Can your relationship survive an affair?

Published on March 8, 2013

One of the most frequent questions to arise in couples counselling is: can my relationship surive an affair?

If you've just found out your partner has had an affair, you're probably devastated. Infidelity can have a major impact on the survival of your relationship and also your emotional wellbeing. You will feel shocked, betrayed and angry. But you and your partner can move past it.

It's widely believed that an affair begins, not because the relationship was always flawed, but because emotional difficulties have arisen during the relationship and rather than deal with these directly the person seeks an escape through an external relationship.

A relationship can survive an affair if the couple are committed to addressing the emotional struggle underlying the affair and allow the time and space necessary to heal from it.

The effects of an affair on the relationship

It's normal to experience a mixture of emotions following the discovery of an affair. You will feel angry that your partner chose to be unfaithful and the anger will likely re-emerge each time it is discussed with your partner, especially in that first period of time following the affair.

When your partner cheats it can be a real blow to your self-esteem and you may question whether your partner still finds you attractive. You may blame yourself or you may feel like you're not good enough. Depression and anxiety are commonly experienced because the sense of betrayal can be all consuming. In the long-term, without support, someone who has been cheated on can struggle with trust and future relationships.

Sadly, infidelity is not uncommon. According to The Relationships Indicators Survey (2011), a nation-wide study of relationships conducted by Relationships Australia, 11% of relationship breakdowns was due to partner infidelity while The Australian Institute of Family Studies, Australian Divorce Transitions Project (ADTP) identified one in five marriages ended in divorce due to infidelity.

Signs the relationship can survive

If your partner shows deep regret and has accepted responsibility for his/her actions and the hurt that has been caused to you, then this is a good sign that your relationship can be saved.

You have to allow yourself the opportunity and space to fully experience and express your feelings about the affair. Denying the hurt feelings are there or holding back will not make them go away, in fact it will probably make you feel worse in the long-run. Once these intense emotions have been expressed it frees up your mind to think more rationally. You can then examine your relationship and weigh up whether you and your partner have a chance of moving on from the experience together.

How to rebuild your relationship following an affair

First, The affair must end. If your partner continues to be unfaithful then the difficulties within the relationship will never be resolved.

Second, you and your partner need to identify why the relationship broke down to begin with. Blaming each other won't help you deal with the real issues.

You do need to talk to your partner about it, a lot. You'll need to talk to your supports, whether it is family or friends or colleagues. You'll need to talk to each other. And more than likely, you will both need to talk to a relationship counsellor. When you've discovered your partner is having an affair, an emotionally turbulent time will follow. It's stressful, upsetting and you may feel completely alone. That's why it is so important to seek support.

According to The Relationships Indicators Survey (2011), 22% of adults surveyed who had experienced relationship issues had sought professional help. Professional support can give you real information and advice, and provide you with a safe space to express your feelings without the worry of being judged.

You also need to balance your time by allowing yourself to be sad or angry but also to have time out from these feelings to experience pleasure and joy. You need to create new memories together. Memories that aren't tainted or intensely emotional. This is the time to reflect on what drew the two of you together in the first place. What attracted you to your partner? What did you like to do together? When were you the happiest? Try to find ways to bring that joyfulness back into your current relationship.

Lastly, take it slow. If you and your partner have decided you want to rebuild your relationship following an affair then there is no rush. Talk to each other, talk to a therapist and work together to repair your relationship. If you are both committed to moving on from the affair then time will be the biggest factor in your success.

Remember, a relationship can survive an affair but it requires time and a strong commitment to recover.

Category(s):Ending a relationship issues, Infidelity, Marital Counseling, Relationships & Marriage

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