This is a Cry in Despair from many suffering the aftermath of an affair, whether you are the one who has been betrayed, or your act of betrayal has been discovered.
But the short answer to that question is YES, a resounding YES.
There is life after an Affair – for you individually, and for your relationship / marriage – should you choose to work at it.
However, the path to get there is not a walk in the park.
It calls for great determination, patience, persistent effort and time.
Therefore, it is best to engage an experienced therapist to help you navigate this tricky journey in your relationship.
Let me start from the beginning.
What happens when you uncover an act of Betrayal
If you have suffered an incident of cheating by your partner, you could be on a roller-coaster racing through emotions such as anger, disgust, heartbreak, shock.
It is like someone has just punched you in your guts; the ground shaking beneath your feet.
You might blame yourself: I should have done xyz; how can I be so blind/stupid/trusting; I am not good/clever/attractive enough that’s why he/she did this etc.
Images of what your partner were doing with the other person keep running through your mind – you just can’t keep them out.
You may be hypervigilant, checking on and tracking your partner all hours of the day.
You don’t know what to feel or think, how can I get through this?
You don’t know what to do next: leave? stay?
If you are the person who had been cheating and found out: you too are going through various emotions.
You could panic, find yourself suddenly staring at an abyss: the end of your marriage/relationship, a breakup of your family.
You could feel shame, guilty at causing such hurt to your partner.
Or you may push back: defending yourself you did this because your partner ignored you, was cold to you etc
You will find your partner repeatedly asking: why-why-why did you do this?
what exactly did you do with him/her etc
You feel whatever answer you give to your partner’s pressing questions – you just can’t extinguish his/her anguish.
You begin to feel frustrated: this punishment will go on forever – there’s no end to it.
Both of you are in chaos and confusion.
What can I / we do next?
This relationship is in tailspin and needs emergency aid.
For couples who want to save this relationship, this is how I would work with you.
Through the process of Atone-Attune-Attach, I will first help you to address and contain the pain. I will guide you both through the stage of Atonement, and give you skills to survive this phase.
Do not rush this stage – however painful or uncomfortable this may be for you
Because whether your relationship will survive this catastrophe – and whether you individually will be able to move on having learnt the necessary lessons – depends on how well you work this stage.
When relative calm settles in, the therapy will move into the next stage of Attune and Attach, when I will support you to repair and rebuild the relationship.
You will stand to learn more about yourself, about your partner, about your relationship, and learn skills to build a “relationship/marriage 2.0”.
Infidelity: Character Defect? Relationship Dissatisfaction?
Infidelity could happen for a myriad of reasons, and a combination of factors.
Oftentimes, it occurs when the relationship has gone cold, filled with tension and distance.
That, however, should NEVER excuse any acts that destroy the trust in the relationship, nor acts that hurt and injure one’s partner.
Cheating strikes a lethal blow at the foundation of the relationship. It is a devastating breach of trust between partners.
When couples experience relationship difficulties, the responsible approach is NOT to seek excitement or comfort elsewhere.
The responsible approach – when we realise we are not getting well together, we are fighting or ignoring each other too often – is to seek professional help to deal with the problems.
It is the JOINT responsibility of a couple to learn through therapy what difficult emotions belie our repeated conflicts, learn relationship and conflict management skills.
So that we could bring back, or cultivate anew, respect, trust, warmth, delight, curiosity, joy and, of course, fantasy.
Infidelity may also happen due to issues of an individual, arising from childhood or life experience, addiction to substance, behaviour, sex or social media.
In such cases, in order to reduce the long-term suffering in this relationship, that partner needs additionally to seek individual therapy to overcome such difficulties.
What if I just want to up and go?
You may have good reasons to reach this conclusion.
But there again, you may be doing this because you want the pain to stop. Now.
I would just say: hold it for a bit, come in and have a chat first.
Ending the relationship is not necessarily a bad thing. Just don’t do this out of an impulse to avoid the pain, to run away, or because of the constant stabbing in your heart.
Allow yourself the time and space for calmer deliberation:
- Do I want to hear how he/she would Atone – then I decide?
- Do I want to grapple with what caused this – because I don’t want anything like this to ever happen to me again?
See an experienced therapist to help you get to clarity.
Where ending the relationship could be good
Sometimes a calamity like an affair serves to shake us out of the inertia of a relationship that has been too hurtful for too long and is beyond repair. Leaving, in that case, may be a good thing.
Life is meant to be productive, healthy and joyful.
Not full of pain and resentment.
If that fits your situation, then in order to live well in the future, I would suggest that you spend some time looking back to review what lessons you could takeaway with you. So that these painful teachings could guide and enrich your vision for your new life.
Is there life after an Affair?
So again, the answer is YES, there is plenty of life after an Affair.
However, how good a life that will be depends on whether you deal with Infidelity with all the attention you and your partner deserve.
So DO NOT turn a blind eye to the pain, DO NOT sweep it under the carpet. The wound will just fester unabated, and send your relationship down a slippery slope.
Whatever happens from this point onwards: you will have to grapple with your personal and inner issues first – understand the past, so you can live well in the future, whether in this relationship or alone.
Only when you are whole and at peace with yourself, could you be effective in repairing this relationship, and/or rebuilding your life.
Act to heal yourself and your relationship.
And you will live better.