If you discover that your partner is having an affair, does it mean that the relationship is over? For many couples, the belief is that discovering an affair means the relationship is over. However, it depends on the reasons for the affair, and the current communication style within the relationship. Often times, recovery is possible with time, communication, and willingness to rediscover your partner.

One obvious reason people decide to look outside of their relationship is to seek more exciting sexual experiences. They may feel that their relationship does not provide enough sex or that sex has become boring, non-existent. Though one partner feels their needs are not being met, they might have failed to notice the other might be feeling the same way.

A most likely reason for affairs is that emotional needs are not being satisfied in the relationship. Michele Weiner-Davis addresses this issue in her book, Healing from Infidelity. If one feels that distant from one’s primary partner, then, seeking an affair partner may appear so alluring.  Loneliness may drop away as the affair partner provides attention and validation. If communication has broken down with the primary partner, the new partner may appear to be nonjudgmental and willing to listen. The unfaithful spouse is usually seeking an emotional and sexual connection with another person. Affairs can provide excitement which may be lacking in the primary relationship or marriage.

When one partner discovers an affair of their current partner, it is typically a time of acute crisis and hurt for the couple. This is typically the time the couple seeks couple therapy. My role during this initial phase with the couple is to help them get through the hurt and pain of this crisis. I assign them to read the book Healing from Infidelity, by Michele Weiner-Davis, with the betrayed partner, assigned to Chapter 3, “The Betrayed Spouse’s Tasks” and the unfaithful partner to read Chapter 4, “The Unfaithful Spouse’s Tasks.” In most situations, I recommend to the unfaithful partner how to end the affair and to share evidence of the ending of the non-primary relationship with their primary partner. I provide guidance about how much detail should be shared with the primary partner. For the betrayed partner, I provide steps for returning their life back to its proper balance. Their life has been turned upside down and typically the betrayed partner does not know what to believe from their partner or the life the couple thought they had to together. For the betrayed partner, I can provide guidance on what questions to ask and which ones are off limits.

For most couples, affair recovery means a commitment to couples therapy weekly for 6 months or longer. And each partner will need individual therapy to heal from the pain of the affair. I advise the couple to use their behavioral healthcare benefits to pay for the individual therapy. Typically, couples therapy is not covered by health insurance, and they need to pay for it out-of-pocket or private pay.

I wish I could wave a magic wand to ease the intense hurt and mood swings that often affect both partners, but it usually requires a step-by-step approach by both partners to work on healing their relationship.

 

 

Vanita Kunert, LMFT, San Francisco Couples Counselor

Vanita specializes in couples with communication issues who want more connection and aliveness in their relationship.
Vanita utilizes the Gottman approach to couples. Read More