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Affairs-do they cause marriage breakdowns or do marriage breakdowns result in affairs? What are the steps to recovery?

The idea that if you are married to the "right" person then you will not have feelings for anyone else at some stage during the marriage is what fairy tales are made of – a nice story but unrealistic in real life. A successful marriage depends not on whether you have an attraction to someone else but on what action you take when it happens. Some people look outside the marriage for the answer to the problem while others turn towards their partner.
 
Those that turn to someone else will have a serious issue of trust at some stage in the future. The reason is that if you leave one to be with the other, then you will have great difficulty when problems arise in the new relationship. This is because the new partner has already demonstrated that they are capable of infidelity because that is how you got together in the first place. If things aren't good at home then the thought will creep in that they might be doing with someone else what they were doing with you.
Another common fear arises if one partner has an affair, even if never found out, they then project that potential on to their partner, creating doubt and suspicion when there is no cause for it.
 
While statistics show that many marriages do not survive after one or both partners having affairs, with the right help it is possible to not only recover but go on to build a marriage that is far better than anything that either partner could have imagined. There are some key factors in recovery.
 
The first is that both partners need to take responsibility for their part in creating the original vulnerability. This is often difficult as initially it will appear that the one who had the affair is the "bad guy" and the other the victim, whereas both will have contributed to some degree. This process may be painful but if the original contributing factors are not addressed then the probability of ending up back in the same place at some time in the future is fairly high.
 
The second is that there can be a time of grieving for both. One is likely to be grieving the loss of the expectation of the exclusiveness of the marriage or innocence while the other may be grieving the loss of contact with someone that they can no longer spend time with. This can be worse than the grief of loosing someone through death because it is not that they are no longer there but that they cannot be contacted.
 
Third is that there will need to be a genuine expression of regret and apology. Forgiveness towards someone else can be hard but holding a grudge will be very expensive in the long run for bitterness destroys lives and relationships. Forgiving yourself when you realise you have made a big mistake can be even harder. Continually punishing yourself for the past will rob you and those you love of the future. How will you know when you have finally punished yourself enough to have paid the price and let it go?
 
Fourthly, trust needs to be re-established. If trust is broken then it can be re-earned. What many people fail to understand is that the actions needed to rebuild trust are different for each person. It is natural for someone seeking to re-earn trust to do what they would want someone to do for them. Unfortunately it is rarely what the other needs to begin trusting again. It is common for men to know what their partner would need to do but not have the words to explain it, while women often don't know what their man has to do and need help to work it out. Some may need to know the details so as not to be placed in a situation where everyone else knows something that they don't but that can cause problems where the other just wants to put it all behind them and move on.
 
Affairs can and do happen but it does not necessarily mean the end of the relationship. Getting professional help to work through the process can often mean the difference between it being something that can lead to a relationship that is far better than they had at the start or walking away in despair with all the impacts on themselves and their children.
 
Your happiness is
your responsibility
Kiwisense Ltd | P 07 888 2722 | M 021 712 115 | E info@kiwisense.co.nz
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