Affairs and Infidelity
A Deep Relational Wound
Affairs and infidelity, whether physical, emotional, sexual or even virtual, are devastating to relationships. For many, an affair breaks the core trust of a relationship, the foundation on which it is based. Even if “nothing happened,” the emotional damage to trust and the broken sense of security is real.
It is no surprise that many relationships end because of affairs. But not all of them. In fact, in most cases, both partners want to find a way to repair the relationship but they don’t know how.
Every relationship is vulnerable
Years ago, the typical affair involved a male boss chasing his female secretary around a desk – ie: a man in a more powerful position using his influence to intentionally seduce or intimidate a woman who is in a less powerful position. Sadly of course, that still happens today.
But more often affairs start with a genuinely innocent “friendship” that slowly grows more and more personal until a line is crossed. They are often co-workers or colleagues in a situation that places them together often enough, long enough, and privately enough to allow their connection to get progressively more personal. In that setting, it is common for conversations to turn to personal worries, frustrations or issues. In the conversations with their “friend” they find an empathetic listener who supports and encourages them – someone who seems to understand in a way their spouse or partner does not. At some point (usually far sooner than they realize) an important boundary is crossed: when they are sharing intimate details, feelings, worries or aspirations that their spouse or partner would expect to only be shared with them. No one intends for it to happen, but it does. Tragically, the pain of betrayal and the destruction of trust and security is real and overwhelming, regardless of it being unintentional.
Repairing and Rebuilding
Repairing a wounded relationship is possible. Not easy. Not fast. But possible.
The unfaithful partner must work to be open, transparent and vulnerable to connecting with and appreciating the pain that their partner is experiencing. With authentic regret and courageous acceptance of responsibility for their choices, they must be willing to hear, feel and empathize with their partner. At the same time, they must honestly examine how they allowed themselves to be drawn into the affair, and find concrete and specific ways they can ensure that it cannot happen again.
After exploring and sharing the hurt, betrayal, fear or other shattering feelings, the one who was betrayed must consider taking the risk to trust again, and join in rebuilding the emotional bond. This is no small step that requires strong but gentle guidance of both partners as they work their way back to co-creating a safe, secure and trustworthy relationship.
“Affair-Proof” your relationship – before or after an affair
The repair and rebuilding of a relationship after an affair requires more than just healing the relationship wound and rebuilding trust. To be able to confidently move forward together, the couple must create a much more conscious and intentional connection, with on-going work to “affair-proof” their relationship. This means honestly accepting that their relationship is vulnerable, understanding how and where it can be at risk, and working together to ensure their relationship bond is protected and strengthened in the face of all the forces that could pull them apart.
At Northern Illinois Men's Counseling we have walked this road with many couples. With years of experience and extensive training in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples (EFT), we have been able to help many couples recover, rebuild and move forward with more security, confidence and hope than they ever thought possible. If you have questions or are facing this kind of challenge, call, email or make an appointment right now through this website. We look forward to talking with you.