One of the most devastating issues we can face in a committed and monogamous relationship is the discovery of an affair. For many, the sense of betrayal is just too much to bear and the relationship is swiftly abandoned. However, it is possible to get past infidelity if both parties want to and commit to the difficult journey it usually requires. Here are a few things to consider if you find yourself in this situation:
This is critical. The "cheater" must own up to their actions, apologize, and be genuinely remorseful about what they have done. Without feeling remorse -- and communicating that remorse to their partner -- it will be impossible to build trust again and create a path forward.
Accept that Recovery Takes Time
With infidelity, there are no quick fixes; it can take many months or longer, to work things out. Both parties must be realistic about the time and effort required to put things right. In particular, the "cheater" must accept that even if the affair did not mean much to them, it may be of huge significance to their partner. Also, it's important that the transgressor does not become impatient and decide for themselves how long it should take for their partner to "get over it". Only the injured party can fully know when they have recovered, or if they ever can.
Enlist the Support of an Experienced Professional
While it can be cathartic to confide in a close friend or relative, nothing can replace the impartial assistance of a trained therapist to help you work towards recovery. A therapist is more than a sympathetic ear. They can help both parties focus their thoughts, identify their feelings, and better communicate with each other. Goals can be agreed to and progress and setbacks discussed, as the therapist provides guidance along the way in a calm, respectful and supportive environment. Meetings are always strictly confidential and can take place with the couple together and separately.
Don't Dredge up the Affair
Most couples argue occasionally, but post-affair arguments can easily go down a very bad path. When conflict arises, it's extremely important to stick to the issue at hand and resist the temptation to dredge up the infidelity. Nothing constructive will come from repeatedly going over the transgression and shaming your partner in a heated exchange. Ideally, as part of the recovery process, both parties should agree at the outset to be watchful for this common tendency and avoid it. A therapist can help you set boundaries for such situations.
Good communication is key to the success of any relationship, and very often poor communication, particularly over a long period of time, can make a relationship vulnerable to destructive behaviour, which includes having an affair. It's important that both parties enter into the recovery process with a commitment to communicate honestly, fully, clearly and respectfully. This is no time for one-upmanship, punishing behaviour and words, or game-playing. If you really want to repair your relationship it will take a degree of maturity and self-control -- from both of you. A therapist can help you overcome poor communication habits, identify feelings that at first may be unclear, and help you share those feelings with your partner in a non-confrontational manner, during this critical time.
Rekindle all That's Good in Your Relationship
In the midst of all of this, it's important to not lose sight of what attracted you to each other in the first place! Make time for the two of you to focus on just yourselves, a date night perhaps, or just quiet time at home without the kids. Make this time about the present, not the past, and don't discuss your relationship or its challenges. Instead, just enjoy each other as you used to do, and focus on the moment.
Embrace a New Way Forward
Infidelity does change a relationship, but it doesn't have to be only for the worst. The happiest outcome following an affair, and it does happen, is that the couple emerges stronger and more committed, with a new appreciation for and understanding of each other, and what they both hold dear.