15 Aug After the Affair: Picking up the Pieces after Betrayal
Affair Image Copyright: antonioguillem / 123RF Stock Photo
When adultery/cheating shatters your world, how can it ever be possible to pick up the pieces and move on? How can the betrayed ever look at their partner again without their vision being contaminated by the thoughts of what went on behind their back? And how can the one who strayed ever look into the eyes of the one they once loved without their heart being pierced with shards of shame (unless, of course, they have no remorse)?
In truth, the way that healing happens is different for each couple and each situation but the important point is that recovery can happen. And when I say recovery, I mean full recovery with intimacy and trust being re-forged in the furnace of rekindled love. Recovery tends to happen in stages and starts with effort on both sides. The unfaithful party has to agree to end any existing affairs and commit fully to their relationship while their partner has to work to deal with any intense anger, hurt and grief that arises during the process. There may be problems sleeping and eating at this stage and obsession about the affair can be all-consuming.
In the early stages, the betrayed party often, but not always, wants details about the affair and their partner has to be open about providing these. Hiding away in shame is not an option and will only slow the reparation down. Sooner or later, the question of “why” needs to be addressed. Why did the affair happen (usually a result of trying to fix problems that exist in the relationship by going outside of the relationship)? Was infidelity a response to being found desirable, perhaps as part of a mid-life crisis? Was it a pattern of behaviour made normal by the adulterer’s family background? Are they addicted to affairs or to sex or are they narcissistic?
The other side of that coin is all about what was lacking in the core relationship. Did the adulterer feel unloved, taken for granted or ignored or were they just meeting their needs? Once their reasons for straying becomes clear in open and frank discussions, the couple will begin to understand what needs to be fixed if their relationship is to continue.
The final stage has to be forgiveness for the affair. The act of forgiving an unfaithful partner is as much a conscious decision as the original act of betrayal. The adulterer also has to be willing to understand their wrongdoing and forgive themselves.
Help Recovering from an Affair
If you or someone you know is stuck in the process of trying to gather up the broken pieces of an affair, the help of a qualified, Relate-trained therapist could be just what you or they need to move forward towards healing and wholeness.