Affairs may be experienced as traumatic, particularly for the hurt partner, trust becomes seriously damaged and both partners can feel a sense of hopelessness about the future of the relationship and the possibility of recovery. So, how can we begin to understand what an affair means, its impact, how each partner can cope following the discovery of an affair
and whether there is a possibility of healing and repairing the relationship? Here are a few points to consider:
- Affairs may take several forms, when most people think of affairs, they imagine the typical scenario where one partner cheats and has a sexual encounter or relationship with someone else, outside of the relationship. However, affairs may also be solely emotional (involving no sexual or physical contact but where there is a sense of romantic intimacy), or they might involve being on dating apps or talking to other people online. In whatever form, affairs represent a betrayal for many people and damage the secure base of a relationship.
- Depending on the type of affair, how long it has gone on for, what the relationship was like beforehand, the personal histories and previous experiences of each partner and whether either or both partners are willing to try and repair the relationship, the prognosis for recovery will differ.
- Initially, both partners need to decide whether to re-commit to each other and begin the work of healing and repair, or to end the relationship. If they decide to try and work on the relationship, there are several steps that must be taken if this task has a chance at success:
- The affair must end, trying to repair a relationship where there is an affair ongoing will only lead to further hurt and damage to the relationship;
- The partner who had the affair must offer the hurt partner an apology and the hurt partner needs to feel that this is genuine;
- The couple needs to begin to understand why the affair happened and its’ impact on the relationship and each individual;
- Trust needs to be gradually re-built and a new vision for the relationship may ultimately be created.
It is not easy for a couple to recover from an affair, but it is possible. It is recommended that couples seek out therapy in attempting to work through the process which can be painful, frustrating and very triggering for most people. A therapist can help support and guide you through this process and assist you to maintain a sense of hope and facilitate healing and the creation of a new relationship. Esther Perel, a couples’ therapist, writer and presenter says that when an affair occurs within a couple, that relationship is over, however, a new relationship may be re-built following an affair, with the same person.
After an affair, your relationship will not be the same, but that can be a good thing. Some people who do the “work” and recover from the affair say that their new relationship is even better, stronger and more connected than it was previously. The process of recovery requires a lot of patience, understanding and commitment. If, on the other hand you decide not to continue the relationship after an affair, working with a therapist can also help you to cope with, understand and heal from the experience.
Friendship is about mutual affection, shared values and an interpersonal connection. Such qualities are the perfect characteristics for a romantic relationship.
This is why remaining in a close friendship with your partner is important for the longevity of relationships. Knowing your partner, their dreams and values, makes for a good foundation when difficulties arise or conflict occurs in your relationship. Without a friendship dynamic we can become emotionally distant from each other, disengaged and disinterested.
Here are three simple tips to sustaining friendship in your romantic relationship:
- Keep up to date with your partner’s current likes/dislikes and worries. Being engaged in this way will show a mutual respect for each other’s opinions and thoughts. Start from the simple questions (Eg. Do you still like reading fiction? What’s your favourite running route in Sydney?), to the more complex questions (Eg. Is our mortgage still a worry for you?)
- Sharing an interest together and will create a shared experience (Eg. join the gym together, swap reading books and compare thoughts, learn a language together)
- Keep it light – laughter makes you feel good and releases endorphins in your body. By making humour a part of your daily conversations this will naturally generate a fondness towards each other.
Sustaining a healthy friendship with your partner will support not only your relationship but also your own individual mental health and well-being.