You’ve been betrayed.
The one who promised to have and hold instead lied and stole.
Leaving you broken and questioning.
It’s not right. It’s not fair. And it’s not okay.
But it happens nonetheless.
Regardless of your feelings about monogamy or someone’s right to seek attention elsewhere if they are not receiving it at home, an affair is a breach of a contract. And many believe, a breach of character. It is an act of selfishness at best and an act of malice at worst.
But let’s forget for a minute about the betrayer. The act itself. And let us even set aside the pain for a moment or two.
Now that it’s happened, what’s your part?
What can you learn from the experience?
Don’t Internalize the Affair You didn’t cause it. You didn’t make your spouse cheat (even if they try to convince you that you did). Let go of that thought. This was their choice and their choice alone. It shows where they’re lacking, not you.
Take a Look at the Bigger Picture Sometimes an affair happens solely because of a person’s own issues. Other times, it’s a perfect storm of nature and nurture, the marital environment also playing a role. Are there areas where the marriage can be improved or where you can respond differently in a new relationship?
Add a Dash of Understanding to Your Judgment It’s natural to blame your spouse. To lash out in anger. I get it. Try also to find some understanding of why he or she responded the way they did. Just proclaiming it as wrong doesn’t help you. Understanding some of why it happened does.
Watch Your Triggers An affair can trigger earlier memories of abandonment or it can certainly be what future triggers will be about. The affair is not your part; healing its impact on you is.
Consider Alternatives Is your marriage the right fit for both of you at this time? Have you or your partner changed and now need a different option?
Protect Your Children You know how piercing and scary betrayal is for an adult. Imagine it through a child’s eyes. Shelter them from the affair when they’re young. If there are truths they need to discover (like a personality disorder, etc.) let them reveal themselves in time.
Consider the Balance of Comfort and Passion We often ask too much of our partners. We want them to be our best friends, our lovers, our dependable partner, the children’s parent and sometimes even a business partner. And all this for 50+ years til death knocks on the marital home. You can maintain passion, but too much comfort is the death of excitement. Find the balance.
You can address the above despite what your straying partner does or doesn’t do. You can learn from the experience if it ends in divorce or becomes a renewal of your marriage. You can choose how you look at the affair and how you respond.
An affair is a wake-up call. Don’t sleep though it.
I read an interesting interview with Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity, which looks at the challenges facing modern marriages. Take a look at the article; it’s thought-provoking.
Oh, and for those of you that set your pain aside for a few moments, it’s okay to let it talk again. Just don’t allow it to filibuster.