How to Get Through an Affair
Of all of the relationship problems that I help individuals/couples through, this is the most challenging of them. Now, let me get it out of the way that physical abuse is more challenging, but I only offer coaching to the abused, while recommending police/legal intervention. In regards to affairs (emotional and physical), there is hope, so long as two individuals are coming to the table.
It is here that my professional perspective has to be explained very clearly. Some might misinterpret my published writings to mean that there is no such thing as an unforgivable offense. On the other hand, my writings might indicate a very rigid set of criteria that must be conformed to. There is truth in both, and this article will shed some light on overcoming an incredibly challenging life event/period.
The worst thing that can happen is for an affair to come to the attention of the committed partner. It is in this case that the cheating partner very often denies the claims outright or in part. Unfortunately, denial can turn into a form of amplified reciprocated emotional violence. That unnecessarily long term just means that the guilty will tend to try to shift attention away from them, by alleging counter-claims or by outright emotionally violent attacks.
Not only is the guilty trying to shift blame, but they are trying to impose a heavy opportunity cost on the faithful partner to pursue the claim ofinfidelity. Often, the faithful partner will presume that such a defense must imply innocence. Alternatively, the faithful will become too discouraged to continue with the obvious signs and evidence.
This is where my rigid criteria come in (in part). We always have to be mindful of the direction of the relationship that we are in. Accidents and mistakes can and do happen in 100% of relationships; some being worse than others. With a relationship crime this severe, there must be full disclosure, otherwise it imposes too many constraints on the couple to fully move on.
If disclosure has already taken place, move to step 2. If not, begin at step 1.
1. Lay out the facts.
2. I am asking you to end this affair and any association with this person.
3. I will not monitor you.
4. Take time away to keep an argument from erupting and to maximize the impact from steps 1-3.
After this has occurred, we have to ensure that we are fighting for is something that is actually worth fighting for. This is where the rest of my rigid criteria come in. “But, I love him”, is no excuse for a relationship that is going to stay in the wrong direction. This means that it is an absolute requirement that we develop an action plan to repair the relationship. Notice I said “action”.
Too often, we have cheating partners resort to desperation by begging and pleading for forgiveness. It is normal, and I don’t want them to be hung out to dry, necessarily. That said, it is not acceptable to bend to the will of a desperate cheating partner. Desperation isn’t anywhere in what I prescribe to keep relationships thriving, from day-to-day. Desperation is not healthy, and what someone says out of desperation is rarely followed through.
This leads to my 4-step “true” apology. Again, this is absolutely necessary.
1. I am sorry.
2. In step 2, the guilty lays out everything that they did wrong. There is ZERO room for excuses here. For example, I did X, I violated your trust, etc.
3. In step 3, the guilty lays out their plan to fix their mistakes and act in a manner that engenders a “full relationship”.
4. This step is the proof in the pudding. Words are nearly meaningless. The guilty has to show that the changes were genuine and everlasting.
I want to make it abundantly clear that, in a real sense, we are practically the same person as we were yesterday. The human brain is malleable, but it takes energy to make it work. It takes more than a desperate plea to put this into motion. There are a considerable amount of hidden character flaws that the guilty (and even the faithful) have to contend with. I say hidden, because the individuals most likely have never scrutinized those aspects of themselves.
It is very hard to make fundamental changes to a human being with emboldened habits. Some of these habits took decades to form and they don’t evaporate over-night. It is not enough to just promise to and ensure that one never cheats again. There are flaws and mistakes that contributed to the affair that must be remedied, as well.
And finally, I turn my attention to the betrayed partner. Nothing that happened is good or healthy. Nothing takes away from the pain that was felt. But, it is the betrayed partner’s responsibility to forgive and move on. It takes two to make a relationship successful and it is no less important for the betrayed partner to forgive.
If the betrayed partner ensures that the preceding steps are followed, the relationship can and often does go on to fertile ground. I have made a painstaking effort to maximize the betrayed partner’s ability to get over their emotional trauma and to ensure both act along the lines of unconditional love.
If this article has made a positive impact on your life, please send your thoughts my way.