One of the most hurtful events of a relationship is when someone is discovered having an affair.
Generally one of three things happens when someone discovers that their spouse has been cheating on them.
1. The affair is ignored. This may mean that the affair continues but nothing changes in the relationship. This is often because the party being cheated on just doesn’t want to ‘rock the boat’ for fear of what might come of it.
2. Sometimes one or other of the couple decides that they can no longer be in the relationship and so the relationship ends.
3. Ideally the affair stops. The old relationship discontinues and a new relationship begins.
Whether the relationship ends or not, some serious losses will be experienced. Losses can be physical or symbolic and may include:
• Loss of trust
• Loss of security
• Loss of hope/dreams
• Loss of faith
• Loss of intimacy and affection
• Loss of self-esteem
Sometimes it is these losses, over and above the affair, that pulls the couple apart and sounds the death knell for continuing the relationship.
If the third option is the case the challenge then is for the non-offending spouse to overcome these losses and find trust again for the other person. This is probably the biggest hurdle to overcome.
The Way Forward
The way forward then is to take the time with your spouse to talk about all these issues and to realign them with a new way of being. More than anything for a relationship to make it through there needs to be forgiveness: forgiveness of each spouse of themselves and of each other for the part they played in the affair.
And yes, as hard it sounds, even the non-offending spouse might need to look at their part in causing the affair. In saying this I don’t mean to imply that the offending party should be absolved of what they have done. They must take full responsibility for the hurt they’ve caused but, as I’ve said before, the reason this affair has happened is because there was something amiss in the relationship to start with. For this both spouses need to assume responsibility.
To help you both along the way it might be useful to start a journal. Express all your thoughts and feelings in this journal; the good, the bad and the downright ugly. And besides making the time to talk about what happened there might also need to be some new, if only temporary, rules put into place regarding letting each other know where you are and what you’re doing and how long that will be. This can be the only way forward if trust is going to be re-established.
And by the way the spouse who decides the ultimate outcome of the affair will be the non-offending spouse not the one who cheated. Your role is to just grin and bear it, as this is the consequence of having erred. If there is enough love and a renewed commitment and trust you will find a way to reconnect. For both of you don’t be in a hurry. It will take as long as it takes.
Sometimes all this might seem too hard to do on your own and you might need some professional help. Take that help even if you don’t yet know what you should do now that the affair has been exposed. Counselling will help you find your way through the mess to then be able to make a clear decision to either leave the relationship or to recommit. It’s only as you come to make this decision that you can start to move forward.
So until next time – Relate with Love