Affair | Infidelity
Relationship Counseling

Love is understood, in a historical way, as one of the great human vocations – but its counterspell has always been infidelity. This terrible, terrible betrayal that can tear apart not only another person, not only oneself, but whole families.
— Junot Diaz

Affair and Infidelity - Definitions

When we hear the word "affair" or "infidelity," we may immediately think about sex with somebody outside of the relationship. Which is one aspect of an affair or infidelity. The reality is that definitions for affair and infidelity shouldn't be limited to sex with others outside of the relationship.

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A thorough definition is this: "A secret sexual, romantic, or emotional involvement that violates the commitment to an exclusive relationship." Further, "the notion that extramarital sexual contact is not necessary for one to feel betrayed" is supported by research. In other words, an affair or infidelity includes involvement in sexual, romantic, or emotional ways with a person not in the relationship. Additionally, people can (and do) feel betrayed even if sexual contact hasn't happened.

For example, imagine that you're female and your partner is male. You've been together for eight years and you decide to host a party for his promotion at work. A female that you've never met or heard about walks in and you realize quickly that she knows quite a lot of details about you and your life. Way more, in fact, than you know about her, as you've never even heard your husband talk about her. You realize that he has a very close relationship with her and also that you had no idea. While there may have been no romantic or sexual involvement, you feel absolutely betrayed. The point of this example is not to say that your partner shouldn't have friends outside of your relationship (that's not at all the case). The point of this is to highlight that your partner's emotional connection coupled with secrecy (a key word) is grounds for betrayal and infidelity. 

How will I ever trust again?

This is one of the most pressing questions and fears for any person who's been betrayed. It's hard. And that's putting it mildly. The reality is that your whole world has been shattered and you're on the precipice of even deciding whether or not you want to make it work. You may love your partner very much, but aren't sure at this point whether or not they can be trusted. Rightfully so. Your trust has just been shattered. 

That doesn't mean you won't ever trust again. It does mean that we'll carefully rebuild trust between the two of you (if all parties are interested in rebuilding the relationship) and that it will take time, effort, and intention. It will be painful, yes, but where you're currently at is also painful. It becomes a matter of deciding which painful route you want to take. And that doesn't feel fair and, in many ways, it's not. And that doesn't change where you are. You can trust again, but it takes time and hard work. 

Can I heal from this?

Short answer: yes and it depends. Regardless of what mass media would have you believe, most divorces or separations aren't direct results of affairs. Affairs and infidelities are usually symptomatic of larger/more issues in a relationship. So healing is two-fold. First, there's healing the immediate betrayal, which is devastating to the person who's been betrayed. This takes precedence. Secondly, there's healing the larger issues within your relationship. There's no cookie-cutter "larger issue" within any relationship, but we do know a few things regarding what successful relationships look like. Part of the work in healing is tending to this factors that create successful relationships. It's possible and it happens.

One of the best videos on affairs that's out there is right here. Spend the next few minutes watching it and embracing that, if you and your partner choose to try to move past the betrayal, then your relationship is not going to be the same. You're going to start a new way of being together. It's hard work, but for lots of people, it's worth it.

In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage.
— Robert Anderson
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