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  • Having An Affair – Is Emotional Affair Recovery Possible?

    The exact percentage of people having an affair seems to be hard to pin down. I recently watched a TED Talk by the world-renowned relationship expert, Esther Perel, about infidelity.

    In it, she points out that the data about the occurrence of affairs is hard to pin down because the definition of an affair or infidelity is varied. She says that the numbers range from 26% to 75% depending on the source. The statistics in general suggest that if you are reading this, and you are in a committed relationship, then there is at least a fair chance you have had or are having an affair.

    A number of truly wonderful people with strong values are struggling with the pain and confusion of being in an extramarital relationship. Yes, the situation is the result of a series of choices, but these are most often made without a conscious consideration of the outcome.

    Can Your Romantic Relationship Survive the Betrayal of Trust?

    The inner conflict created by an emotional connection with an affair partner pulls at the heart of a person with such alarming force that it can be overwhelming. A whirlwind of intense emotions takes over and leads to struggle and confusion: “This isn’t me—it isn’t something I would ever have imagined I could do”, they say. “I don’t know what to do… Should I tell my wife (or husband) and see what happens?—It might make me feel better to confess…” “Does this mean that I am not married to the right person? I can’t get out of this mess without hurting someone—maybe everyone that I care about.”

    Many people who have had extramarital affairs find it hard to reconcile the mixed feelings and overcome the betrayal trauma. Often a person is dealing with grief– loss and confusion—about the ending of an intimate relationship with an affair partner, and with guilt, remorse, shame, and sympathy for a marriage partner who is reeling from the traumatic experience of betrayal at the same time. Or in an instance where the marriage partner is unaware of the affair, dealing with the continuing battle to stifle or hide hugely difficult feelings of grief, confusion, and regret from a partner. This is perhaps harder than hiding the affair was to begin with.

    The answers aren’t easy. What is clear, however, is that the inner turmoil is a signal that something has to change. And although the path can be murky, it begins with a series of smaller choices. There absolutely is hope. If a decision is made to re-commit to a marriage, then it is certainly possible.

    How Can a Relationship Therapist Help You Overcome Infidelity

    I have worked for quite some time now with couples reeling in the aftermath of the discovery of a romantic affair, or individuals who have been affected by an affair or emotional infidelity in their current relationship—either because they are in the midst of one, grieving the end of one, or blown apart by the discovery of their partner’s affair.

    I think that Ms. Perel’s assertion that affairs can be the final blow to an already damaged marriage or relationship, or may in fact be the greatest opportunity, is absolutely correct. The chance to examine and search for what she terms “lost parts” of ourselves or our partners is invaluable. She jokes that she isn’t “pro-affair”, and to be so would be akin to being “pro-cancer.” But in the aftermath of such a life-changing event, one cannot help but be somehow different.

    I have suggested on many occasions to the couples I have been privileged to work with that they may eventually come to be grateful for the discovery of the affair. I am often initially met with doubting looks, to put it mildly.

    Overcoming infidelity in a relationship is a challenging and deeply emotional journey. As a relationship therapist, I can help you:

    • Facilitate Honest Communication: I’ll create a safe, neutral space for both romantic partners to openly express their feelings and fears, fostering understanding and transparency.
    • Identify Underlying Issues: I’ll help you uncover deeper relationship problems that may have contributed to the infidelity, allowing for more effective healing and improvement.
    • Guide Through Healing and Forgiveness: I can assist in navigating the complex emotions involved, such as anger and betrayal, and work towards forgiveness and healing.
    • Rebuild Trust: A key focus is rebuilding the foundation of trust through new communication and behavior patterns for improved relationship satisfaction.
    • Improve Relationship Skills: I can teach you vital skills like effective communication and conflict resolution, essential for a solid emotional bond and healthy relationship moving forward.
    • Promoting Personal Growth: I will encourage self-reflection and personal growth, helping you understand your own needs and behaviors.
    • Assist in Decision-Making: Whether to stay together or part ways, I provide guidance in making this significant decision and support through the process.

    Seeking help from a relationship therapist after infidelity is a sign of strength and commitment to healing, whether that means rebuilding the relationship with the original partner or moving on in a healthy way.

    Learn to Navigate the Experience of Infidelity in a Healthy Way

    You don’t just get married or move in together and never feel an attraction for any other person than your current partner ever again. You don’t simply remain “in love” and tremendously attracted to your partner either. The emotional intimacy and closeness in a relationship take work. It takes attention. A deep connection needs to be tended to and nurtured, in a conscious, deliberate way. The awareness of this is the gift that can come from of the discovery of an affair.

    Even in instances in which one partner does not know about the affair because it is neither discovered nor disclosed, the person having the affair has an opportunity to explore the meaning of the affair. They can learn about the desires and the longing that may have led to the crossing of this line. In that process of reflection, there is a fantastic chance to improve our emotional responses and grow—to be more mindfully aware and to clarify who we are and what we value.

    When there is a discovery that leads to the trust being broken between two people, it can seem like an overwhelming blow, one that seems impossible to recover from. Infidelity-based trauma is often not easy to overcome. However, I have witnessed the beautiful transformation that can happen between two people as they work to understand themselves and each other, and to truly love one another through the most painful of processes. Communication between partners can pave the way to healthier long-term relationships.

    I have seen the bond or connection that deepens in the most remarkable ways as people share their most vulnerable selves, and find that the person that they once felt a giddy in-love feeling with, can see all their flaws, forgive their mistakes, and still remain lovingly there –committed to the relationship. It takes time, and work, and hope, and patience, but yes, you can recover.

    For professional guidance with Affair Recovery contact Claire Zimmerman at [email protected]


    Post Update: The article was updated on November 5th, 2023, originally published on August 7th, 2013. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.