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

Bouncing Back From An Affair

sexless-marriageThe idea of “bouncing back” from an affair actually doesn’t sit very well with me. It seems somehow to suggest a happy, cheerful recovery period and belies the stress inherent in dealing with the aftermath of infidelity. When I think of the movement past an affair, I tend to think more of a difficult, painful, reluctant crawl back to wherever that couple was before or hopefully to an even better place.

When a relationship which is designed to be sexually exclusive, is threatened by a third party, then that relationship runs the risk of becoming unglued at the seams. Sex with an “outside” partner, threatens the core of what marriage stands for; the idea of forsaking all others. While there are a variety of reasons why people cheat, if a coupe desires to move beyond the affair, then there is the need for honest reflection, to determine why the affair happened.

The source

People cheat for a variety of reasons including relationship neglect, boredom, sexual dissatisfaction, emotional disconnection, sexual greed, unhappiness, low self-esteem, and this list goes on. This knowledge of “why” is critical because it identifies the relationship’s weaknesses. If the couple intends to go forward, this information will be necessary to preserve relationship health and to safeguard it against future threats. This of course assumes that the underlying issues are exposed and remedied through honest and open communication.

Responsibility

While a knowledge of what made the relationship vulnerable to infidelity is great, the reason for cheating should not be used to excuse the act. In other words, the partner who understands why he/she cheated must also be willing to assume responsibility for the affair. It is therefore never kosher to intimate that your partner made you do it. The guilty party must own up to a moment of weakness, bad judgment, a lack of integrity, selfishness and the like. Admitting where you went wrong is critical to the experience of forgiveness.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness should be seen as a mutual, active process and not as a one-time event. The words “I forgive you” must never be forced or said prematurely. The victim of infidelity needs to be given time to grieve the relationship which was. This grieving process is experienced differently by individuals and may be evidenced by emotional and sexual withdrawal, depression, anger, rage, crying or sessions of screaming and throwing things. Whatever the case, it is critical that the victim of infidelity is allowed to vent before there is even am attempt at “fixing” things.

This venting is also often a process and not a one-off event which is characterized by the convenient forgetting of all that has occurred. An affair forever changes a relationship and even though healing is possible, what was lost can never be regained and as painful as this might be for both parties to accept, it must be, if there is to be true progress. This process may be assisted through counseling, therapy or personal pursuits like journaling which help to clarify difficult emotions.

Redefining

Redefining the damaged relationship is necessary and should be seen as an on-going part of the healing process. Deciding together how you want your new relationship to look is going to be a major step in getting your couple groove back. Since an affair involves a fair amount of deceit, then coming clean about all aspects of the affair will be critical to moving forward. This means a new commitment to honesty and accountability, in an attempt to rebuild trust. Questions are to be expected and should be answered candidly.

Since rekindling a healthy sex life is likely to be more challenging, the guilty party should take the cue from his/her partner. While sex itself can be a great healer, it should never be forced prematurely. At the same time, carving out special time together for meaningful communication, attentiveness, romantic gestures and the like, are useful strategies for reconnecting as a couple.