Affairs and infidelity are more painful than ever. Due to technology, the person who uncovered the infidelity often now sees a replay of the entire betrayal. The intimate texts. The sexy emails or photos . Sometimes even the XXX rated videos. And with ex-partners just a click away on social media, affairs are everywhere.
Undisclosed hook-ups are painful in relationships, but affairs are torturous. Affairs are defined by secret emotional and intimate physical involvement.
For LGBTQ+ couples who want to heal and repair their relationships after an affair there is good reason to be hopeful. Although the results of studies vary, most research reveals that two-thirds of heterosexual couples will remain together after an affair. While the research on this topic among gay couples is limited, most indicate that LGBTQ+ couples are even more likely to recover from affairs. Of course, some of these couples may stay together in misery while others will truly improve their relationships.
At The Gay Therapy Center we work with LGBTQ couples who want to repair their relationship after infidelity. Watch the video below and read through the article to get advice on how to heal after an affair and what you can do to rebuild and repair your relationship. You can even do much of this work at home.
How You and Your Partner Can Heal and Grow as a Couple After Infidelity and Cheating
The process of recovering from the crisis of an affair is similar to the process of recovering from any difficult emotional experience. You have to talk about it. A lot. On an honest, deep, and respectful level. This is how humans heal: we communicate.
The partner who engaged in the affair must take responsibility for their actions. Part of that process includes discovering the underlying reasons why they had the affair. They also need to sincerely apologize and to do so repeatedly. They must keep listening, without getting overly defensive, about their partner’s feelings of betrayal. They need to learn to validate those hurt feelings.
For true healing, ultimately they will need to step into their partner’s shoes for a few moments and get a visceral sense of what betrayal feels like. This is called empathy. Until the betrayer can feel empathy for the betrayed, no progress can be made.
This doesn’t happen with just one conversation. It has to occur over and over again. Each time a slightly different aspect of feelings will be revealed.
Grieving the Relationship and Processing the Trauma
If you just discovered that your partner has cheated, you’re still in the crisis stage. The relationship is going through a grieving process. These initial stages are almost always the most painful and often this betrayal can be triggering and traumatizing for both partners.
In the beginning of the work the first step is to focus on the person who has been betrayed. The process is about making sure that the person who had the affair takes the time to really put their feet into their partner’s shoes to understand what they are feeling.
This isn’t about blame and shame. This is about the experience of being lied to. When our loved one lies to us, our view of the world falls apart. Relationships are about trust and safety. This is lost when what we thought was true is no longer real.
Repairing your Relationship After an Affair Takes Time
Working to repair your relationship is slow, laborious work. This isn’t easy, especially for people who aren’t particularly experienced sharing their feelings, and in particular sharing vulnerable feelings, like sadness, and loss, and hurt.
The partner who had the affair
- After a period of time they will want the conversation to end. They’ll get tired of hearing how they hurt their partner. They’ll get impatient with the process and want to move on.
- They may feel like they are being punished. However, if they want to repair the relationship, they will need to tolerate the slow process of healing.
- They will need to practice the art of patience and understanding.
The partner who experienced the betrayal
- The partner who feels betrayed needs to practice expressing and naming their feelings again and again. Their job is to identify their range of feelings and then communicate them clearly and respectfully.
- This isn’t about punishing your partner. Attacking and seeking revenge won’t move the process forward.
- They need to become fully aware of their feelings and to ask and expect that their feelings be heard and respected.
Healing takes place when you keep sharing feelings. Every time you share that feeling from a deep place and your partner hears it and you know that they heard it, healing occurs. Being heard may be the most important experience we are seeking in a relationship. Relationship repair and recovery is a listening process.
Why Affairs and Cheating Happen
For a couple to feel connected again they will need to know why the affair occurred. This is powerful growth work for both partners.
- Sometimes there are unresolved issues in the relationship that are “acted out” through the affair. The crisis of the affair is often a wake-up call for the couple to do this work.
- Sometimes the affair is not about problems within the relationship. Some people cheat because they want to feel more alive. The secrecy of an affair can make us feel more powerful, less vulnerable, and more free.
- Our affairs are usually less about sex and more often about the desire to feel special and seen.
- Because cheating is considered “naughty”, the erotic charge increases. Research shows us that breaking taboos is the number one human aphrodisiac.
Paradoxically, the crisis can spark intimate, honest conversations that clients have waited a lifetime to experience. This is an exciting high for both partners. These peak moments are typically short-lived and not sustainable. But they do provide the much-needed hope. And that hope is the fuel to power the hard work of lasting relationship repair.
Affairs are often about wanting a new relationship with yourself rather than a new relationship with another person. The partner who had the affair will need to forge a new path to do the important work of building aliveness within themself.
Rebuilding a Broken Relationship is Uncomfortable
None of this is easy territory. Rebuilding a broken relationship is best done within what therapists call a strong container. This could be a LGBTQ+ couples counselor’s office or it could be on your living room couch with the phone turned off, plenty of eye contact, and a shared commitment to key rules of communication. Creating a safe space for both partners is important.
Perhaps the single most important communication rule is to speak from the “I” position. Rather than complaining about what your partner does, focus on how you feel when they do that thing. This approach avoids escalating the argument because how can someone debate what you feel? You are the only expert on your feelings. Sharing of feelings in this manner leads to empathy, and that leads to healing.
Use the Affair as the Catalyst for change in Your Relationship
Often the crisis of an affair becomes an opportunity to look at and improve some of the ongoing issues within the relationship. It’s commonly the wake-up call that gets both partners motivated to do the scary work of speaking truthfully.
Affairs, untreated addictions, and poor self-care habits are often methods of attempted escape. They help us avoid the worthwhile and challenging work of looking at what is really true about ourselves, our childhood experiences, and our relationships. They can represent “acting out” of feelings rather than directly facing them with mindfulness and compassionate courage.
When we escape our partners and ourselves with any of these behaviors, we can expect to hurt people we love. Exploring our underlying, more vulnerable feelings is the essential recipe for healing our relationships with others, as well as our relationship with ourselves.
Ready to start the healing process for your relationship?
If you need help navigating the aftermath of an affair, our LGBTQ+ therapists specialize in couples therapy for infidelity and cheating are only a phone call away. Get started with a no obligation 15 minute phone call to discuss your needs as a couple.