Moving on After an Affair, Together or Apart?

Over time, there are many issues that can make a couple's relationship weaker, such as financial problems, feelings of growing apart, and stresses associated with raising children. But an affair is different. An affair can be catastrophic. Not only does it dissolve trust and the feeling of emotional safety for the one who was cheated on, but it also leaves the one who cheated feeling traumatized and lost. Some may wonder if it's possible to recover. Below are a few tips and advice about moving on after an affair.

It's difficult to properly estimate how many people cheat on their spouses. But the website Ashley Madison —  a dating site dedicated to married people or people in relationships looking for discrete encounters boats 54 million users worldwide.

The betrayal of an affair calls to account everything that you thought you knew about your relationship. Is the emotional connection between you real? Has everything you've gone through been for nothing?

An affair often does not mean these things at all, and it does not have to end your marriage, but there are several important things to consider before you make a decision.


Should you stay or should you go?

If an affair has occurred in your marriage or relationship, you have a decision to make. Do you stay and try to work things out? Or do you leave?  If your partner wants to work things out, you are not required to stay. You are also not required to leave. You need to take time and consider what it is you want and need.

There are two main points to remember when making this decision, if nothing is working in your relationship it may not make sense to stay. However, if both of you want to stay and make it work, often couples can emerge from an affair with more closeness and happiness than before.

Before you make the decision to move forward, consider a few very important questions.


1. Is the affair just another act of selfish behavior among many?

If you have found yourself in a relationship with someone who does not value you, the affair may just be an escalation of disrespect and bad behavior. Many people can find themselves in an emotionally and psychologically abusive relationship and not even realize the extent of their mistreatment until the wakeup call of an affair. If this is happening and you are still unsure of what to do, therapy can be very helpful to sort out your situation with someone who can give you unbiased feedback and unconditional support. Therapy can help you see things clearly, which can be difficult if you are caught in an emotionally and psychologically confusing relationship and trying to figure things out on your own.


2. Have there been other affairs?

What if this is not the first time? If your spouse has cheated before and promised it would never happen again, it only makes sense to place more faith in actions rather than words. Promises mean nothing if they are not kept. When deciding if you want to stay and make it work, you need to consider that it is likely more affairs will happen. Research shows that the biggest predictor of an affair is having cheated in the past.


3. Are there other problems that you both feel can be worked out?

It is possible for some couples who have been through an affair to move through the situation and end up happier. This is not only possible but desirable especially when the couple has children. But the work must be done to restore trust. If a couple has many reasons to stay together and if love and friendship still exist between them, it is entirely possible the relationship can be repaired and healed.


4.Understand it takes time

Trust after an affair will never be restored immediately. It takes time for strong emotions such as guilt, anger, and grief to be expressed, processed, and released. These emotions should not be suppressed as it is essential to acknowledge and feel them before you can move on to forgiveness and eventually trust. It takes time. What's more, understand that during this time your feelings may change, you may eventually decide to leave. If you have left, you may decide to return.


Couples and individual therapy

Couples therapy or even individual therapy can help. Individual therapy can help both members of the couple to sort out complex feelings with a therapist. It is important to understand that leaving or staying in a relationship is more than a joint process, it is also an individual decision. If both members of the couple decide to stay together, couples therapy can bring enormous benefits in improving communication, exploring disagreements in healthy ways, restoring intimacy, and finding your way back together in a safe therapeutic space.

Stevette Heylinger LPC is a licensed professional counselor in Montclair, NJ. She is passionate about helping couples build strong healthy relationships. If you would like to learn more, you can visit her website here.









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