Have you or your partner had an affair and are you now wondering if you can have a healthy relationship after infidelity?
Many people say no, that it is not possible to be happy after a partner has strayed but I believe that it is possible to get past an affair and be happy again.
Having a healthy relationship after infidelity is something to strive for but it won’t happen without a lot of hard work and patience.
Here are 5 key behaviors to make sure are part of your relationship so that you, too, can get through this time together, as a couple.
#1 – Resolve.
First and foremost, both members of a relationship need to be resolved to make this relationship work.
Often times, after an affair, the person who strayed is only interested in putting the affair behind them and moving on. The person who was betrayed is often harder to convince. They are left with questions, ones that often go unanswered, self doubt, lack of trust and serious doubts about the future.
If both partners aren’t resolved to work on recovering their relationship, there is no way it can happen.
I have a client whose partner strayed twice. She feels horribly betrayed but is willing to work to get their marriage back on track. Her husband simply wants the affair to disappear and for everything to go back to normal. He says he wants to do the work and is willing to go to a therapist but his heart isn’t really in it. As a result, she is frustrated, even more hurt and questioning the future of her marriage.
So, unless both members are determined to do the work, the chances of having an healthy relationship after infidelity are minimal.
#2 – Communicate.
As I say in EVERY blog I write, communication in any healthy relationship is of utmost importance. Without communication, relationships are doomed to fail.
After an affair, communication becomes even more important. What I have seen in almost all of my clients who have been betrayed is the desire to understand the how and why of the affair.
How did you meet? Where did you meet? Why did you meet? How long have I been lied to? Did you laugh about me while you did this? Will this happen again? How will things be different this time?
In many cases, the person who had the affair isn’t willing, or able, to answer those questions. Often times, affairs just happen – they literally sneak up on the two people and before you know it, a relationship has been betrayed. When this happens, it’s hard to answer the ‘why.’ Also, people who have affairs often feel so guilty and ashamed that they don’t want to talk about it. They know they have let down and betrayed their partner and they are mortified.
No matter what the reason it might be difficult to talk about an affair, to answer the questions that might come up, it is essential that both are done. Honesty and transparency are the keys to how a couple can rebuild a healthy relationship after infidelity.
So, make an effort to address each others questions. If it is difficult to do so, dig deep and try. If you can’t, it is important that you get the help of a therapist or a life coach who can help you draw out the answers.
#3 – Understand.
It is very important for both members of a relationship to understand, and accept, how the other is feeling.
The person who has been betrayed is full of questions, struggling with self doubt, angry, sad, scared, lacking in confidence and generally confused and overwhelmed by what has happened to their lives.
The person who has strayed is often wracked with self loathing, guilt, sadness, fear, confusion and remorse.
Both of these people’s feelings are real and need to be acknowledged and accepted. People who have been betrayed often feel that their partner’s feelings aren’t warranted or relevant and push back against them. Betrayers often get angry with their partner for their intense feelings and want it to all go away.
By acknowledging and accepting each other’s emotions, each of the people will feel heard and seen, key parts of developing the building blocks for a healthy relationship after infidelity.
#4 – Enjoy.
I know that this seems inconceivable right now but it is really important that you both, when you are ready, make an effort to enjoy each other’s company.
There was a time when you were in love, when there were many things that you enjoyed doing together. These things connected you and helped make your love stronger.
I have a client who genuinely enjoys being with his partner but still struggles with accepting the affair. Last time we talked he did say to me, very clearly, that he and his wife were still good friends and that gave him hope that they could work through everything and reconnect.
So, if you feel like you can, with authenticity, strive to do the things together that used to make you feel connected. Picnics, trips to a bookstore, a musical event or a hike – anything else that will make you both remember that once you liked each other and that there is hope that you will again.
#5 – Touch.
I know that the idea of touching your partner after their betrayal is inconceivable but it is an essential part of building a healthy relationship after infidelity.
I am not talking about sex. I am talking about the simple things – hand holding, hugging, brushing up against each other in the kitchen. Touch is the thing that can keep couples together more than anything.
Make up sex is a perfect example of this. After an argument, many couples like to have sex. They do because the physical connection draws them back together. The sex connects them in a way that words can not and helps settle the argument and the hard feelings left afterwards.
Again, I am not saying that you need to have sex with your person right away but I am encouraging you to hug them. They say that a 10 second hug everyday can help a couple keep their relationship healthy and strong.
It is possible to have a healthy relationship after infidelity.
Infidelity rocks our world in a way that almost nothing else can. And believing that you can get past it and be happy again might seem impossible from where you sit now. But you can do it!
If you and your partner are both determined, if you are able to communicate in a healthy way, if you are able to acknowledge and accept the other’s feelings, if you seek out things that you enjoy doing together and if you can explore touching each other again, you have an excellent chance of having that healthy relationship that you seek.
I know it seems hard right now but I promise you, you can do it!
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.