THE BE­TRAYAL

THE EMO­TIONAL TOLL OF AN AF­FAIR CAN BE AS SHAT­TER­ING AS THE DEATH OF A LOVED ONE. COU­PLES CAN SUR­VIVE BUT IT RE­QUIRES COM­MIT­MENT

Life & Style Weekend - - RELATIONSH­IPS - WORDS: JOANNE WIL­SON

Only those who trust can find love and hap­pi­ness. And only those who love can be be­trayed. Wel­come to the fi­nal col­umn of my four-part se­ries on in­fi­delity which fea­tured: What counts as in­fi­delity. Myths and why do peo­ple do it. Pornog­ra­phy and af­fairs. To­day, what to do if you find your­self or your part­ner in an af­fair. Will you re­cover to­gether or apart? The ef­fect of an af­fair can be sim­i­lar to the grief as­so­ci­ated with death. It’s im­por­tant to re­alise the com­mon reper­cus­sions for both part­ners: In­tense emo­tional dys­reg­u­la­tion: For the un­sus­pect­ing “in­jured” part­ner, any sense of se­cu­rity and safety has been shat­tered. Both part­ners can ex­pe­ri­ence feel­ings such as hurt, anger, fear, dis­gust, sad­ness, shame and guilt. Symp­toms of de­pres­sion, grief and anx­i­ety and Post-trau­matic Stress Disor­der. Al­co­hol and other sub­stance use. Suicide at­tempts/com­ple­tion. Phys­i­cal health problems. Skewed as­sump­tions, be­liefs and mean­ing of life are changed for­ever. For ex­am­ple, “I thought I could trust you. Now, I don’t trust you any more and I don’t trust any­body else ei­ther.” In­jured part­ners of­ten have in­tru­sive mem­o­ries and flash­backs, and can al­ter­nate be­tween feel­ing numb and be­com­ing hy­per aroused and ac­cusatory. It is not catas­trophis­ing to note that dis­cov­er­ing an af­fair cre­ates a cri­sis. It is a dev­as­tat­ing threat to your part­ner’s se­cu­rity and at­tach­ment needs. Con­sider the ex­treme emo­tional ad­ver­sity and vul­ner­a­bil­ity from iso­la­tion and sepa­ra­tion in the events of mis­car­riage, death, and life-threat­en­ing ill­nesses. This is not dis­sim­i­lar. What now? Like many of these ex­treme events, cou­ples can re­cover when there is demon­strated com­mit­ment to­ward re­morse and for­give­ness. It usu­ally com­mences with un­der­stand­ing who the be­trayer sought to “be­come” and what needs they yearned to ful­fil. A usual pit­fall for cou­ples in re­cov­ery is for the be­trayer to down­play what has hap­pened in their ef­fort to re­press any shame and guilt. This causes the in­jured part­ner to re­peat ques­tions and con­cerns all over again with more fer­vour. It cre­ates a painful cy­cle that traps them in iso­la­tion and pain. Some of the demon­strated com­mit­ment in­cludes the ac­knowl­edge­ment that a pri­mary re­la­tion­ship rule has been bro­ken. A fo­cus on trans­parency, pa­tience, re­as­sur­ance and val­i­da­tion to re­pair the bro­ken trust is re­quired. It can take up to three years for trust to be re-es­tab­lished. In ther­apy, we col­lab­o­rate on skills to man­age flash­backs, ob­ses­sions and trig­gers, and talk about the dif­fer­ence be­tween rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and for­give­ness. Im­por­tantly, af­fair re­cov­ery recog­nises the needs of both part­ners, their long­ings and de­sires versus re­peated shame for the be­trayer. The great­est outcome is that cou­ples build a stronger, new and im­proved city of a re­la­tion­ship, far bet­ter than the one that was rocked in the earth­quake of the af­fair. If cou­ples de­cide to part, it is very im­por­tant to un­veil any re­sult­ing skewed be­liefs about them­selves or trust­ing oth­ers that can in­hibit fu­ture re­la­tion­ships. May I high­light that it’s fun to get fun and flirty in the Christ­mas sea­son. It is my hope that this se­ries has pro­vided a warn­ing as to the con­se­quences when you’re do­ing it with the wrong per­son. Missed the first part of the se­ries? Head to the blog on my web­site. Lis­ten in to ra­dio Salt 106.5 each Fri­day morn­ing be­fore 9am for my weekly chat on these ar­ti­cles.

Joanne is a neuro-psy­chother­a­pist and re­la­tion­ship spe­cial­ist at The Con­fi­dante Coun­selling. Email jo@the­con­fi­dan­te­coun­selling.com or visit www.the­con­fi­dan­te­coun­selling.com

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