What is considered an affair?
An affair is a relationship, either emotional and/or physical, that began, developed, and remained in secret. When determining if an affair has taken place, the length of the relationship nor the manner in which the relationship was disclosed are considered. The determining factor is the relationship’s secretiveness. If the other partner did not know of the relationship or its extent, it is an affair. This also applies to a “virtual” relationship e.g., social media and the internet.
What are the effects of an affair?
Individual and relational trust is shattered in both the betrayer and the betrayed. For the betrayer, emotional distance created by the secret relationship cripples one’s own ability to fully love one’s partner: the process of commitment has been reversed. This results in the betrayer compromising his/her own trust in the relationship.
For the betrayed, the shattering of trust is often devastating to both the individual and the relationship. Moreover, studies show that the betrayed experience symptoms associated with post–traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): hypervigilance, disturbed sleep, flashbacks, depression, obsessional intrusive thoughts, emotional numbing, insecurity, self-doubt, and generalized anxiety.
Affair Recovery for Couples
Affair recover for couples is a painful journey. Yet it is a journey that can create a stronger relationship. With new individual and relational insights, trust can be rebuilt, as well as a new relationship. The journey takes time and is not to be rushed. If trust is going to be rebuilt, certain aspects, e.g., full discloser, 100% transparency, full responsibility for the affair, the willingness to forgive and understand what went wrong in the relationship is vital. The couple must also learn a different way to being in relationship with each other. This is why a trained couples therapist is often needed during the process.
Affair Recovery for Individuals
At times the pain of the affair is too much for the relationship to continue. This often leaves the betrayed and the betrayer feeling more isolated. Recovery for both is an essential part of moving on. “Why was I not enough?” is often asked by the betrayed, as well as, “How can I ever trust anyone again?” The betrayer[*] is likely to also experience paralyzing emotions of shame and guilt, asking, “How could I have done this to those I love.” “How can I ever be trusted again?”
As with affair recover for couples, individual recovery is a painful journey that cannot be rushed. Acceptance and self-awareness is not easy. This is why a trained therapist is often needed during this process.
[*] Multiple affairs and/or anonymous sex is an indicator of a deeper issue and can be attributed to sexual addiction. Although the pain is similar for the betrayed, the behavior of the betrayer is different which requires a different form of treatment.