Staying together after an affair
After the initial, terrible, shock of discovering your partner's infidelity, you may know that the betrayal of trust means your relationship is irrevocably over. But what if you feel yours is a relationship that's worth trying to salvage?
Before you squander any emotional energy, you need to be certain your partner is not only onside but that he realises what you're both up against. He has to commit to work hard, with you, at your marriage. And he has to give up his other relationship, obviously.
The messy aftermath of an affair takes a long time to work through, and inevitably your marriage will never be the same again. But if your relationship is to survive, you both need to understand the reasons why it happened.
- You will probably want details about who, what, where, when and how. Relationships charity Relate says you must ask your partner to tell you the truth, however painful. He needs to know that sharing information will start to build bridges because it will signal his willingness to be something he wasn't during the affair, ie honest.
- Set yourselves times when you can talk about the affair, but agree to keep it out of the conversation at other times (especially important if you have children - you don't want them to hear you trading insults over the 'other woman')
- Affairs rarely have a single cause and don't even necessarily happen because one partner is dissatisfied in a relationship. So you may need some outside help in the form of relationship counselling to get to the root of why the affair happened.
- Scorn self-blame. An affair is never, ever the 'fault' of a faithful partner.
Don't feel that you have to make a decision straight away about your whole future. It can be a good idea to agree to work at your marriage for a fixed time period. So, for example, you can agree that you don't know whether your marriage will survive long term, but that you'll both spend six months working at it and review the situation after that.
Your sex life after an affair
If and when you feel ready to resume your sex life together, it's bound to provoke some complex - if not downright painful - emotions. As one Mumsnetter puts it: "On good days, I feel alive again - like the start of a relationship. The sex is fabulous and we are clicking as a couple. On bad days, the pain and sense of betrayal are almost unbearable."
There are couples who find they can reignite their love life. But for others it's really difficult: the partner who has been cheated on can't get the image out of their head of their husband or wife making love to someone else.
You need to talk about what you want from your sex life. And you need to acknowledge that things may be different from now on. Again, expert help in the form of counselling or sex therapy may help.
Building trust back into your marriage
• Signs of an affair
• Emotional affairs
• Coping with an affair
• Grounds for divorce
• Chat about relationships with other mums
This is one of the hardest things to do after an affair and, for some couples, it's the deal-breaker. The partner who has cheated probably expects a certain amount of suspicion and questioning in the months after the affair (and rightly so), but often they don't appreciate just how long it can take for their partner to return to trusting them without question - if they ever do.
Recovering trust where trust has been broken takes a lot of time and healing - years for some couples. Relate says the unfaithful partner must be transparent about their actions and movements, and be prepared for a short time to share privacy controls, such as passwords.
If you need to talk through your situation with people who can empathise and offer constructive advice (and a bit of leavening humour), head for the Relationships Talk board. It's there 24/7 and is good for dark nights of the soul and the cold light of day.