Oh, What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive….
Sir Walter Scott
It is time to offer some insight into “life after the affair” as well as few tips on how to affair-proof your relationship. If it is already too late and you are leading a double life then you will have to wait for my next blog or give me a call. However if you have experienced the remorse and heart wrenching pain of betrayal you will know that there may be no psychological wound worse than heartbreak. Bereavement, getting fired, foreclosure all pale in comparison to the tragic loss of an intimate attachment. So knowing and fearing this pain worse than death what can you do to avoid it and how do you cope when it happens to you?
First and foremost ,you need to know that no matter how loving,sexy and kind a partner you are, it can still happen!! Absolutely no relationship is immune although yes ….often an affair can be blamed on intimacy issues or on a narcissistic partner with poor impulses. You need to note the following information some of which is provided by Shirley Glass Ph.D in her excellent book”Not Just Friends”:
- AFFAIRS CAN AND DO HAPPEN IN HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS
- AFFAIRS CAN BE SIMPLY SEXUAL; THEY CAN BE JUST EMOTIONAL OR IN THE WORST CASE : BOTH SEXUAL AND EMOTIONAL
- AFFAIRS CAN AND DO OCCUR EVEN WHEN THERE IS HEALTHY SEXUAL INTIMACY AT HOME
- 90% OF MARRIED INDIVIDUALS BELIEVE MONOGAMY IS IMPORTANT YET 50% OF THESE SAME INDIVIDUALS SURVEYED HAD CHEATED
- 75% OF ALL UNFAITHFUL INDIVIDUALS WHO MARRY THEIR AFFAIR PARTNER LATER END UP DIVORCING THEM.
So knowing all of this I want to offer hope, yes, you can recover from the trauma of infidelity and, in fact, the counseling treatment is similar to recovery from PTSD or the healing journey from grief or bereavement. There are stages you will need to go through before there can once again be acceptance and trust. The bottom line is: both of you have to want to save your relationship. I can even offer you more good news : if you weather the storm your marriage/relationship may emerge even stronger.
The determining factor in every case will be the unfaithful partner.He/She will have to do the significant work of rebuilding the bridge of trust now washed away. Stone by stone his/her behaviors, not words or promises, will need to span the treacherous cavern created by deception. The unfaithful partner will need to also create The Great Wall of China between themselves and their affair partner.
I should also state one other reality; in every relationship, there are no innocents. Even if you believe you have been the perfect partner you will still need to work on yourself and you will also need to do 50% of the work on building a healthier relationship. Both partners need to address family of origin issues and unmet needs from childhood. There needs to be a structure of moral values that become integral to your identity as both individuals and as a couple. No more lies, no more emotional abuse. The goal is to establish safety, compassionate goodwill and transparent communication.
The two key tips I can offer to any couple who want to safeguard their relationship or rebuild it after an affair, are: Boundaries and Friendship. Boundaries are the protective walls you need to create around your relationship. You should not share time nor personal information about your self and your relationship with anyone who is not as equally protective of your couple relationship as you are. So in practical terms, this means no hanging out on a regular basis with colleagues, no routine shared meals or journeys, nor daily text or Facebook messaging. Friends and colleagues who share time together on a regular basis, often form a bond, especially when there is some form of mutuality, meaning shared interests. Without even realizing it, intimacy can occur and it becomes a slippery slope. The transition from friend to lover is often barely perceptible because the boundaries have shifted slowly over time.
Finally the most important advice: you need to see your partner as your best friend and treat him/her accordingly. We are often more courteous and kind to strangers than we are to our own family members. Remember the three “C”s : courtesy, commitment, and communication. So just like a real BFF from your days in high school, you tell each other everything,you make time, you listen, you share vulnerability and you keep each other’s back.