Can my relationship survive an affair?

Short answer: it depends. Infidelity is the primary cause of relationship break-ups and divorce – causing distress, mistrust, animosity and conflict.

A relationship with a romantic partner is there to provide love, comfort and security. If this trust is violated, the quick reaction is to lay the blame solely on the shoulders of the ‘cheater’. It is about them wanting to have their cake and eating it too.

It's worth noting here that monogamy is not for everyone but respect in relationships is.

Reality is more complex.

Unsurprisingly, it’s quite tricky to work out a percentage of people who have been unfaithful in a relationship mostly because it relies on the honest confessions of the cheater. Estimates can vary quite a bit, but even on the lower rates of 14% (a bit over one in ten) is significant. If you include emotional infidelity, this rises significantly.

Emotional infidelity

What is emotional infidelity? It breaks the boundaries of your relationship where the connection is more than platonic. It is likely to be about finding an unexpected attraction and connection with another person and is more likely to be kept secret as it’s known that the other partner will not be happy about it.

It is a sign that all is not well with the relationship.

Why do people cheat?

  • lack of emotional intimacy
  • lack of physical intimacy
  • lack of communication
  • stress
  • being too tired

In other words, if we do not feel valued by our partner, or there is a block in communication.

People need to invest time and energy into making relationships work. We so often see the couple finally getting it together as the final chapter but the happily ever after isn’t the end in real life. You need to show your relationship some care.

Trauma

Finding out that your partner has cheated is hugely distressing and traumatic and this carries some significant consequences.

Getting professional help via counselling is so important for your psychological well-being. An affair not only impacts the mental health of the betrayed person, but both partners can also experience issues with their mental health - anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts are common. There can also be an increase in both emotional and physical violence within the couple.

Counselling will help you to look at the issues that triggered and fed the infidelity; if these issues are to be mended, we will need to look at the initial impact, get an understanding of the context of the affair, considering forgiveness and moving on – and whether you want to remain together, or not.

Should I stay or should I go?

You will both need to work out what areas of the relationship could do with improving and both commit to working on these and to improving communication and the emotional intimacy within your relationship.

If our relationships are going to be healthy ones, we need love, comfort and security in them.

If your relationship does not meet these needs, it is not working and you will experience problems.

It is not an easy thing to end a relationship, even if it is not meeting our needs – as you will have formed some sort of connection over the time you have been together.

Separation distress

It’s ok to grieve the loss of a relationship; even the loss of what you hoped the relationship might have been.

Infidelity is about looking to have your relationship needs met – but it is done with someone else, rather than within your existing relationship.

It is ok to admit that our partners might not meet all our needs all the time.

It is unrealistic to expect just one person to always and forever, meet all of your needs emotional, romantic and sexual, but the emphasis needs to be on caring, mutual consent and openness.

Think about (and talk with your partners about) what your expectations of the relationship are, for example;

  • Is fantasising about Tom Hardy cheating?
  • Is flirting online with someone you will never see in real life a betrayal?
  • Can you define (together) any deal breakers in your relationship?
  • What makes a betrayal or violation of trust?

We need to look at the impact of the fairy tale - what happened after the final scene? How are Cinderella and Prince Charming now?

Working with me…

  • will help you work out what you want in your relationship.
  • will ensure your relationship stays transparent, trusting and truthful.

I can provide counselling to you either as an individual or as a couple if you want to try and work through your affair or betrayal. I can help you keep your relationship on track and help you both remember what first sparked that attraction.

And, by doing this remotely on Zoom, I can make this easier for you both to manage and engage with.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Peacehaven, East Sussex, BN10

Written by Jennifer Warwick BACP Registered Counsellor (Postgrad Dip Counselling)

Peacehaven, East Sussex, BN10

I see clients individually or in couples to help with all stages of forming and managing healthy relationships: with family members, romantic partners, friends and work colleagues.
I am a BACP registered counsellor working online via Zoom.

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