What constitutes an affair? The kind or the form of the affair your partner or spouse was engaged in may not be the most important issue. What matters the most is that the trust is broken in a committed and intimate relationship. An affair can be a sexual or emotional relationship outside of a committed relationship. It can also be pornographic addiction or online chatting with another person. Discovering your spouse’s affair with another person is a devastating and shocking experience. Infidelity is a very challenging and painful issue for a couple to face. When you find out that your spouse has been unfaithful, you will likely be experiencing various emotional and physical reactions. Feeling betrayed can be a very overwhelming and crippling experiences. The discovery of an affair may numb your senses or even fill you with tremendous rage.
You will likely experience the following emotions when you discover your spouse’s affair:
- Feeling shock or numb
- Feeling a sense of great loss
- Loss of purposes & motivation: Can I still go on? How can I still go on?
- Loss of identity: Who am I?
- Loss of trust towards your partner & Confusion: Who is this person? I have never known him/her, He/She is a stranger
- Sense of inadequacy & self-doubt: Am I not good enough? I must not be good enough. I thought I was ok…
- Feeling insecure and confused: e.g. Everything is a lie, I can’t trust anyone else
- Feeling depressed & betrayed
- Feeling angry
- Losing track of time or unable to focus
- Feeling out of control and unable to turn your mind off
- Obsessed in details about the affair or about the 3rd person
- Obsessed in looking for information about dealing with extramarital affairs or tips about changing the unfaithful spouse from various sources (e.g. internet, books, etc)
Healing the pain and rebuilding the trust takes time. Rebuilding your relationship after an affair with your partner is possible when both parties are willing and open to process the impact of the affair, to reflect on their past interaction pattern and to work on a shared meaningful life in the future.
Steps to deal with infidelity & rebuilding your relationship: (After the unfaithful partner has agreed to end the affair)
- Accept and process your feelings
- Ask yourself if you want to stay in this relationship
- Reflect & Try to make sense of what the affair means to both of you
- Accept appropriate share of responsibility of your relationship dynamics that may allow room for infidelity
- Say goodbye to the affair and the 3rd party (If you are the unfaithful partner)
- Hear each other’s feelings and struggles
- Take steps to earn trust from the hurt partner (if you are the unfaithful one)
- Work on past conflicts and interaction pattern that may lead to the affair
- Work on negotiating differences and meeting each others’ needs
- Take steps to rekindle intimacy and become sexually intimate again
- Forgive yourself and each other
Sometimes it is necessary and better to seek professional couple counselling to deal with the aftermath of an affair. A marriage & couple therapist can be neutral and is more equipped to facilitate conversations & healing about the affair. The therapist can also facilitate the couples to deal with the impact of affair and necessary changes for their relationship.
Should you experience a tendency of harming yourself or others, you should seek professional help immediately. Talk to your family doctor about medications for depressions or meet with a counselor to process your emotions.