Can relationships survive an affair? Relationships expert Cat Williams explores….
The real reason why affairs happen.
Before we choose to have an affair, whatever the circumstances, we are experiencing a period of low self-esteem. We usually know that an affair is probably not a good idea but we don’t know how to fix or improve our current relationship, so if an opportunity to have an affair is presented, we may take it to feel better about ourselves. Being wanted by someone else, especially secretly, gives a great boost to our self-esteem.
What happens next?
Once the affair is disclosed or discovered, it usually has an impact on the self-esteem of both partners. The person who had the affair usually feels even worse about himself or herself than ever, and the partner who was cheated on usually feels betrayed and not good enough to be faithful to.
Most people eventually regret an affair even if it is not discovered, because what they usually wanted in the first place was to be happy in their original relationship, but they didn’t know how to achieve that, so they took an easier decision and started a relationship with someone else. The temporary improvement in self-esteem that they felt by having an affair usually, ultimately, makes everything worse.
What if we are the one who is cheated on?
The partner who is wronged might feel a big drop in self-esteem; an affair can feel extremely humiliating, embarrassing, and hurtful. It is difficult to forgive an affair because our self-esteem is likely to be significantly affected by the betrayal of someone we love and trust. In order to forgive and see the good in our partner again, we need to first take control of our own self-esteem and decide that we are okay, regardless of what our partner chooses to do.
Affairs do not occur because the wronged partner is not good enough, but because of how the person who has the affair felt about himself or herself at the time they made that choice. Even so, the revelation of an affair is not easy to deal with, because the other person has behaved selfishly and has breached their partners trust.
What should we do?
Wronged partners often need to look at their own self-esteem within their relationship before the affair happened. Often, they will also have been experiencing low self-esteem for some reason, so they may have been defending themselves and criticising their partner, or unconsciously contributing to their partner’s low self-esteem in some way, which triggered their partners’ decision to have an affair. This does not justify their partner’s decision, but there is always a reason why an affair seems like a good idea at the time.
How to ‘move on’.
The process of moving on involves asking ourselves some or all of the following questions:
The one who was cheated on:
How do I feel at the moment in terms of my self-esteem? Do I have the strength to decide for myself what I should do now? Will I feel stronger if I leave or if I stay? How will I be influenced by other people’s opinions of the ‘right’ thing to do? Can I admit the part I played in our relationship not being as good as it could have been? Can I look at my own self-esteem before the affair, and my partners’, and how we were influencing each other?
Can I be a person who understands why my partner had the affair? Can I forgive him or her because I love him or her, because nobody is perfect, and because he or she is asking for my forgiveness? Can I try again, or is it better for both of us if our relationship is over? Can I truly let the affair go and love and trust my partner again in such a way that it doesn’t taint our relationship forever? Can I start again in the future with someone else? Can I choose to be on my own?
The one who cheated:
How do I feel right now in terms of my self-esteem? How am I coping with the opinions and judgment of others? Can I figure out why I needed to improve my self-esteem by having an affair? Can I admit the reason I did it? If I want forgiveness from my partner, can I ask for it and cope with whatever his or her answer is? Can I forgive myself if I understand what lay behind my decision? Can I be honest about wanting to stay or wanting to leave? Can I ask for forgiveness from others? If I want to stay and try to be forgiven, can I wait until my partner feels he or she can forgive me? Can I accept his or her decision and get on with my life if he or she decides he or she can’t?
Parents in an affair:
Can we put aside our own hurt feelings when it comes to focusing on our children and what they need? Can we protect their self-esteem and allow them to keep as positive an image of their other parent as possible? If they hear criticism of either parent or feel rejected by a parent, they are likely to question their own self-worth, making their future even more difficult than it might otherwise be. How can our children know the truth eventually without feeling worse about themselves?
Stay Calm And Content: No Matter What Life Throws At You
by Cat Williams is available from Amazon.co.uk and www.staycalmandcontent.com priced £9.95