Affairs blow through relationships like tornados; your marital house is flattened, prize possessions are strewn the yard, and your sense of safety is shattered. Cheating completely destroys the foundation of a relationship and partners question things they previously took for granted. Where there was once certainty, now there are questions. Couples wonder “can this marriage be saved?” and “how can I be sure this won’t happen again?”
The person who ended the affair often wonders when their partner will “get over it.” They wonder “when will I be out of the woods, out of the dog house, and off the couch?” They get that they’ve screwed up but they want to move on. But nothing they say or do is good enough for their partner. They don’t know how much longer they can go on like this. They want to fix things but nothing is getting better.
Meanwhile, their partner oscillates from sadness to anger. Tender moments are fleeting or gone entirely. The person who found out about the affair begins to question everything about the relationship. They don’t know if they can trust their partner again. They’re scared of looking like a chump. Well meaning friends tell them to leave their cheating, no-good partner. But they’re not so sure.
Hope after an affair
If you are reeling from the aftermath of an affair, you are not alone. Not only do many couples go through this but I’ve helped couples come out stronger and more connected than ever before. So this isn’t the death of your relationship. It’s the end of the relationship as it was and the beginning of what it will become. Right now you have a choice: You can walk away, work through it, or hold onto your grievances forever.
Most people aren’t chronic cheaters. Affairs often fulfill a need–to feel loved, valued, heard, alive, etc. Once identified, the primary relationship can often fulfill that need. This is where couples therapy can be extremely helpful. A qualified couples therapist can help you work through the pain and rebuild your relationship if you are both able and willing to do the work. In order to do this, the partner who had the affair needs to indicate his/her willingness.
3 Signs that your partner is not trying to have another affair
First, they own that they screwed up.
It is crucial that your partner owns that they messed up. None of those “it’s not what it looks like!” protests like you see in the movies. Relationship repair requires them to avoid hiding, denying, or minimizing it. If your partner is unwilling to admit that they screwed up, they are probably not in a place where they can work on the relationship.
Second, they can articulate why it happened.
Hint: They aren’t blaming you or making blanket statements of guilt like “I was drunk and it didn’t mean anything.” If they don’t know, that’s okay but they need to be willing to go to therapy and try to figure it out. Because knowing why it happened is the best way to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. When there has been an affair, I often encourage couples to see individual therapists in addition to doing couples therapy.
Third, they are actively addressing the root cause.
Knowing the root cause is only the first step to affair-proofing your relationship. They need to take it a step farther and address it. Were they feeling ignored post-kids and now you two are committing to more couple time (and/or couples therapy)? Did they feel like they lost a part of their identity in the marriage and now they are finding other ways to connect to that sense of self? Loyal partners are committed to working on themselves and the relationship so this doesn’t happen again.
While it’s not required, couples therapy can expedite this process. If a history of cheating is wreaking havoc on your relationship, you might want to seek out a professional who can help. I know that you are hurting right now and just about everything feels hard. I promise that things can get better. Feel free to reach out if you’d like help. I’d be happy to offer a free fifteen minute phone consultation.