Affairs either change or end relationships. There are major consequences of an affair, not least the feelings of hurt and betrayal and loss of trust felt by the partner. After the initial shock of discovery, the choice to separate or work at the relationship needs to be considered. People often believe that if their partner had an affair, then they would end the relationship. Sometimes this happens, but often they find they want to continue with their partner and move forward. If the person having the affair wants to leave the marriage, then divorce or separation follows.
There is usually a period of intense emotional distress, making it particularly hard for both partners, particularly the one being left. Everyone is affected – children, grandparents family members and friends. Sometimes the separation is prolonged by the partner leaving and returning several times, causing swings of emotions and instability. They often do this because they haven’t understood the implications of leaving and the feelings of loss they would feel for their marriage, home and family.
Why an affair?
Affairs happen for various reasons. It could be an external relief from pressure or stress, the relationship could have been struggling for a period of time and needs for intimacy weren’t being met within the relationship or a partner finds a friendship outside the relationship which develops into more serious feelings and an affair. Sometimes it as a brief episode which happens under the influence of alcohol or because it is offered and is a momentary temptation and ego boost without any thought for the consequences or expectation that it would continue or be discovered.
When a relationship continues
If the choice is to stay together, there is a period of questioning and reassurance. The partner wo had the affair will need to re-build trust and the confidence of their partner who will be feeling a mixture of shock, anger hurt, loss of confidence and anxiety about whether the affair is still continuing secretly or it will happen again.
Counselling can help a couple work through this period when emotions are high and the relationship is fragile. Time can then be taken to explore the relationship before the affair and look at how they would like it to be in the future. An affair can often be a catalyst for positive change and bring a couple together in a more rewarding way.
When a relationship ends
Counselling is an opportunity to work through the ending of the relationship – together for few sessions if the couple feel it would help them understand the situation and move forward through separation in a more positive way. If this is not an option then either partner can have individual help to understand and cope with the change in their lives – both as a family, as parents who will be parenting apart, and as individuals wanting personal counselling to help with the emotional aftermath of a life changing situation – often accompanied by feelings of loss, low self-esteem and depression.