After an Affair: What Happens to You and Your Relationship?

If you are married or a couple in an exclusive relationship and you become aware that your spouse or partner has been either emotionally or sexually involved with someone else, it is one of the most traumatic things that could happen to you and your relationship.

You may feel intense mood swings and emotional states that include shock, confusion, pain, rage, anger, contempt, hurt, sadness, depression, anxiety, panic, ambivalence, resentment, shame, embarrassment, humiliation, loss, grief, helplessness and hopelessness about your relationship and your life. You may even feel like hurting yourself or someone else.

You probably never expected that your spouse or partner would do this. You thought despite the ups and downs in your relationship nothing would contribute to this happening.

When this happens, it is a major betrayal because your partner or spouse is the one primary person you count on and trust to be always looking out for you. He or she is your primary attachment person or the one person you are most emotionally connected to.

As result, this betrayal is what couples therapist and researcher Susan Johnson calls an “attachment injury.” It is a relationship trauma. As with any trauma, you may experience a range of intense emotions, as mentioned above. 

There is the traumatic stress associated with finding out about the betrayal and usually a post traumatic stress that continues after the disclosure in which you may keep re-experiencing the emotional states associated with the trauma.

There is strong sense of loss associated with any trauma. Trauma is really a complicated kind of grief. The relationship betrayal indicates that your relationship and your sense of reality related to it, is not what you thought you had.

In addition, You, may find yourself being hypervigilant, having flashbacks, having difficulty concentrating, experiencing paranoid ideation, having nightmares, and experiencing triggers in your day to day life. All of this continues to remind you of what has happened. 

It may be helpful to begin to write down what you are feeling to help you process what is going on and prevent your thoughts or worries from overwhelming you.

You will likely be talking to your spouse and expressing your anger, hurt and feelings of betrayal. However, at first, this may be difficult due to the intense emotions you are both experiencing and can easily result in escalation and polarization.

It will be important for you both to take time to individually self-regulate so that you are in a better frame of mind to process things both individually and as a couple.

It is probably not the time to be trying to decide if you are going to stay or leave the relationship while emotions are riding so high and there are so many unanswered questions. 

It is a good idea to reach out to close friends and family members that you trust. It is important that they will keep your discussions in confidence, as well as, being a neutral sounding board. Don’t be surprised if some people want to only take a side or offer advice that doesn’t make any sense to you.

It is most important that you and your spouse or partner take whatever time you need to process what has happened and decide whether or not you want to continue the relationship. No matter what other people think or advice given about your situation, this is between the two of you and can only be worked out in a way that makes sense to the two of you.

Individual and couple therapy can be of help in this process due to intense emotional states and the complexity of the issues and concerns involved.

Many couples can and do recover from a partner or spouse having an affair but it may require help, commitment, patience and time to heal.

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