Not only does an affair have a devastating effect on a marriage, but it also affects the emotional, physical and psychological health of everyone involved. Affairs bring out emotions like anger, denial, grief, resentment and lead to a loss of self-esteem. If you have been the victim or instigator of an affair, remember, you are not alone! There are always two sides to the story and a lot of emotional baggage to deal with after an affair. Even if a couple wants to divorce after an affair, it is still extremely important that each individual works through its emotional and psychological effects, otherwise it can influence all of their future relationships. Working through an affair is not something that should be done alone. It is possible to re-build a relationship and self-esteem after an affair, but it takes a lot of hard work and dedication from each partner. It is important to have the support of a professional relationship counselor and family and friends. Couples seeking to rebuild their relationship should consult a professional relationship counselor who can teach them good communication tools. It is also important to have an impartial, clear-headed person around when working through emotionally-charged issues.
Dealing with infidelity is similar to dealing with any other traumatic event in your life. People who experience a trauma, such as the loss of a loved one, usually go through six phases in order to deal with it. These phases don’t necessarily follow on from each other, but people should go through all of these phases to eventually experience healing and move forward from the affair.
- Denial. The person denies that the affair has happened. Reactions include thoughts like “It cannot be true”, “It must be a dream.” People in this stage often act as if nothing has happened, denying any feelings of sadness, anger etc…
- Isolation. The person avoids contact with other people, does not want to talk about what has happened, and wants to be left alone.
- Anger. A very normal and necessary phase. The person can be angry at everybody, friends, family, themselves, God.
- Bargaining. The person wants to make sense of the situation, and tries to make promises with God/the universe etc… in an attempt to “fix” the situation. “We’ll have more sex,” We’ll spend more time together,”
- Depression. This is not the long term depression, but it can be quite severe. Symptoms include loss of appetite or excessive eating, change in sleeping patterns, feelings of guilt, hopelessness, helplessness lack of energy, fatigue, all sorts of aches and pains, lack of concentration, etc.
- Acceptance. The person comes to a place of peace where the affair does not consume their lives anymore. They can begin to start enjoying life again and making plans for the future.
WHY DO AFFAIRS HAPPEN?
Remember, affairs are symptoms, not causes! It is important for couples dealing with an affair to understand what went wrong before they start working on the healing process.
If you are the victim of an affair, it is important for to know that the affair is NOT your fault! There is never ONE cause of an affair. There are usually hundreds of “reasons” that people add up and use to justify having an affair, but the blame can never be laid completely on either partner in a relationship.
An affair can also never be blamed solely on the third party involved. In order to heal after an affair, it is important to identify the underlying “causes” of the affair, and work through them to ensure they are not repeated in the future.
Some of the reasons for extramarital affairs include conflict avoidance, intimacy avoidance, sexual addiction and low self-esteem. However, each relationship has its own unique characteristics and therefore each affair will also have its own unique causes. Affairs can also happen when a couple experiences a major change in the relationship. Becoming parents, extreme work pressure and moving are some of the changes that can lead to a person feeling insecure in their relationship. They will then seek security and intimacy from somewhere else. Lack of affection between partners, sexual addiction and feelings of sexual entitlement based on gender or status are symptoms of an unhealthy marriage, and are often given as “reasons” for an affair.
If a couple wants to work through the healing process together, and repair their relationship after an affair, absolute openness and honesty are vital. Trust can never be re-gained if both partners don’t agree to complete transparency in the relationship. At the beginning, this may include giving each other daily schedules and constantly updating each other on what they are doing during the day. It is also extremely important for the couple to be aware of each other’s feelings. From frustration to rejection to love and excitement, every emotion should be discussed. Open communication is key to any relationship, but is absolutely vital when restoring a relationship after an affair.
“Victims” of affairs may take a long time to feel secure in the relationship again. They may want constant reassurance, and may constantly ask questions about the affair in order to process it. It is important that the partner accepts this responsibility, and gives as much information as they can to help their partner deal with the “loss” of the relationship and the initiation of the new one.
After an affair, a relationship will never be the same again. However, it is how the couple chooses to deal with the affair that will influence the outcome of the relationship.
It may just be the “wake-up-call” that the couple needed, and it may even lead do a deeper level of intimacy and better communication within the relationship.
An affair is not the end. It is how it is dealt with that counts.
Pep up your social life
Your friends will help you get over it. Soon, they’ll be asking you to come out in a group to the cinema or the pub or whatever. At first you won’t be in the mood, but soon you’ll realize that there are some bonuses to being single again. In fact, you’ll find that this is a good time to do stuff that you didn’t do with your ex. So now you can go to the sorts of films that you like, or you can listen to your type of music, or go on your type of holiday.
Sometimes when our hearts are broken we want to find someone new to love us as soon as possible. This is natural – but unwise. Your best bet is to embrace your single life wholeheartedly for six months or so. Obviously you may end up having sex with other people – but do make sure it’s safe sex. However, your emotions are not going to settle for quite a while, so have fun, but don’t go looking for anything else serious until you’re happy without your ex. You’ll know you’re getting over your heartache when you can get through a whole day without thinking about them.
Below are some suggestions for ways of handling your stress during the difficult process of divorce.
- Make sure you pay attention to your emotional needs. Find a support group to participate in, a therapist to talk with. A little talk therapy can go a long way when you are feeling overwhelmed emotionally.
- Keep yourself physically fit. Stay as active as possible by keeping a regular exercise routine. Nothing helps our emotions bounce back better than physical activity. It will help in relieving tense, anger and anxiety.
- Do things that will nurture you emotionally and physically. Read a good book, get plenty of rest, take a hot bath, develop a new hobby, eat healthy and nutritious foods, and surround yourself with positive people. Put effort into living a lifestyle that will promote feelings of good self-worth.
- Let go of problems that are beyond your control. If you are faced with an uncomfortable or painful situation learn to let it go, take some time to figure out what is best for you and then come back to it. Stay focused on what you have control over and let go of the rest.
- Give yourself permission to feel. Emotions are normal, whether they are negative or positive emotions. What we do with the emotions we are feeling plays a big role in the quality of life we experience. Avoid destructive activities such as drinking or drugs when trying to deal with your feelings. Don’t allow your feelings to cause you to seek revenge, play the victim or become abusive toward your spouse. If you are hurt or angry, it is best to find someone safe to vent to and get those feelings out.
- Don’t make any hasty decisions. When you are living through a highly stressful situation any decisions or changes to your life should not be made until you have thought of all the consequences. Take time to think things through and thoroughly weigh all your options.
- Be sure to make time for fun. Remember to laugh and play. Schedule activities that bring you pleasure and participate in them regularly. Maintain a close circle of friends and socialize often. Do not isolate yourself from others.
- Let go and move on. Take the time needed to heal from the divorce and those feelings of loss. Try to look inward and own your responsibility in the problems that led to divorce. Forgive yourself and your spouse and don’t let the issues from this marriage follow you into new relationships.
How to Handle Your Children
A divorce will leave them shaken and vulnerable. Make sure they realize it’s not their fault and you will probably need to repeat this several times. These are some important dos and don’ts:
* Do show that you love them.
* Do support their relationship with the other parent.
* Do reinforce the fact they are still members of two households.
* Don’t badmouth the other parent.
* Don’t discuss the details of the divorce.
* Don’t force them to decide where they want to live.
Any issues you might have about custody, visitation rights or child support payments should be discussed with an attorney.
Tips for grieving after a breakup or divorce:
- Don’t fight your feelings – It’s normal to have lots of ups and downs, and feel many conflicting emotions, including anger, resentment, sadness, relief, fear, and confusion. It’s important to identify and acknowledge these feelings. While these emotions will often be painful, trying to suppress or ignore them will only prolong the grieving process.
- Talk about how you’re feeling – Even if it is difficult for you to talk about your feelings with other people, it is very important to find a way to do so when you are grieving. Knowing that others are aware of your feelings will make you feel less alone with your pain and will help you heal. Journaling can also be a helpful outlet for your feelings.
- Remember that moving on is the end goal – Expressing your feelings will liberate you in a way, but it is important not to dwell on the negative feelings or to over-analyze the situation. Getting stuck in hurtful feelings like blame, anger and resentment will rob you of valuable energy and prevent you from healing and moving forward.
- Remind yourself that you still have a future. When you commit to another person, you create many hopes and dreams. It’s hard to let these dreams go. As you grieve the loss of the future you once envisioned, be encouraged by the fact that new hopes and dreams will eventually replace your old ones
- Spend time with people who support, value, and energize you. As you consider who to reach out to, choose wisely. Surround yourself with people who are positive and who truly listen to you. It’s important that you feel free to be honest about what you’re going through, without worrying about being judged, criticized, or told what to do.
- Get outside help if you need it. If reaching out to others doesn’t come naturally, consider seeing a counselor or joining a support group. The most important thing is that you have at least one place where you feel comfortable opening up.
- Cultivate new friendships. If you feel like you have lost your social network along with the divorce or breakup, make an effort to meet new people. Join a networking group or special interest club, take a class, get involved in community activities, or volunteer at your school, synagogue, or church.
Learning important lessons from a divorce or breakup
In times of emotional crisis, there is an opportunity to grow and learn. Just because you are feeling emptiness in your life right now, doesn’t mean that nothing is happening or that things will never change. Consider this period a time-out, a time for sowing the seeds for new growth. You can emerge from this experience knowing yourself better and feeling stronger.
In order to fully accept a breakup and move on, you need to understand what happened and acknowledging the part you played. It’s important to understand how the choices you made affected the relationship. Learning from your mistakes is the key to not repeating them.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Step back and look at the big picture. How did you contribute to the problems of the relationship?
- Do you tend to repeat the same mistakes or choose the wrong person in relationship after relationship?
- Think about how you react stress and deal with conflict and insecurities. Could you act in a more constructive way?
- Consider whether or not you accept other people the way they are, not the way they could or “should” be.
Examine your negative feelings as a starting point for change. Are you in control of your feelings, or are they in control of you?