Probably the most painful thing one can experience in a marriage or committed relationship, after death or divorce, is discovering your partner is having an affair. Upon discovery, one's mind starts spinning and one's body goes into high alert. Warning bells go off and panic and anxiety take over. Reality has changed and what once was a safe and secure relationship is unstable and dangerous. Questions like, "Who am I? Who is my partner? What has our life together really been about?" crash down on the mind like a spring waterfall full of furry.
This entire experience is traumatic, often causing PTSD-like symptoms in the betrayed person. Obsessive thinking and obsessive behaviors like cell phone checking take over. Loss of sleep and appetite are not uncommon. Emotions may become mercurial, flipping from grief and sadness to rage and disgust. Self-blame can creep in. This is all normal because this is a crisis.
As with any crisis, it is important to get emotional support and help as soon as possible. Help can come through trusted friends and family. However, people often opt to talk to their clergy or a therapist because the shame they feel is so great. They want the confidentiality these professional relationships bring. Couple therapy is recommended as a means to manage the complex terrain of emotions and to facilitate movement toward healing the partnership.
Healing is possible but it will take hard work from both parties. This is a time to fight for your marriage or relationship. The first step that has to take place is to stop the affair. In a calm peaceful and clear manner, the straying partner is confronted with the affair and firm boundaries are set by the offended partner as to what he or she will accept in their life together. The unfaithful will have to be remorseful and honest with as much detail as the offended partner needs. Trust has to be rebuilt and can take months and even years. The affair has to be discussed and full accountability is recommended. The couple will have to re-establish their bond with each other by spending time with each other nurturing the relationship. This is sometimes hard with the complex lives we live but it must be done. Finally, the injured spouse will have to work through the process of forgiveness.
Evelyn Schmechtig Cochran