Affairs are one of those scary. and life altering events, couples frequently must face. Many partners are shocked their significant other is involved in another relationship, while some notice warning signs, but choose to ignore them. No matter the scenario, the shock of discovering the truth of an affair can make hoping for a viable future together incredibly difficult. Affairs leave both partners feeling alone, rejected, and fearful of the road ahead. While the couple will need to discuss many issues, they must first work through the crisis at hand.
Addressing the Emotions
In marriage counseling, this process is plainly called “Affair Recovery“. Similar to how a serious illness or a drastic change in lifestyle can come with overwhelming negative feelings, the couple must address and validate the negative emotions that surface after an affair. For a couple to truly grow together, there must be room for sadness, anger, and hurt.
As Shirley Glass and Jean Coppock Staeheli write in their book, “Not ‘Just Friends,'” the days after an affair is revealed often feel like an emotional roller coaster. Glass points out that loss is often the biggest struggle in these early days—for both members of the couple. The revelation causes a major shift in the relationship making it impossible to return to its former state. The future of the couple is up for debate, and the couple must decide whether to stay together or separate.
Walls and Windows
In order to make this decision, the couple must accomplish what Glass terms to be “Walls and Windows.” The “wall” that was built between the unfaithful partner and the injured partner must be torn down, and a “window” must be created between the two. Just as a window provides a clear view of what is on the other side of a wall, the couple needs to create a similar dynamic in their relationship. The unfaithful partner must begin a policy of complete transparency with the injured partner in order to create a culture of trust.
Most importantly, the affair has to end. The unfaithful partner must cut all ties with the affair partner. Cutting off all contact, physical connection, and emotional indulgence after an affair effectively brings it to an end. The unfaithful partner will experience a sense of loss and likely find the cutoff difficult, but it is necessary in order to rebuild the original relationship.