It is important to remember that in most cases affairs are symptoms of something deeper that is going on in intimate relationships, of which couples may not have been aware. And here is where I can see the silver lining. The affair is such a shocking event in their lives that couples cannot ignore it, while in the past they may have ignored other, less obvious symptoms.
It’s like when you go to the doctor because you don’t feel well. The doctor treats the symptom, but also decides to run some blood work, maybe sends you to have an x-ray or an electrocardiogram to find out what is behind your symptoms. When the results come back, the doctor may tell you that you have high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, or high blood sugar you did not know you had. You probably wouldn’t have found out about these conditions until they got much worse. Without knowing, you wouldn’t have taken care of them with proper medications, a healthier diet and changes in your life style. So, going to the doctor, even though you went for a different reason, may have saved your life.
When an affair occurs, some partners get stuck in anger and hurt, as we said in our previous blog. If they continue to stay there without doing anything about the situation, chances are their relationship won’t survive. Some couples, however, don’t want to let go of their relationship and are willing to explore what can be done to heal the wounds. They may decide to seek professional help to guide them out of these stormy waters.
In therapy partners may find out that one of them was feeling isolated, sad, mad, disillusioned, caged in, or uncomfortable with closeness, commitment and intimacy. In therapy they may uncover events and feelings that began the distancing process between them, perhaps quite some time ago, but that they never discussed with one another, because they were not aware of them. Now they have an opportunity to get these feelings out into the open, acknowledge them and share them with one another in an environment that feels safe. And what happens?
In therapy, the cheated partner finds a place where he or she can talk about feelings of hurt, disbelief, anger, disappointment and fear. The cheater may feel relieved that he or she doesn’t have to keep secrets any longer. He or she may begin to work at understanding why the infidelity occurred. Both can examine their feelings not only about the affair, but also about their relationship in general, and together work at repairing the damages to it. This process, though grueling and painful, is a transformative experience that will make partners feel closer together. It is a life saver because it makes couples look and address deeper, often unconscious issues, just like the visit to the doctor that sounded the alarm for other, underlying medical conditions hitherto unknown to the patient.
Of course, seeking therapy for infidelity is not the only way of addressing the problem, but it is certainly one of the best tools couples have available. The therapist is the professional whom provides support and guidance to couples; helps them get in touch with their feelings and identify the root causes of their problems; teaches them new skills about healthy communication, and guides them towards acceptance, understanding and, finally, forgiveness.
At the end of therapy, couples know each other better and are ready to make a new commitment to each other, borne out of the hard work together. By going through this transformative experience, couples discover an unexpected gift: their love for each other, which they had thought was gone forever.
Do you have a story that reflects this experience? Please comment on this blog, so that we can provide hope for couples who are willing to do the work to restore their love and trust in one another and get their marriage back on the right track.
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