Folx who have experienced an affair within a relationship often ask me, “Is it possible to overcome this?” The short answer is “Yes!”
Their pain and difficulty notwithstanding, affairs have the possibility of occasioning new bonds that can be even more meaningful than partners had prior to their affairs.
Getting to that point, however, takes time and patience. So when folx come to my office asking, “Can we overcome this affair?” My thought immediately is, “How much do they want to save this relationship?”
I think this because overcoming an affair can be heart-wrenching work. It takes time and money (if you go to a therapist) to save a relationship. It is a big commitment emotionally and financially to reconcile and heal an affair.
An affair is a deep attachment injury. It often cuts at many core feelings of the partners, which can result in the formulation of some core statements about themselves. Some of those core statements can be:
Getting to those core emotions is essential when healing attachment injuries.
To do this, it is important for folx to be able to identify the cycle they get into that causes tension. This cycle is often what leads to the affair. Knowing the cycle and the part each partner plays in the cycle can lead to an opportunity to change the way they respond to each other. This process can lead to the creation of safety, security, and love in the relationship…even after an affair.
It is hard not to be defensive during times of difficulty; however, with therapy, partners can learn to replace defensiveness with honesty and vulnerability.
The ultimate goal in therapy is to create a relationship in which folx feel heard, loved, healed, and accepted. Learning to create a new cycle and a secure attachment with your lover will eventually allow folx to tell each other what they need. This will allow each person to look to each other rather than outside of the relationship.
Folx who have experienced an affair can never go back to the way things were because things will not be the same.
But...this can be a good thing!
The reason this can be a good thing is that the cycle that caused them to distance from each other is the enemy, but together they can learn how to break out of that unhealthy cycle and embark on a cycle that promotes love, security, safety, and trust.
So, is recovering from an affair possible?
Is it hard, heart-wrenching work?
However, if folx want to repair their relationship, create new memories, and lean into new cycles of interacting, their relationship can be the best it has ever been!
Kimberly (she/her) is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, Certified Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist, and a Certified Integrated Intimacy Professional. She has a private practice that focuses on sex therapy, attachment, social justice, and couples work.
Kimberly is a Washington State Supervisor, an AAMFT Supervisor, AASECT Certified Sex Therapist Supervisor and an EFT Supervisor-in-training. Kimberly also provides sex supervision through the Modern Sex Therapy Institute where folx train to be sexual educators and therapists.
Kimberly is a national speaker, speaking on topics of faith, sexuality, grief, coping with Multiple Sclerosis, high tone pelvic floor, menopause and more! She is a gifted teacher and emphasizes the freedom that comes from education!