Are there benefits of having an affair?
In her new book Esther Perel suggests that there are benefits of having an affair to the couple relationship. I would like to reiterate some of her suggestions and add some of my own.
As a couple counsellor, and relationship psychotherapist, a couple will often arrive in crisis when an affair has just been discovered. At this point one half of the couple will not have known definitely, although may have suspected but not confronted, and will be in shock. The initial response is usually to blame the errant partner.
We need to talk about two things before the therapeutic healing can begin. Firstly the shock needs to be dealt with and the blame issue needs to be looked at and discussed in detail.
This is the opportunity that Esther Perel talks about. This is the golden opportunity that presents when a relationship is in breakdown to explore the reasons why. This is the opportunity for forensic examination of and taking responsibility for each partners' part in the affair. Yes. I think both halves of the couple contribute to an affair.
The therapeutic work then begins with commitment, goodwill, truth and generosity of spirit on both sides to look at where the cracks are and what went wrong and what we can do to change.
For instance - have you lost yourself in your existing intimate relationship but rediscovered yourself or uncovered another self within another person's gaze? It generally isn't the sex but the fantasy of sex, the attention and the secrecy that is so enticing. Excitement makes the heart flutter.
I am not sure that forgiveness is possible or that it is necessary in order for a couple to mend. But we do need to draw a line in the sand and move beyond what actually happened. The line in the sand does depend on with whom the affair was conducted. I mean, there is a difference if the person is unknown or a best friend, but we do need to move beyond the affair as this is very important.
Truthfulness and transparency are the only way forward.
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About Gill Sanders
Gill Sanders (COSRT, ATSAC, UKCP, BACP) - couple counsellor and psychosexual psychotherapist. Private practice for 25 years. Supervisor.