Affairs are not always the end of the relationship
Yes, I said it! The thing that goes against most people's inner belief. It goes against what your friends, family, social media and a lot of people in society would say.
So why do I say it? Well... from experience as a couples counsellor, I have seen couples come back from this. However, in order to do this you have to both want this. That sounds too easy doesn't it! But it's true. The affair needs to have ended and you both have to be willing to explore why it occurred in the first place. That is not to say that it is both partners' fault. This is not true. You both are responsible for the relationship and the problems within it but, to have an affair is a choice that somebody made and the other partner had no say in it. With couples counselling you both have a safe space without judgement (the therapist should not take sides) to look into what happened and how to move forward.
People have affairs for a variety of reasons. Sometimes people can only manage the honeymoon period of a relationship and the realities of coupledom are uncomfortable. Sometimes it's because you are not having sex and it's getting to you, however often we find that the affair has absolutely nothing to do with the actual sex being had. Whatever the reason, what is consistent is that affairs are often not reality. When I say that I mean it is not "can you pick up some bog roll on the way home?", it's the risqué - the planning to meet, the someone who listens and can help you forget the financial worries etc. But as much as escapism can be great, reality often sneaks it's way in or the buzz of the novelty wears off and the affairs ends.
If the affair becomes known, the relationship can survive. In fact it can even be better than before, as you get the opportunity to look at what went wrong and possibly fix it, leaving your relationship in an even better position. But it's not easy. It can be difficult to hear the hard truths from both sides about things. But if you're both willing, it's possible.
So as much as you want to save face and you don't want to look like a total mug to other people, you have to remember that it's your relationship. When you're in your 80s do you want to be the person who conformed to what others said or the person who did what you wanted?
That's not to say that all relationships after an affair can be saved (remember I said both willing), but it's often worth a try as "what ifs" are a lot worse than "what will people think!"
It's your self-esteem and future that's most important, and if things don't work out at least you know you tried everything. But if the relationship can be saved, then it can be even stronger than before.
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About Marilyn McKenzie
I am Marilyn McKenzie and I am a qualified Psychotherapist who has worked with Couples, Addiction, DV, Young Offending, Grief and Bereavement as well as Anxiety and Depression.
I am Integrative in my approach but often work Systemically. I have a private practise and work with Relate.