So, there’s been an affair. You want to repair your relationship, and you want to know what to do after an affair to make things better. Read on!
First, a definition. “Affair” means that there has been a relationship outside of the primary relationship without the knowledge and consent of the other partner. It can be emotional or physical. It may even occur within open relationships if the parties agree to have open communication about what’s going on and that is withheld. Cheating is about a breach of trust. If there is a betrayal of trust, it’s an affair. Now that that is understood, let’s look at what to do after an affair.
Keep It Between the Two of You
When others hear about what’s happened, they take sides. This can make it harder to reconcile. If your best friend is saying what a dog your partner is, this can make you feel understood, but it could also solidify your anger. If one person you care about thinks it’s in your best interest to stay away from another person you care about, you could lose one of them. Unless and until you are sure you’re calling it quits, keep it to yourself. Talk to a counselor or pastor- someone who can be an impartial third party for support if you need to.
Tell the Whole Truth
You’re trying to rebuild trust. The only way to do that it through truth. Don’t minimize, distort, blame, or try to control the flow of information. I know it’s hard to hear it and you can’t take it back once it’s out there. It is what it is. Withholding information is at least part of how the affair happened in the first place. If you want to clean things up, the truth has to come to light.
Cut Contact With the Other Person
In the vast majority of cases, healing cannot happen while there is still contact with the other person. It’s normal for the affair to stop and start up again. The other person served a role in the partner’s life. It’s easy to go back to what we know. If you’re serious about ending the affair, you have to cut contact.
It’s tempting to apologize, say it’s over, and then go back to normal. Nobody wants to do the hard work of repairing things, and if you’re not arguing, why dredge it up? It’s exhausting and painful. However, if you don’t address it, you’re just sweeping the mess underneath the rug for another day. The old way of doing things is what led up to the affair. If there is no change, it could happen again. Figure out what went wrong and make changes. If you make positive changes, the affair can be a tool for growth. Let it be.
No Blaming or Defending
The blame/defend game is a pattern. Neither side is helpful. Neither is necessary when both people take responsibility for what they contributed. This might seem like a surprising statement when only one person cheated, but there is always something that the other person did to contribute. This doesn’t mean that it’s the other person’s fault. It just means that relationships take two. Here are some examples of what I mean.
- A criticizes B when B wants to do something that A doesn’t like. B stops telling A what he’s doing.
- A says she’s going to do something then doesn’t do it. B loses trust.
- A is involved in a project that B isn’t interested in. Rather than finding something they can both do together, B suggests that A do it with others.
- A and B are busy with work and family things. They both want to nurture their own interests too, so in their free time, they spend time apart rather than together.
- A does something B doesn’t like. A silently criticizes and feels more and more resentful. Meanwhile, B is totally unaware.
Do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it. Let your partner check up on you to see that you’re doing that. I know it doesn’t feel good to be spied upon, but how would you feel if the shoe were on the other foot? There is a reason we say “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” If your partner has betrayed you once, blind trust is foolhardy. So be reliable. Let yourself be caught being reliable. This will rebuild trust.
Don’t use friends, coworkers, children, or other family members as pawns for revenge or to get someone to say with you. It won’t make either party happy. Each person has a right to decide whether she or he wants to stay or go that is based upon the true facts and their own desires. Guilt, coercion, moral judgments, threats, or any other sort of manipulation won’t lead to peace and harmony.
Practice Good Self Care
Both sides will likely say things that they don’t mean. Don’t be too quick to accept what is said. Be careful not to speak in haste. Thoughtless emotional outbursts could determine your future if you’re not careful. If you practice good self-care, this is less likely. Sleep well. Eat well. Meditate. Spend time in nature and with your friends. It’s easy to push these things aside at a time like this, but now is when it’s most important of all.
It’s a lot easier to walk away after an affair. You can just leave the mess behind you. It takes courage and a lot of work to stay. If you do the work, relationships can be even stronger than before after an affair. There is no right or wrong choice. It’s up to you how to proceed. Using these guidelines above can make it a little easier.