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After the Affair

You don’t get past an affair. You work through it!

My client was having a very difficult time with the fact that her significant other had had an affair. A “one-night stand” that happened sometime in the spring. She felt betrayed and, contrary to his preference, thought it was far too soon to just “drop it and move on”. There was more penance that remained to be served before she could put the issue behind her.

They talked a lot about the issue. He was a good listener, analyzed his own behaviour, admitted to his flaws and faults, was concerned about her, and appeared truly apologetic for his “mistake in judgement”.

It was now summer and they had come back to see me because they felt stuck. They were past the shock, the hurt, and the decision of whether they should stay together, but they “weren’t moving ahead”. He admitted that he was beginning to “stop trying, because it didn’t seem to make a difference”. Sex was still “verboten”, and even though he understood her resentment, he was beginning to tire of the punishment for a crime that, in his eyes, was “ancient history”.

The balance point between her “I am still hurting” and his “Get over it and let’s move on” was very tricky. He needed to respect her feelings and give her time to resolve the huge “loss of trust” that resulted from the affair. She needed to understand that 24 if the issue were to go unresolved for too long, he would lose hope and could walk away from the relationship completely.

On her part, she was still trying her best to “get past it”. On his part, he was doing his best to show understanding by giving her the time she needed. Everybody was doing their best, but they were still stuck.

It occurred to me that both of them used the term get past it several times. I wondered if a big part of their being stuck was a result of putting all positive behaviours on hold in their relationship until they both “got past it”.

I suggested that waiting to “get past it” was not the most proactive approach that either of them could do under the circumstances. After all, they both wanted to move on, and perhaps this path of passive waiting for feelings to change would not work. They decided to take some action.

He took it upon himself to learn new, pleasing behaviours and worked on new communication skills. She agreed to stop focusing on “getting past it” so that she could share more loving activities with him. The last time I saw this couple it was early fall. They were on their way. They were unstuck and full of hope.

I love my job!


First winter session was after Christmas—he wants a divorce, no discussion!

Wow! I didn’t see that coming, and neither did she! Kick in the stomach! Heartache!

My thoughts stray to working in the Mall selling shoes or refrigerators.

What led to his change of feelings? Did he really give the “other woman” up? Or was the forbidden sex too hard to resist? Was it easier to stay in the established relationship, but he just couldn’t maintain the charade?

It takes a great deal of work to re-build a relationship after an affair. The injured party does not easily “get back to normal” once the crisis has past. Even when there is an agreement to continue the relationship, a lingering lack of trust can taint all interactions between the couple.

However, if they decide to give their relationship a genuine chance, to work hard, and stay focused on each other and on the new skills they learn in counselling or intuitively conclude, then I believe they can change and their efforts will be rewarded.

Re-started relationships can be extremely difficult, requiring hard work and much focus, but they can also be most exciting and fulfilling!