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Affairs  -  Part Two  

Last month I said I wanted to write about the hope that was inherent in affairs as well.  My experience in working with couples is that some of the best possible outcomes to therapy come for couples who have experienced an affair.  I am far from advocating engaging in an affair as a precursor to therapy.  That would be advocating more pain than is fair to suggest.  But I have found an affair shakes things up so much the relationship can’t help but change.  Those couples who are then committed to putting the relationship back together tend to find what they create is much more satisfying than the relationship they had before the affair.  They are left with the same kind of experience that I have heard cancer survivors talk about.  The most horrible thing they have experienced has also been one of the greatest gifts they have ever received – it led to a new lease on life.

I generally tell people that there are only three possible outcomes after an affair.  The relationship can end, the relationship can get better, or, if people insist on trying to go back to the way they were before the affair without making major changes in the relationship, they end up in a state of disconnection and much less happy than they were before the affair.  I am pleased that most of the couples I have worked with post affair have ended up in the better relationship category.  I have reservations about sharing  suggestions for making this happen here, as it is a complicated process that is unique for each couple, but I think there is some information that everyone should have.

One thing for sure, there is little in a relationship that brings about more pain than the revelation of an affair.  The person who has been betrayed generally feels like their whole conception of the world has been challenged and they rethink the whole history of their relationship in the context of the affair.  Many report feeling actual physical pain, much like a literal “punch to the gut.”  Perhaps the most damaging part to the relationship though, is the damage to trust.  The partner who has been betrayed feels like they can never trust their partner again. 

Next month I will talk a bit about how to start to restore trust after an affair—or anything that has damaged trust in a relationship.

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