Can A Relationship Thrive After An Affair?

download36When a relationship has been plagued by an affair, there is tremendous fallout. Suspicion, the loss of trust, blame, humiliation, intense anger, hurt and grief all follow as natural results of relationship or marital betrayal. Infidelity is any act which brings a third person emotionally or and sexually, into an exclusive or covenanted relationship. Whatever motivated the affair, the wronged party, will begin to self-doubt and question the genuineness of the relationship. In the case of a wife being a victim to infidelity, these thoughts may extend away from her own marriage to focus on the external party, causing a barrage of understandable questions. Was she better in bed? Was she more loving and attentive to my spouse? Is she really a “whore” with no moral compass? Is she a threat to my long-term happiness?

While these questions may never be completely answered, their existence reveals a trend, found especially among women affected by infidelity; the tendency to project outwards away from their partner to enable them to blame the other woman. This is especially true of women who are considering letting their man off the hook by overlooking the real source of the affair. Apportioning blame to the other woman can become a vital part of what I shall call “the psychology of acceptance”. If a woman can convince herself that her partner’s cheating ways are not entirely his fault, then she can permit herself to either accept his waywardness or accept him again post-affair. This trend of thinking may also cause her to justify confronting the other woman. But is this ever a good idea?

In order for a marriage to “benefit” from infidelity, if I may be allowed to use that term loosely, the infidel must be willing to accept total responsibility for his act of indiscretion. He will not be encouraged to do this, if his partner, in an attempt to fix things, rushes off to put the other woman in her place for messing with her man. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with being territorial with one’s partner in the face of an external threat, a man who has erred must have the courage to face the music of his own making. His wife should stay away from jumping into the fray as his saviour but should allow him to feel the full weight of his actions. Does this mean letting the other woman off the hook? Well not entirely; she of course is also responsible especially if she knew that the man was involved in a relationship.

Confronting her to my mind is, however, conditional. If she is a close friend, an acquaintance, work colleague, family member, member of the same church or organization, then there is some scope for direct confrontation regarding her involvement in the affair. Confrontation is understood within the context of this woman having had a prior relationship or association with the wife. A prior relationship with the wife means that her sense of betrayal will be double-edged; and this is a difficulty she may need to reconcile in her emotions, with respect to coming to terms with the infidelity. If the woman is a stranger, however, such confrontation is ill-advised and the wife may well spare herself the pain that such a meeting might cause.

In any respect, a woman’s desire to move on in her relationship may also be hinged on her ability to forgive or “let go” the other woman, whether or not she is known to her. Affairs can create a context for relationship introspection and ultimate improvement. Repair and restoration, however, lie first within the purview of the infidel. Honest evaluation of why the relationship was vulnerable or an explanation as to why the cheater acted on its vulnerability should be forthcoming. If this is perceived as an honest attempt to explain his actions, then this can open the door to deeper understanding. Taking the initiative to repair the relationship, accepting responsibility or admitting to individual weakness also shifts blame from the other woman and can convince the wounded partner that a man means business and is ready to grow up.

Forgiveness after infidelity is desired for both personal and relationship growth; it should not, however, be viewed as an instant one-shot action. At best, it is a process involving active dialogue which should lead to a decision to forgive. This is an act of the will and not a feeling. Engaging the grief and forgiveness process after an affair is a mutual act required for healing. Vocalizing apologies in clear terms and setting conditions for fresh accountability in the relationship, are all needed steps towards eventual relationship renewal.

Sex After Infidelity

cheating-husbandAfter a confession or the discovery of sexual impropriety, a decision to stay together is going to be filled with challenges. One of the primary places where the effects of infidelity are likely to be experienced is the bedroom. How does a couple reclaim their sexual groove after one of them has cheated?

The Cheater
Waiting It Out: If you’re the guilty party it may be important to communicate that while you still want to connect sexually, you are willing to wait for as long as your partner needs, to feel emotionally ready to resume intimacy. This communicates genuine remorse and a willingness to be selfless; especially since your act of indiscretion will reek of selfishness.

Talking It Over: Understand that the period of waiting is likely to be punctuated by long questioning sessions which will pry for sexual details; it is likely that the victim of infidelity will be consumed by a need to know incidents and details of time and place. Curiosity may also be extended to the nature of sex acts participated in. This time can be made easier by not erecting further barriers with silence but by answering questions as honestly as possible.

Sensitivity In The Sack: Most likely, your partner will be consumed with thoughts of the other man or woman. It is imperative that you go slowly when the time for lovemaking comes or at least take the lead or cue from your partner who has been hurt. This sensitivity should include lots of verbal affirmations which are intimate and loving. Be sure to let your partner know why you married her, how much he is loved and how much you appreciate her staying in the relationship. Affirm your partner’s beauty or brawn and use loads of eye contact which confirm how truly sorry you are.

Maximising The Moments: Sex with your spouse after confessing an affair is likely to be more about emotional and spiritual re-bonding than about the quality of an orgasm. Use this time, nonetheless, to cement your reconnection by focusing on your spouse’s pleasure. The vulnerability that occurs, because everything is out in the open, can actually increase the intensity of passion.

The Cheated
Admit Your Pain: There is no greater disservice you can do to your marriage then to attempt to trivialize the impact of an affair. It is imperative that you articulate your disappointment and hurt. This may involve screaming, crying, throwing things, journaling, talking to a counselor or even moving out of the bedroom for a while. If you are to experience great sex again without feeling victimized, sharing the depth of your pain with your spouse is critical.

Focus On You: There is a huge temptation after being cheated on to blame yourself—your lack of attractiveness, lack of sexiness and the like. This is particularly true of women. It will take a Herculean effort at this time to reach inside yourself to find the worthwhile, sensual woman who deserves to be loved despite your spouse’s act of indiscretion. For husbands as well, images of your wife making love to another man can be disconcerting to say the least. It is critical, therefore, to disassociate yourself sexually from what your spouse did and to refuse to accept blame. It is also critical to pay attention to your own sexual health by getting tested for any STDs.

Resist The Temptation To Compare: Wondering if you are better in bed than your spouse’s lover is likely to be an obsessive thought but is actually counter-productive. Studies consistently show that many have affairs while still having great or adequate sex at home. The motivation for an affair usually has little to do with the quality of sex and tends more to be linked to life-challenges, transitions, depression, a weak moment or feelings of inadequacy. When these thoughts come, focus on how you can make your love life even better. Dwell on the fact that you and your partner have decided to stay together; this must mean something in terms of how you feel about each other.

For Both of You

Putting Sex in Perspective: After the confession of an affair, resuming sexual intimacy may be the last thing on your minds as a couple. Anger, bitterness, resentment and remorse are likely to be the dominant emotions and not sexual passion or desire. While communication about the affair and even counselling by a professional will be critical at this stage, resuming an exclusive sexuality in your relationship is also important. Sex, however, should not be used to cloak or cover the serious issues which may have contributed to the infidelity in the first place.

Redefine To Reconnect: If you, your marriage and your sex life are to survive this juncture, it is critical that you seek to redefine your marriage. This involves acceptance of the affair as an event of the past which cannot be altered. This process is, of course, a lot easier if the guilty partner cooperates in these efforts by developing new levels of openness and honesty. The result is likely to be improved communication and greater levels of intimacy, which are often precursors to a better sexual relationship.

Denise J Charles is Director & Counsellor/Coach at Better Blends Relationship Institute e mail betterblends@gmail.com

Why Women Cheat

couple-lying-in-bed1While there is still plenty of debate about who cheats most, it cannot be denied that women’s changing social and economic circumstances have perhaps widened the opportunity for cheating to occur. We rationalize that women become vulnerable to affairs because of loneliness and a lack of emotional intimacy with their partners. Women are our mothers, sisters and social nurturers so we feel uncomfortable blacklisting them in the same way we do men and often try to provide excuses. Examining some of the more unconventional reasons why this cheating occurs should, therefore, be instructive.

Sexual Independence
The idea that women cheat for emotional connection while men cheat for sex, is a common stereotype and perhaps misperception. The fact is that today, we live in a society which is far more self-focussed. We want more education, better jobs, healthier bodies and yes; better sex. Women are encouraged to go after what they want and to define their lives on their own terms. In the sex department, this has led to some women seeking out men who they believe will meet their sexual needs in a way not currently being met by their partner. Admittedly, some men aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be in the sex department. Men can often have a very scripted, formulaic approach to intercourse which can drive any woman looking for sexual creativity around the bend; you know the usual two minutes of breast fondling and two minutes of vaginal groping, before setting out for candy-land. This boring and predictable approach to sex can influence a woman to seek sexual diversity elsewhere especially if she feels that she does not have a voice in her relationship. She in essence uses the affair as a way to speak or claim what she wants sexually because unfortunately, this may be easier than opening up to an insensitive spouse.

Empowerment
Does every dissatisfied woman just get up one morning and decide to cheat? I think not. For the most part, women do tend to have a greater sense of being responsible for the health of their primary relationships. There are, however, also several factors which may cause a woman to divert from this trend. Her age, sense of financial security, and the extent to which she may feel that she has been cheated out of relational happiness and fulfillment can also influence her infidelity. On the other hand, a woman who is financially dependent on a man and feels closeted and controlled by him, may also cheat as a means of attempting to reclaim her personal space and autonomy. Such a woman has an affair to have “one up” on her partner. She is secretly doing something of which, for all intents and purposes, he is totally unaware and this can cause her to feel that she has a greater sense of control in her life. The affair may seem like the one thing over which her partner has little say and she pursues it to feel a sense of personal empowerment. A constant need for novel experiences or a need to recreate the thrill of a new romance can also lure a woman outside the boundaries of her relationship where she begins to feel that she is finally getting all that she deserves both emotionally and sexually.

She Wants More
Sometimes a woman steps out because she just wants more. There can be a deep sense of emotional or spiritual dissatisfaction which she experiences and which she is hoping that her intimate relationship will fulfill. When her primary relationship fails to heal her damaged emotional state, she opts for an affair hoping that such will do the trick. Very often she discovers that more sex, expensive gifts, more orgasms and loads of attention, does not accomplish this. She may have been scarred emotionally and is struggling with self-esteem issues. Her sexual relationships are therefore an attempt to make her feel more desired and valuable as a person. Because her core issues are never exposed, she can become trapped in a lifestyle of serial affairs.

As commonplace as cheating has become among both men and women, it continues to offend most of us.  Whatever the reasons given, it is a serious act of relationship dishonesty and disloyalty which is not to be excused. The desire for commitment and sexual exclusivity is a core need which many of us share. Unravelling the reasons why cheating occurs has to be the starting point towards relational healing.

Denise J Charles is Director & Counsellor/Coach at Better Blends Relationship Institute e mail betterblends@gmail.com

“Living Red” The Talk-Show: Recovering From Infidelity

Our new lifestyle radio talk-show “Living Red” begins in earnest tonight by looking at the touchy subject of infidelity. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. What is “Living Red”?

“Living Red”, the campaign, is an initiative of Better Blends Relationship Institute and Red Red Apples. It seeks to encourage us to bring into the open those sensitive issues about relationships and sexuality which many of us still find difficult to discuss. At the same time, the campaign encourages a celebration of our relationships and our sexuality, through accessing the knowledge and skills which we need to make our relationships better.

Living Red, the talk-show by the same name, will help us to examine and confront critical issues which challenge our marriages, our relationships and our families. Red is a signature colour which suggests boldness and tenacity in the face of obstacles. Red is also the colour of love, so as we share on this show, we will expose our own vulnerabilities and needs. We know that this will move us towards becoming better women, men, husbands, wives, partners, mothers, fathers, siblings, friends.

We air each Monday and Thursday night at 11:00 PM (EST) on Blog Talk Radio.

So just follow the link below, by clicking on “Living Red” to hear our first episode.

The “Living Red” talk show: Recovering From Infidelity