Affairs in relationships happen every day. It’s one of the turning points in relationships and marriages for many people, a turning point that potentially ends the relationship. So, if you’re in a relationship and an affair happens, what do you do?
Here are some tips to help you decide what to do in your relationship, if an affair happens.
Almost everyone I’ve ever met has said when they get into a relationship, that they would never put up with a cheater. They would never stay with someone who strays from the relationship.
Yet every month at my office, I’m working with clients from around the world who have found themselves in the situation and are not sure what to do.
Let’s face it, no one goes into a relationship prepared for an affair. I’ve never met anyone who came to me and asked for guidance on what to do if they happen to be with someone who cheats on them. It doesn’t seem logical.
Yet here you are. Your partner just cheated. Or maybe they’ve cheated several times. Or maybe they been having an affair with one person for months or even years.
What do you do? Let’s take a look.
1. Are you ready to move on?
From the perspective of being the person cheated on, the very first thing I ask both people is are they ready to do the work necessary to heal the relationship.
This is not an easy question to answer. Some will say absolutely not, I came in here to get rid of him or her because I can’t stand being with someone who’s a cheater. I’ll never trust him again.
Obviously, that person is not interested in doing the work, so for them, the best answer would be to end the relationship.
But on the other hand, if someone says to me yes they want to do the work, and yes they want to heal the relationship, then we decide, on that day, to get to work.
2. Are you ready to fight for the relationship?
If you’ve read this far, you’re one of those people that might just be willing to fight for your relationship and for your partner. But now it gets tricky. Is your partner, assuming they are the ones who cheated, willing to do the work as well?
So, in this case, I will ask the person who cheated, if they are willing to work their butt off for the next 12 months to regain the trust of the person they cheated on.
If the answer is yes, they will be in for one hell of a ride, but it might be worth it. If the answer is no, then I recommend as a counselor, that the relationship or marriage be dissolved. There’s no way in hell I’m going to work with a couple where the person who actually had the affair isn’t willing to put in a solid 12 months of work to heal and regain their partners’ trust.
3. Is your partner willing to work to establish trust in the relationship
If you’ve gotten this far, then that means both parties are willing to do the work.
For the person who cheated: they must be willing to do whatever their partner asks within reason, to regain trust.
What this means for most couples that I’ve worked with is the one who cheated must be willing to completely end any relationship whatsoever with the person that they cheated with.
There are no-nonsense answers like “I can’t tell them we are not going to communicate anymore today because tomorrow is her birthday. Or, you know they have their kids this weekend so I’ll have to wait until next week to break the news.”
If the person who has cheated truly wants to be back in the relationship, they will do everything they are asked to do. Without hesitation. Without question. This is the only way their partner will know that they are fully serious about making amends and healing the relationship. Then it’s up to the person that did not cheat, to lay down the law as to what they need to be able to start to trust their partner again.
In some cases, the person who did not cheat will ask their partner text them every hour on the hour with the background photo of where they are.
In the successful reclaiming of love, this should not be looked at as ridiculous. The person who did not cheat needs to be able to ask their partner to do just about anything, within reason, in order to start to feel that their partner is going to be trustworthy down the road.
4. Take responsibility for things that might have caused your partner to stray
The last exercise I give to the client that did not cheat is asking them what their role was in their partner have an affair. Did they shut down in bed? Did they start spending more time at work because they were filled with resentment in their relationship? I have yet to work with a couple in any relationship, where there has been an affair, where the relationship is solid. It’s never solid. That’s why someone has an affair in the first place.
So this last exercise is about getting the person who did not stray, to admit to their fault in the breakdown of the marriage. Or the dysfunction of the relationship. And now this person needs to start working on their resentments, the reasons why they started staying late at work, started drinking more or shut down in the bedroom. This is a crucial part of the healing for both people.
For couples who follow the above advice, you can reclaim love after an affair. But if there is hesitation on either part, it might be best to slowly dissolve the relationship, even if there are children, because being in a relationship where trust is not being rebuilt, resentments are not being let go of, will lead to hell on earth down the road.
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More by David Essel