Does an Affair mean it's Over?
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Samantha De Bono MBACP BACPC FDAP - COUPLES COUNSELLING & INDIVIDUAL COUNSELLING
5th May, 20110 Comments
When a partner has an affair, it is difficult to believe that the relationship isn’t over. For most men or women, betrayal is a bitter pill to swallow. It’s hard on the person who’s been cheated on and it’s also hard on the person who has cheated. However, it’s hardest on the relationship as the couple tries to recover who they were before the cheating. An affair doesn’t mean the relationship is over, but it does mean the relationship needs to change.
Generally, affairs are rarely about the sex, but reasons for infidelity vary from couple to couple and pointing the finger at just one person, is a recipe for disaster. Of course, there are people who have affairs for kicks and flit from one sex partner to another, but as a rule, the reason for an affair is far more complicated.
A man may cheat on his partner because he is dissatisfied or distressed, it doesn’t have to mean sexually, it could be that he no longer feels important to the relationship, he may be struggling with other areas of his life that his partner doesn’t support him with or respect him for. The affair may be an escape from a relationship that he feels trapped by. Sex within a relationship often suffers when other areas of the relationship are unsatisfactory. Don’t get me wrong, any of these reasons do not make betrayal any easier to accept, but these types of questions need to be explored. Betrayal is often deeper and messier than we might want to believe.
A woman may cheat on her partner because she is emotionally deprived. She may feel that she invests so much of herself in the relationship but gets no recognition or emotional support for doing so. An affair for her, can fill a void, it means she can be with someone else who needs nothing from her, she doesn’t need to invest to the same degree that she does in her relationship with her partner.
Day to day living is stressful, we are all loaded down with worries about work, money, family (the list goes on) and we forget to make our partners feel special, or appreciated. Yes, it’s possible we know that we are needed and probably, if we stop and think about it, we know we are appreciated in one way or another, but we need to take the time to let our partners know how much they mean to us.
An affair can be devastating to the trust within a relationship, but it doesn’t mean the relationship cannot survive it and that there is no way back from it. In fact, it can be the alarm call the couple have needed to explore the problems they have ignored for some time. I have seen couples that look back on that period of their relationship very positively because finally looking at what was going on for both of them, moved them closer together.
Making it Right
There are changes needed on both sides and although the person who was cheated on will feel the cheater should be doing all the work, it is advisable to approach this period from a level playing field. The person who was cheated on, may need to look at what he/she can do to help their partner as well as look at what might be lacking in the relationship. The cheater has to deal with feelings of shame and most importantly, he/she will need to explore why they felt the need to betray the relationship in this way and why he/she didn’t look for a healthier option to filling that void.
Above all, communication is paramount! Both partners need to talk honestly, openly and without blaming the other, about what they need from the relationship and how they feel they should go about repairing the damage. Forgiveness and acceptance on both sides are part of the repair, and as long as both partners are willing to work hard at putting things right, an affair does not have to mean it’s over!
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