What do you do after the affair?
Do you remember when you first met your partner? Do you remember the feeling in your stomach when you went on the first few dates and the raw passion that you had for each other? Over time, these feelings can fade, the passion can wane, and the intoxication and captivation you felt can be exchanged for arguments about chores and day-to-day “normal” things. You still want to be with your partner, but frustration and monotony have replaced the excitement. And the sex you used to have is merely a memory. You used to make passionate love. You used to explore each other, relish in each other, wait in anticipation for each other. Can you remember?
Things have changed. It was a subtle transition, and it grew as time went on. You stopped having as much sex, and something was missing from your relationship. Maybe you know what it is, and maybe you don’t, but either way, you know that something has changed.
For some, this change may feel like you aren’t getting what you need from your partner or your relationship. Maybe you feel judged, isolated, unloved, like you’re not enough, or even like you’re just a paycheck, a means to an end, or a 3-inch piece of real estate to your partner.
And then it happened. A third party entered into your relationship to fill that gap. The affair happened.
Often people ask how they got there. What happened?
People explain their affairs in different ways. Maybe there was no sexual intimacy, but there was intimacy and a relationship all the same. The affair often brings a sense of appreciation, love, and a reigniting of that passion and excitement that had gotten lost in your relationship. Maybe it was a bout of intense, short-lived sexual experience, or maybe it was many relationships over a long period of time. But, one thing is certain: this affair means something to you and your partner.
People seek out affairs, or find themselves in them, because they are trying to compensate for what is missing in their relationship—they need to fulfill a need that is not being met. Maybe you or your partner needed reassurance that you are a good person, maybe you or your partner needed to talk to someone, to be touched, and maybe the affair was even inspired by revenge. Whatever the reason, the answer to “how did we get here” usually lies in your relationship. Infidelity rarely leads to long-term relationships with the third party. However, they will always do one of two things to your relationship: destroy it or make it stronger.
How do you know what happens after? Will it be the end or a new beginning?
It will take both of you to determine the future of your relationship. Since there was something missing in your relationship, your partner felt the changes and, more than likely, the affair—even if you or your partner wasn’t certain about the affair at the time. It may be necessary to contact a local marriage or couple’s therapist in your area in order to sort out the missing parts of your relationship so you can begin healing. Since sex was likely a part of the affair, it can be helpful to have a couple’s therapist who is comfortable working with you and your partner to restore the sexual health of your relationship.
Being vulnerable with your partner, especially after such a drastic breach of trust, can be scary. You chose that person to be the one you would spend your life with, and it is crucial that you both feel accepted, loved, and cared for. But, after an affair, these feelings can take a while to rekindle. A necessary component in the healing of your relationship is to be present, honest, and open, so you can begin to reopen those lines of honest communication and expression. Once you and your partner do this, you can begin the recovery process. Over time, it will be easier and less scary to be vulnerable with your partner, and often, couples find that this is where the new relationship begins to develop—this is where you are your partner rekindle what was missing.
Building trust again can be hard, though.
People will often ask again and again “how can I possibly trust them again?” Trust is an issue that both partners will need to address. The partner who had the affair will need to be able to trust themselves not to look for another affair, and the partner who did not have the affair will need to trust the other person. Trust is tricky and may be one of the hardest things to recover. The partner who had the affair needs to be willing to give up some privacy—that is, maybe this partner needs to be open about text messages and phone calls, maybe this means that Facebook passwords and emails are no longer private. Almost always, this means that the partner who had the affair needs to call and check in, especially when they are going to be late. Ten minutes can feel like an eternity to someone recovering from their partner having an affair.
The non-affair partner may have questions about it. Having questions is a normal response. These questions may be anything from “were you thinking about me?” to “how did you meet?” to “where did you take them,” and all of these are fine questions to ask. This is all part of your trust building. Both of you need to be prepared to answer and respond honestly. Other questions will ultimately help you heal the relationship. These kinds of questions may be: “what were you looking for,” “what need did the affair fulfill,” and “did the affair give you what you needed.” These kinds of questions will help reveal exactly what it is that was missing from your relationship and prompted the affair. Having a couple’s therapist can be very helpful to mediate these exchanges and discoveries.
After an affair, it is possible to build an even stronger relationship than you had in the beginning. Both you and your partner can begin to feel close, cherished, and deeply loved. If the affair isn’t dealt with, however, it can destroy your relationship and lead to anger, resentment, and the end of your relationship entirely.
It is important that, if you and your partner decide you want to mend your relationship, you seek proper help and facilitation. Couples often need a counselor or therapist to facilitate the healing process.
If you and your partner are looking to recover and heal your relationship after an affair, contact or call me today at 303-909-0177 to schedule your appointment to begin reclaiming your relationship.
My office is in Fort Collins at: 383 West Drake Rd. #102, Fort Collins CO 80526.