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Surviving Infidelity (part 2)

All affairs are likely to cause deep rifts in a relationship but the degree of problems can be determined by assessing the extent that the affair has permeated other areas of the couple’s life.

If everyday boundaries are invaded, e.g. intrusions into friendships, work or significant others involved in the children’s life, feelings of betrayal will be very high. Invasion of personal space, such as bedrooms or favourite places relating to the original relationship, can be extremely difficult to forgive.

The breach of trust and commitment by the betraying party can, and will, take a long time to rebuild. Forgiveness may not be possible for the betrayed partner and it is unrealistic to expect this. However a true understanding of how the situation arose, possibly with contributing factors from both parties, will go a long way to healing the breach. Many partners who have been betrayed feel contaminated by the affair and it is important for them to ascertain as much information as possible about the exact details, and they may need to talk about it constantly. This is a part of healing and the betrayer is required to supply this information and help them to understand why and how, as part of the process.

However, there has to be an end date for this constant probing and interrogation or else healing will never take place.

With the help of a therapist, this can be negotiated, and at some point, a line will have to be drawn where after the affair is not discussed.

Because trust boundaries have been shattered, it is often important for the betrayed partner to be able to check up on the betrayer. This may be monitoring emails, accessing computer records, phone messages, telephone bills etc. Again, for a short period of time, this can be an agreed behaviour but it is important that it does not become a permanent pattern.

The therapist’s role in this is one of non-judgemental acceptance of the situation. Often affairs are embarked upon only after a period of deep unhappiness with the current relationship and the betrayer suffers from huge feelings of guilt. Working through all the underlying issues that lead to that decision to have an affair as well as dealing with the pain of the betrayal for the other person, is part of the counselling process.

After the trauma of an affair, it is still possible to work towards a relationship that is stronger, more respectful and has a deeper understanding of each other’s needs.

If both parties truly want to move on together with their lives, then an affair of any sort, can become a stepping stone to building a richer and more loving relationship.

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