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Surviving an Affair – The Basics

Surviving an affair is very challenging, but possible if two people have the right attitude. This is hard when there has been betrayal, and often lying and deceit. In my work with couples and infidelity, I have noticed a few things that are key to surviving an affair. Here are a few basics.
  1. Success hinges on each party being willing to take responsibility for their role in the the relationship atmosphere that set the stage for infidelity. Affairs happen when needs aren’t being met in a relationship, and in most cases both parties are responsible. This is hard to absorb for many people in the throws of betrayal and pain, but is a key first step.
  2. Improving communication is critical to restoring intimacy and involves sharing your feelings as well as listening carefully to your partner’s experience. Understanding how the affair happened is critical to avoiding it in the future.
  3. Once you start to understand how the events happened, and each other’s feelings, forgiveness becomes possible. Not only does each partner need to forgive their partners, but they have to be able to forgive themselves. This is hard, but not impossible. Understanding how you each made the choices you made will help foster understanding and pave the way for forgiveness. Forgiveness is a choice and a method by which we move forward. This is a key piece of surviving an affair.
  4. Restoring trust is the final step that takes time. Forgiving does not mean forgetting, and new patterns have to be established in the relationship to rebuild trust. Trust has to be earned, and takes time. Both partners benefit from looking for opportunities to demonstrate trust to each other.
  5. Stay positive, focus on your love for each other, and be wiling to stretch for your relationship. Resist the temptation to avoid doing your part – avoidance only makes things worse and chances are there are important changes that you each need to make that will be worth the effort. It is hard work, but is worth it if you stick with it, and are willing to make the changes needed to repair your relationship and find happiness again.

These steps can be challenging, and getting the help of a professional can be instrumental in helping you both heal. Remember, the effort you put into your relationship will yield a dividend of self-esteem, making it easier to keep up your new habits, and giving your confidence a boost along the way!

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD

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