How to Survive an Affair

The number of married persons that have affairs is unknown. Statistics are based on self-reporting, which is notoriously unreliable, and range substantially (10% to over 50%). However, it is obvious that cheating occurs frequently. I’d assume that the percentages are close to the highest point, or roughly half of people in relationships, based on anecdotal evidence and the sheer number of couples in my clinic who are battling with infidelity.

If cheating occurs so frequently, which can take many different forms—getting your emotional needs satisfied by someone else, engaging in passionate physical liaisons, or engaging in intense online flirtation—then it stands to reason that stressed and broken relationships occur even more frequently. Knowing how a connection came to be damaged becomes less significant than choosing a course of action for healing when damaged relationships are a given.

Therefore, my emphasis as a therapist has shifted from

“What is the next step for the couple?”

This places more of an emphasis on the couple’s future than on their history, which is by itself a more optimistic position to be in. We examine each partner’s background and the emotional triggers they brought into the relationship as we do go into the past, but after that, we move on and assume that every relationship has these same kind of rifts and that there is something to build on.

Affairs are crushing to both partners

You could feel that everything you believed to be genuine and reliable has been destroyed when you are deceived, leading you to doubt not only this relationship but all relationships. From wrath to despair to tranquility and return, emotions ping-pong. It may be difficult to think of ever having faith in your lover again. When you are the adulterous, you desperately want your partner to understand why you had to turn elsewhere for validation and love. Beginning with relief at not having to keep a secret, your emotions could gradually shift to despondency and the worry that your partner would punish you indefinitely. You will both have a hard time believing in one another.

It takes time to restore one’s faith. It’s a long route that is occasionally briefly shut and necessitates a detour in an area you might not have anticipated. Start with these three crucial measures to start moving on after infidelity.

1. Stop blaming

Let’s start with the most difficult component. It’s normal to become defensive and accusatory during a dispute. And sometimes only one (typically narcissistic) partner is to blame for adultery. But more often than not, they are a sign of a relationship that has broken down on both ends.

Instead of blaming your partner for everything, take a closer look inside. You get the opportunity to explore your own difficulties by acknowledging your part in the relationship’s past. You might identify a pattern of behavior that has persisted over numerous relationships, or you might realize that some of your responses are reminiscent of how one of your parents reacted. Examining your own role in the issues gives you the option to make internal, health-related repairs as well as repairs with your significant other. This will benefit your current relationship as well as any future ones.

Disaster creates a special opportunity. There is nothing to lose when things are at their worst, therefore there is an opportunity to be really honest. Now is the time to shout, analyze, and sift over everything you’ve been holding back yet have always wanted to say. Although it can be a difficult process, it can also result in genuine transformation and healing, perhaps for the first time.

2. Build trust

You can then work on reestablishing the intimacy you experienced when you first fell in love after looking at the relationship and your personal role in it. Despite the fact that this is a lengthy process and may be best started with a marriage counselor’s assistance, it can be summed up here as consisting of two stages, which I will now refer to as Commitments and Later Commitments.

Now commitments are those that take place right away following the affair, frequently ordered by the hurt partner, and may include (but not be limited to) more or less sexual activity, access to phones and email, more or less time spent together, consistent communication, acts of loving kindness, increased or decreased time spent apart, etc. The individual who feels betrayed has the chance to explain what is required for them to feel safe once more. Although these actions are negotiable, they expose the injured partner’s primary concerns: feeling in the dark and vulnerable.

Additionally, the errant partner will have a list of New Commitments that address the circumstances that led to the affair. This person will seek reassurance that any emptiness or coldness felt before to the affair will be addressed. Additionally, they will need to believe in their own and their partner’s ability to forgive.

These are the Later Commitments, in which you reassure one another that you’ll avoid slipping into old habits and discover fresh ways to deal with your previous sentiments of resentment, boredom, or vulnerability. It might be frightening for couples to see their damaging routines in the open. There may be a concern that these dynamics, which took decades to develop and have persisted without resolution for years, won’t be amenable to resolution or avoidance. Each team member must be confident that the other will be watchful to avoid reverting to previous defenses even years from now.

In marriage counseling, partners repeatedly promise to be present with one another and to have their best interests at heart. This reaffirmation is strong and restores trust.

3. Lower expectations

Whether it’s Prince Charming or a Manic Pixie Dream Girl (Nathan Rabin’s description after watching Kirsten Dunst in the film Elizabethtown), the idea of the ideal spouse causes us more harm than good. We are unable to fully understand one other and are not expected to do so constantly or even most of the time. Partners are not supernatural beings; they are companions. We are there to walk beside one another, think kindly of one another, and work hard for one another.

We would be happier if we desired a steady, open buddy who shares some of our interests and thinks we are attractive instead of a soul mate.

In his New York Times column Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person, Alain de Botton argues that marriage requires a healthy dosage of sorrow and disillusionment. He summarizes relationships as follows:

“The person who is most compatible with us is not the one who has the same tastes as we do (since that person doesn’t exist), but rather the one who can wisely deal with differences in taste… Love is an accomplishment, not its prerequisite for compatibility.

None of these procedures are simple, and none ensures that the relationship will succeed. However, there is hope and the chance to rebuild a strong and fulfilling relationship after an affair. Even a heartbreaking betrayal can be repaired by examining your own contribution to the issue, developing relationships with and turning toward your partner, and lastly having a realistic outlook on the future.