The discovery of an affair in your relationship starts with a wave of intense emotions that range from pain and sadness to anger and rage, at times, all emotions at once. It appears to many as an impactful day, one that brings with it absolute chaos and an irrevocable knowledge that will change everything you thought you knew about your life, your relationship, your partner, and even yourself.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard my clients tell me, “I don’t recognize myself,” or “I can’t believe that I’m even considering making things work after this.” What we think we’ll do if our partner is unfaithful, is not always what takes place. The idea that a long term relationship will end, is one we don’t usually take lightly. There’re so many factors to consider that will have weight in our decision; factors like time invested, children, finances, quality of the relationship, and friendship, to name a few. Not one more important than the other. This is an individual process and ultimately, a choice that only makes sense to the person who makes it.
Individuals who choose to work on their relationships and recover from betrayal after an affair have a long and difficult path ahead of them. One that can be rewarded with love, security, and the relationship they always wanted. The process of recovering from betrayal is a slow and bumpy one, that seems to have no end. Author and therapist Esther Perel has identified three phases that couples go through in their healing process. Being aware of these phases can help normalize the experience, and provide a guide to follow. The three phases are:
- Meaning Making
The Crisis phase, happens immediately post discovery of the affair. It’s filled with intense emotions of sadness, pain, guilt, loss, anger, and denial. Eventually, the intensity of this emotions will decrease and acceptance that the affair happened and is now part of the history of the relationship will take place.
The second phase is the Meaning Making, this is where the individual who had the affair finds understanding into what the affair meant to him/her, and the effect it had on the betrayed partner. Understanding the meaning of the affair can help uncover deep rooted needs that many times are not obvious to the individual. Understanding helps the individual and the couple make healthy decisions about the relationship.
The Vision phase, is the final step in the healing process. This phase focuses on exploring the future of the relationship together or alone. In this phase couples can learn new skills to be a better partner for one another, and having the relationship they always wanted. Or they can decide to part ways and focus on individual growth.
The time after there discovery of an affair is a difficult one. It’s strongly recommended that if the couple considers working on the relationship that they seek professional help as soon as possible. It can make a tremendous difference to have the guide of an objective voice to help you navigate this difficult time. In order to find a good match between you and a therapist, I recommend that you call and speak with them, and ask them if they have experience in this area. Just because a therapist says that they treat couples, does not mean that they have the training and experience working with betrayal.