Posted on: Sunday, July 28th, 2013
Recovering from an affair can be one of the hardest journeys a couple gets to walk through. Hard but not impossible. As a Calgary Marriage Counsellor I have found the main challenge couples face is handling the conversations in the first few days.
Usually after an affair has come to light the betrayed partner can focus on nothing else. The partner who went outside the relationship, the betraying partner, usually focuses on what the relationship was like prior to the affair. Conversations break down into a fight or silence because each person is focusing on a different part of the story.
When the betraying partner talks about life before the affair their partner feels blamed or invited to take some responsibility for the affair i.e. “if our marriage was perfect I would not have cheated on you.” While it is true that in most cases (72%+) there are problems in the marriage prior to an affair, these problems are not the cause of the affair. And when the betrayed partner talks only about the affair, the betraying partner feels like the other issues in the relationship are being minimized and the one thing, the affair, is being labelled as the biggest problem and they as the partner who caused the most pain to the marriage.
Both partners are usually dealing with intense emotions and the first thing that is required is to separate the two realities. The affair as #1 and the bad aspects of the marriage/relationship as #2. And when the couple talk they have to agree ahead of time whether they are talking about #1 or #2. The conversations will not be easy no matter which way you slice it, but they can be made more productive. For conversations involving #1 the betrayer has 100% responsibility for the actions taken. For #2 each partner contributed to the unsatisfactory relationship and so responsibility is shared.
If you or someone you know is struggling to work on your relationship after an affair, allow a marriage counsellor to help you navigate through the difficult conversations.