Extramarital Affair Counseling / Therapy: have you or your partner had an extramarital affair? If so, you are not alone. In the majority of long-term relationships, at least one person has “cheated” at least once. After an affair, the relationship is never the same. For some couples, the relationship ends. For others, however, the affair can mark a turning point, motivating the couple to reprioritize the marriage, forge new ways of relating to each other, and emerge with a relationship even stronger and healthier than it was before. Initially, both spouses can feel overwhelmed by the myriad of feelings they experience all at once.
The betrayed partner (the person who was cheated on) might feel:
* Angry that they were lied to
* Loss of trust
* Loss of sexual desire
* Upset with themselves for staying with the person who betrayed them
* Trapped – can’t leave due to the children or financial situation
* Relief that they finally know the truth (since often the betrayed partner knew about the affair on some level)
* Hurt that their partner could do this to them
* Scared about potential sexually transmitted infections
The betraying partner (the person who cheated) might feel:
* Relief that their secret is out in the open
* Guilt about the pain they have caused their partner
* Torn because they truly have feelings for both people
* Sad because they had to end things with the affair partner
* Scared that their marital partner might leave them
* Ashamed that they broke their own moral code
To cope with the vast array of feelings and rapid mood changes each person could:
* Identify a support person (whom your partner is OK with) and tell him/her everything. It is important that one person, other than your spouse, know everything, this way, the person can be a sounding board.
* Keep a journal and record your feelings
* Give yourself permission to feel all of your feelings. It’s OK to be where you are at. Trust yourself. Say what you think and be yourself. If the relationship is going to survive, it should be because your partner is invested in you, not the ‘fantasy’ of you.
* Do something each day to care of yourself
* Do something ‘selfish’ that will make you a better person. Give yourself 4 months to accomplish the goal (For example, take a cooking class to help you become a better cook, join a gym and work out 4 days a week to get in shape, take a toast masters class and become a better speaker, or take a dance class and learn how to dance).
* Every day, take five minutes and reflect upon something that your partner did well that you enjoyed. Tell your partner. People tend to respond better to compliments. Beware, only compliment partner on things that you really want him/her to do more of, or you could be ‘training’ him/her to do the wrong things. *Practice open communication. Talk to your partner. Tell him/her what you are really feeling / thinking.
General guide lines of what information needs to be known about the affair:
* Identify the time line of the affair: when did it begin? What was the frequency? What lies were told to cover it up.
* Identify the behaviors: was ‘working late’ code for ‘meeting with the affair partner’. Was the cell phone turned off.
* Do not discuss the intimate sex life details. Too much details isn’t good for the relationship. With that being said, let the person who was cheated on, make this decision for him/herself. He/she may need this information as part of the healing process. The rule is that if the partner asks, then the person cheating owes that information to them. For the person being cheated on, be careful for what you ask for.
* Too much information can sometimes really be too much information.
Healing: Develop realistic expectations. Healing takes time. You may experience rapid mood changes for days, months or even years. Take one day at a time. After an affair, the relationship will never be the same. The expectation that you would never act on an attraction for someone other than your spouse or the trust that your partner would never / could never cheat on you is gone. An affair happened. That type of trust is gone. Moving forward requires an understanding of how the problem began. Not only how did the literal affair begin. What were the lies that the betraying partner told the betrayed partner, but when did the betraying partner stop feeling connected to the betrayed partner. It is very rare for an affair to occur in couples where everything is perfect. Usually the affair signals a deeper rift that had already emerged between the couple. Thus, finding out about an affair can often be used as a starting point to begin the much needed discussion of what went wrong in the relationship. By defining where the communication problems began, couples can often strengthen the ways in which they talk with one another, thus creating a stronger bond between them. Furthermore, after an affair, couples spend the extra time (re) getting to know each other. People over time change. Common mistakes that couples make are assuming that they know each other well. Staying connected over the years requires daily communication. It’s important to continually put time in getting to know the other person. Over the course of fifty years, people change. Who we were at age twenty, is not who we are at age eighty. Throughout ones life, people are different at the different stages and ages.
Affairs happen for many different reasons:
Sometimes affairs happen because there was something wrong with the primary relationship. To explore this idea, ask yourself what was happening in the primary relationship when the affair began. How were you communicating with each other? Did you enjoy spending time together? Were you making time to be emotionally and sexually intimate with each other? In what ways had you stopped being best friends? When did you start finding yourself not telling your partner every last thought?
* Sometimes affairs happen because of a sexual addiction. If this is the situation, then, seeking professional help to recover from the sexual addiction is strongly indicated.
* Sometimes affairs happen as a form of retaliation. One person is angry and wants to hurt the other.
* Sometimes affairs happen because of poor boundaries. Specifically, sometimes people over-share. Instead of reserving your most intimate details about yourself to your partner, you might find yourself over-sharing with a friend or a work-colleague. While no one incident is inappropriate, over time it fosters a type of intimacy that should only be between you and a partner.
Mostly, people cheat, not because they are not getting enough at home, but because they are not giving enough at home, and they are scared to have an honest conversation with their partner about their emotional needs.
Want extra support with your relationship? Call 215-922-5683 Ext. 100 to book with a Couples' Therapist today. Therapy is available in Art Museum/Fairmount Philadelphia, Ocean City, NJ, Richmond, VA, and Santa Fe, NM. Virtual therapy is also available in Georgia and Florida.