We have greater flexibility in the way relationships look than ever before yet somehow infidelity still packs the biggest wallop…
It is SO painful to find out your partners been involved with another for it occurs in the most personal and intimate parts of what you thought was your relationship.
It’s a huge blow to our self esteem, especially if it becomes public.
Even more so in modern relationships which are almost totally based on romantic or personal love.
Infidelity feels like the ultimate form of rejection and shame.
These are the questions in infidelity that roll around in our heads:
For the person who has been betrayed:
How could they have done this to me?
Don’t they love me anymore?
What have I done wrong?
Am I just not good enough?
How dare they?
For the person who’s had the affair the thoughts can be just as painful:
How could I have hurt the person that I love most in the world?
How could I have been such a cheat?
How could I have kept going on as I was before my affair?
Infidelity is a real blow to the ideal of ‘happy ever after’, it cuts right to the heart of relationship.
And the other question both people are asking: Can I/we get over this?
Deciding whether to work on your relationship or head out the door is the choice you now face.
It often seems easier to bolt out the door but it isn’t necessarily in the long run.
Understanding the dynamics of affairs in general, and in your relationship in particular will help you make a healthier decision.
The first thing to understand about affairs is:
They trigger a huge amount of shame, of feeling wrong for both the doer and one who’s been done to.
Shame is one of the most uncomfortable feelings of all to deal with.
It makes us want to curl up inside and disappear because we feel so wrong!
It’s important to remember that shame IS just a feeling and when we recognise it and see it for what it is, being willing to make it ok, we can reduce its intensity enough to see what is going on more clearly
Affairs are not new, they’ve have been around as long as relationships.
It seems as humans they’re hard to avoid.
People in otherwise ‘happy’ relationships also have affairs. Even people in so called ‘open’ relationships have them. Perhaps the very ideal of relationship, of coupledom invites the situation- from being so much ‘the couple’ people having affairs report striking out for something that is just ‘theirs’.
That’s the second important thing to know.
It’s important to see, even in your hurt, that the affair probably wasn’t done to hurt you.
People having affairs don’t so much turn away from their partners as much as look for something missing in themselves.
Affairs are less about the actual sex than about the desire to want/feel wanted, to feel special, important, to find the mystery of having what is forbidden.
And especially to feel fully alive again.
People having affairs often feel disconnected from their partner, in relationship but not really relating Being bored in their lives OR in their relationship Not feeling sexually desired or desirable Not able to discuss this with their partner to find a way forward in the relationship They might feel undervalued by their partner, unneeded or overwhelmed by their partners needs
Finding that feeling of edgy aliveness, that can become addictive and hard to give up, even when the affair is no longer so ‘hot’.
A feeling it seems impossible to find in the existing relationship that’s settled into a place of routine.
Occasionally there might be a more serious inability to sustain relationship at all that results in repeated affairs and requires more serious attention.
Affairs seem to be the attractive solution to the all of above issues.
So what should you do in this situation?
- You have to be able to let go of the need for punishing your partner and playing the role of victim (as tempting as it might appear to pour acid over their car or expose them as a traitor on Facebook) as this is going to destroy any chance of your re-establishing a healthy dynamic.
- Know that you are the only one that can heal YOUR hurt because it is inside you. It is your choice to hold onto it or not.Your partner cannot do this for you, only you can. Part of this healing is taking a look at ways you might have contributed, not to the affair, but to the place in your relationship that made the affair a possibility. Infidelity comes in many forms- addictions, overwork, over focussing on the children at the expense of the relationship, even sport and being on lots of committees. Betrayal can come in the form of indifference, avoidance, criticism, sarcasm and manipulation. Finding your contribution is an essential but not easy thing to do when we feel so wronged. But once there is more understanding forgiveness can begin to happen.
- Your partner CAN help by showing genuine remorse for the hurt you’re feeling. Sometimes they may not feel real remorse for the affair itself. This is when it has brought new aliveness, new clarity in the individual who has had the affair. And where it brings new potential in your existing relationship, bringing things out in the open that were otherwise killing it. It can be hard for the person hurting in the infidelity to see but this can be where the most potential lies for healing.
- Your partner can also help by being willing to restore and maintain the boundaries in your relationship in order to rebuild your trust. Remember this is only part of the healing, if this is all that happens it is not a solution, it’s a time bomb waiting to go off.
- You need to resolve the underlying issues that led to the affair. Discover what led to the choice being made and what can you each do to prevent the situation happening again. And find the things that you value about your relationship with each other. Learn how you can bring the aliveness, the freedom, the connection, the mystery into your own relationship.
The outcome of an affair is up to both of you.
Occasionally, having an affair is simply the outward sign of a relationship that needs to end.
Most often it can be the beginning of something stronger and deeper than ever before.
It won’t be as easy as walking out the door but the rewards can be many.
So, can you get over infidelity?
Absolutely.Should you try? Most definitely. To deal with the affair and at least try to move forward is actually far braver and harder than just giving up and leaving.
We have a number of ways to support you in doing just that..