Should I stay, or should I leave? After an affair, an injured partner faces this question. It’s never easy, and there is no one size fits all solution.
Experiencing the infidelity of a partner can be so painful. It can make you believe you are losing your mind, and your life, as you have known it. Infidelity creates a sudden upheaval in everything you believed about your spouse, about yourself, and about your future. Several couples are unable to remain intact, and will move to end the relationship. But what if you aren’t yet sure, or want a different outcome?
Many areas in your relationship will need to be addressed, and it can be difficult to know where to start. If you are choosing to stay in your relationship, here are a few suggestions to help you and your partner repair, rebuild and reconnect.
Staying in a relationship, following an affair, requires addressing all of the changes that have occurred because of it. Changes, especially those we didn’t personally want or choose, can come with very strong negative feelings. Its important these feelings are acknowledged, and by both partners.
There is usually no shortage of hurt and anger, and you may find conflict has become your main method of communicating. Hurt can manifest itself in several ways. Anger tends to be one that is most commonly used, however, anger rarely comes alone.
Betrayed, sad, lost, scared, alone, confused, resentful, and vulnerable are just a few likely to surface. Each relationship is unique, however, and so are the feelings that come with it. Identify the feelings, as well as the underlying fears, insecurities, and loss the affair has created. This helps focus your communication and creates a deeper understanding of the hurt and anger.
Repair focuses on understanding our individual reaction to the affair, as well as recognizing that trust and friendship have now been called into question. To address the loss of trust and friendship, it’s crucial to actively practice being a better friend. This may seem obvious, but can often be overlooked in our everyday routine.
Learn what circumstances currently trigger negative feelings and/or conflict. Take action to correct these situations, and practice generating positive feelings instead. Be mindful of your daily exchanges and build an atmosphere of comfort, kindness and consideration. This creates a more neutral environment, and a neutral environment naturally reduces extra day-to-day conflict. I’m sure you will agree that any way you can reduce conflict, will be of great benefit to you.
Consider actions such listening without interruption. It sounds simple, but isn’t always so easy. You can also defuse your environment by helping out with routines and daily activities, being considerate in your living space, giving genuine compliments, paying attention, and checking in with your partner about how they are doing. If you aren’t already taking these actions, then this is a great opportunity to demonstrate care for your partner. With repetition and consistency, over time you share connections, and develop a sense of security. This helps to repair the trust, and sets the course for you to rebuild your friendship.
The level of friendship between partners is a significant indicator for success in a relationship. The stronger your friendship connection, the higher your relationship success.
When your relationship began, together you created a vision of hopes, dreams and goals you planned to work towards. This includes houses, children, careers, vacations, lifestyle goals, and the timeline for achieving them. An affair is not typically part of this vision, and can lead the injured partner to question: Have we really been working toward the same goal all along?
This question can lead to uncertainty about your future, and in need of confirmation about what the future holds. Address this uncertainty by communicating your intent to stay together, as frequently as needed. Be honest and clear about what you want going forward, and encourage your spouse to do the same.
Communicate your boundaries and expectations going forward. As you make these adjustments, you establish a clear vision of the future while also reassuring your partner of your intent to stay together. You are mending a friendship. By consistently addressing the uncertainty you demonstrate caring for your partner. By sharing and re-negotiating expectations and goals, you establish a plan for being together. Both are needed to encourage your friend to remain your friend.
As we have all heard, time heals. But while you allow time to work, this is the time to take active steps to build more closeness with your partner. Even if you and your partner are managing to get along, life can manage to shake things up at any time.
Acknowledge Landmines. Reminders of the affair, or that affairs exist are similar to landmines. You never know when or where they may be hiding, but when you find them they blow up your whole day, week or even longer. A song on the radio, a scene in a movie or TV show. Maybe a news article, mention of a city, or specific location connected to the infidelity. These and many more not only can, but unavoidably will also pop up.
When landmines show up the emotional response can feel just as strong as the day the affair was discovered. These experiences are, to say the least, uncomfortable, and the straying partner may feel that talking about them would be poking the emotional bear.
You or your partner may want to avoid, minimize, or even ignore them, but don’t. As awkward or uncomfortable as these situations may be, they are actually opportunities for partners to share and understand the ongoing impact of the infidelity, and then work through the hurt together. Emphasis on together.
The injured partner will be faced with landmines on sometimes a daily basis. Dealing with them alone can make your partner feel alone, not understood, and uncared for. These feelings will no doubt defeat your goal of coming closer together, and will only create further distance between you. Working through these feelings together allows you the opportunity to heal together rather than separate and alone. It can prove comforting when your partner is considerate of this, and is willing to consistently demonstrate caring and support.
Working together through an affair takes time and a great deal of patience. The challenge of addressing the damage when our hurt and defensiveness is high can be overwhelming, and at times seem impossible to overcome. Finding ways to reconnect with your partner can be difficult or at times may not be well received.
Practice patience, with yourself and with your partner. Unfortunately there is no timeline or rule book for exactly how you will find your way back to each other. At times you may want to speed up the process, only to find a new bump in the road. Rest assured this is truly a situation where persistence and consistency pay off. Stick with it, and you can get the results you are looking for.
If you have dealt with this or are dealing with this, reach out to me. I can help you. I specialize in relationships. Don’t wait another day to start healing!