Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford
Surviving an Affair
An affair is one of the most difficult and painful things that can occur in a marriage. An affair is often extremely difficult to overcome; many relationships do not survive the blow of infidelity. Most of the challenges with surviving an affair is not necessarily the affair itself, it is the betrayal, the deceit, loss of trust, and the breakdown of communication. Infidelity that occurs in the context of marriage is often viewed differently when infidelity is committed outside the context of a marriage (individuals in a relationship but are not married) because there is a perception a vow to love and honor one’s partner has been both made and broken. Too many times those that have been betrayed begin to develop self-doubt in themselves and question the whole foundation of their marriage. Questions continue to permeate the mind surrounding “signs” or “flags” that should have been picked up on, “how did they not notice their spouse had been “losing interest”, “have they been neglecting their appearance” or “no longer doing the things they had done in the past to attract their spouse”. During the initial discovery of an affair there is mounting confusion and anxiety, especially for those that had been in denial about the state of their marriage for some time. Often it feels like there is nothing that can make it right and there is no way to get it off your mind, to keep playing and replaying the events that led to the discovery of the affair. Images of one’s partner with another person consumes most of thoughts of the betrayed. One of the most harmful things a betrayed spouse can do when learning of the affair consists of demanding to know every single detail (often insignificant details) surrounding the affair. Knowing every detail pertaining to the affair makes getting past the affair and resolving the pain that much worse, and prolongs the healing process.
Couples struggling with an affair often face criticism, scrutiny, and advice giving from those around them. These “well-meaning” people provide couples with unsolicited advice on how to handle the affair, what they would do if their spouse cheated, or how they should forgive their cheating spouse. Coping with infidelity, forgiving infidelity along with the behaviors that allowed the affair to occur, is indescribable unless one has gone through the pain and betrayal themselves.
While it is true some marriages will not and do not survive an affair, there are others that have not only survived but the foundation of their marriage had been strengthened. Surviving an affair if both spouse to desire and work on their marriage takes time, commitment, and hard work. When it comes to rebuilding a marriage and getting past an affair both spouses must be equally invested, or resentment and animosity will build, crippling all efforts. Couples on the road to rebuild their relationship will encounter many forks in their road, with many emotional ups and downs. Forgiveness is a process that requires putting aside one’s feelings for the possibility of a brighter future.
The steps needed to over an affair are available, however, results depend heavily on how much each spouse desires to make the relationship work, willingness to be transparent those that have been betrayed, reassuring the betrayed spouse of his or her commitment whenever feelings of insecurity arise, as well as being open and honest about information, as well as seeking and securing relationship counseling to mitigate ill feelings resulting from the affair.
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