can result if both partners commit and fight for the relationship.
My advice for the person who has done the cheating and who wants to reconcile with their partner is to come clean, end the affair, and begin the healing process. You must take a personal inventory and honestly assess the reasons why you had and affair. Was it selfishness? Lack of self-control? Feelings of loneliness? Most people who have affairs are not bad people. They are just looking to feel loved. While this is important to understand it is important to remember that the pain you felt in the relationship prior to the affair was not justification. There is forgiveness. There is hope. It is possible to restore the trust and to find connection with your spouse again. You have to renew and commit. You have to do whatever it takes to save the marriage/relationship.