Finding Your Way Back After an Affair
by Ruth Eichler, LMSW, ACSW
Extra-marital affairs can result in a shattering crisis for a couple. Raging emotions, a sense that their world has fallen apart, shock, and many unanswered questions usually surge through the betrayed spouse or partner upon discovery of the affair. For some couples, this means the end of the relationship. For others, the crisis creates the wake-up call that eventually can lead to a more fulfilling marriage than either dreamed possible if both are willing to try again.
Of course, lots of pain and work is required in order to move to the new place. Although some relationships do terminate at the revelation of an affair, 80% of people who divorce as a result of infidelity regret that decision later.
Questions abound for one or both persons:
- Can I ever trust again?
- Will I ever feel safe in this relationship again?
- Do I even want to be in this relationship?
- How could I go to couples counseling if I don't even know what I feel or want?
- What if my partner never "gets" the impact he/she has had on me?
If the infidelity has included an emotional component, during the romantic stage the unfaithful partner often believes that the other person will bring them happiness and excitement. Research shows that certain "feel-good" hormones actually increase during the first six to nine months, making our hearts sing – even if combined with guilt. Once any relationship goes beyond that stage, hormones return to normal, and the things that drive us crazy begin to surface. Such is also true in affairs. Fewer than 10% of extra-marital affairs end in marriage, and of those that do, 75% end in divorce.
For those who wish to try again, couples counseling can be a great help in navigating the choppy waters that follow an affair. The counseling office can offer a place to safely explore the emotions, frustrations, and questions so that they are worked through and not just put on a back burner or endlessly revisited. Tools and skills are provided so that the couple can find their way back to a place of loving connection. Even so, it will still take time before all of the wounds heal. However, couples counseling can provide the pathway back to a fulfilling, rewarding, better-than-before relationship.
Articles by Ruth Eichler, LMSW, ACSW
- Book: Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix
- Book: The Truth About Love by Pat Love