Is Affair Recovery Possible?
Most couples never imagine that an affair can happen in their relationship. Sadly, affairs can and do happen. The betrayal from an affair can be devastating. The big question exists, is it possible to recover from an affair?
Types of Affairs
Affairs can be either emotional, physical or both. At its core an affair is a betrayal of trust. Losing trust in a relationship can be shattering. Your reality can become quite surreal in the wake of discovery, causing very distressing feelings. In many cases, the feelings can be similar to those of someone who is experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.
An emotional affair is when boundaries have been crossed with your feelings involving another person, other than your spouse. An emotional attachment is formed, or in some cases a deep friendship that excludes your spouse. Often emotional affairs start off quite innocently. Perhaps you enjoy talking with a colleague, co-worker, or friend. You find them interesting and begin desiring to spend more time in conversation. This can lead to feeling comfortable sharing more intimate details of your life, challenges you are experiencing, or troubles with your spouse. You find the other person appears engaging and seems to get you. An emotional affair can become all-consuming leading to obsessive thoughts, desires to spend more time together, and/or fantasies or sexual desires about the other person. If left unchecked, emotional affairs can, and often lead to physical affairs.
A physical affair is when you become physically involved with another person other than your spouse. Boundaries are crossed that are inappropriate. Physical affairs can occur rather quickly or be meditated and planned. They can be intoxicating disrupting all logic and reason. Physical affairs can range. They can be as subtle as holding hands or kissing, to all-consuming sexual encounters. They can occur one time, several times, be ongoing or long-term physical relations. Some individuals try justifying their physical affairs claiming needs weren’t being met, problems in the relationship and lack of intimacy caused them to go outside of the marriage. While any or all of these issues may be occurring, going outside of your relationship in secrecy is problematic.
Emotional and Physical Affairs
Some people have both emotional and physical affairs. What often starts as an innocent friendship can turn into an unintentional betrayal, both emotionally and physically. It can be a slippery slope once the door is opened. Most often, no matter the circumstance the betrayal can bring with it deep pain, sorrow, guilt, regret, shame and a host of other feelings and emotions.
In most cases, in my experience it is better to reveal and disclose than hide and remain secretive about the betrayal. Many believe that by disclosing an affair that their spouse will most assuredly want to end the marriage. I have found in my years of working with couples, this is often not the case. Many spouses, although initially devasted, hurt, and angry, over time actually want to see if they can work through the betrayal. They are willing to move through the affair wreckage and work on the marriage to see if they can regain trust. I have worked with many couples where this has been the case. Sadly, it isn’t 100% a guarantee, however it is possible. There is hope.
Affair recovery takes time, effort, and willingness to do your part. For the betrayed spouse this means being able to delve into a deeper understanding of what has happened, managing the distressing feelings around the betrayal, and holding space for the possibility of regaining trust. For the spouse who has caused the betrayal this necessitates being willing to take responsibility for your choices, being honest and transparent, managing and processing your distressing feelings.
Regardless of what has occurred over the years of your marriage, after a betrayal has occurred looking at ways to improve, strengthen or in many cases building marriage number 2 will be necessary. In my work with couples, I use John Gottman’s model for affair recovery. It involves 3 phases: Atonement, Attunement and Attachment. I have found this model to be quite effective in helping couples to recover from affairs.
To find out more, email or call my office to schedule a complimentary consultation to see if this is the right route for you.