Affairs are one of the most devastating occurrences in marriage. They typically lead to a variety of troubling emotional reactions (both for the person who was the victim of the affair as well as the person who had the affair) including: anger, betrayal, guilt, shame, inability to trust, suspicion, sadness and fear. Affairs usually cause one or both parties to question the viability of the marriage.
Research shows, however, that 2/3 of the time couples are able to heal from affairs and, in many cases, have an improved marriage because of them. If an individual is unwilling to give up the affair, then individual therapy is generally recommended. If, however, the affair has been stopped, the three basic principles of “affair repair” are as follows:
- When comfortable, there must be full disclosure of all details about the affair.
- The couple must be able to have an honest discussion about the dynamics in their relationship that, while not excusing the affair, contributed to its occurrence.
- There must be a commitment to begin re-experiencing happy connections in the relationship during which time the affair is not discussed.
Because of the high emotional reactivity caused by affairs, it is usually necessary for couples to stay in therapy long enough to experience successful “affair repair”. Dr. Alexander recommends that both members of the couple read the book After the Affair as part of their therapeutic work.