Can there still be love after an affair?
I see many clients in couples therapy who are trying to recover from the aftermath of an affair.
In this process I have come to see finding out that you have been cheated on as a form of trauma. In the literature this is actually called “betrayal trauma.” When someone violates your trust, it shakes more than how you view the person that you thought you knew. It can also deeply impact one's sense of self and your life as a whole.
So, now that we have established that affairs can be deeply painful and even traumatizing, the question remains. Is there love after an affair? Can a couple ever recover from such pain. The short answer is yes. However, each part of the couple will need to be able to do the work that it takes to heal.
I often recommend individual therapy for both parts as well as couples counselling. The person who has been betrayed will likely have their own healing journey to go on. This would surround first, figuring out if this betrayal is something that they would like to forgive partner for. Assessing if there is enough good left in the relationship to try. As well as restoring a self-esteem and sense of self, figuring out what they need from their partner to be able to begin to trust again.
The person who has had the affair may need to work on the shame and guilt that might surround such act and exploring why it happened.
Together, it is pivotal that the couple figure out how to heal together. The person who has betrayed the other may need to gain a better understanding of how the traumatized part may respond and react as a result of the affair. The couple may also work on establishing what happened in the relationship to cause such a lapse in loyalty and communication. Finally, the most important pieces are reestablishing trust and working towards forgiveness.
When healing is possible after an affair, the result may be a relationship that is even stronger than previous to the hardship. The turmoil may be a conduit for a choosing each other again.