Contrary to popular belief (and fairy tales), bad things happen in good relationships. “I’m out of here!” isn't the only answer. As challenging as an affair (emotional or physical) or “some cheating” in a relationship is, it isn’t necessarily a relationship breaker. Yes, these events often shake individuals to their core and you might feel completely turned upside down. Ultimately, this might be a good thing. . .
Are you asking yourself:
“Is this it?”
“Are we through?”
Did you happen to ask:
“Can we repair this relationship?”
Difficult times call for action, but beware the “first reaction.” In the shock and pain of the discovery (or being discovered -- yes, both partners feels shock and pain) one’s first reaction is to put this event front and center. And well, like any human being you’re going to be afraid. . . and afraid can be overwhelming. When that fear becomes overwhelming normal biological processes take over. You might have heard, that in response to fear we all have this basic instinct to fight, flight, freeze, or flop. But enough with the science lesson. Let’s talk about you. . . sound like you? Ready to fight with your partner? How about run? Maybe you feel stuck? Or maybe you can’t even move. . . All perfectly normal. Good news is you don’t have to stay wrapped-up in fear.
First, let me tell you how to stay in the fear. Fight, run, remain stuck or flopped. Talk with family members, friends, and co-workers who reinforce your fear and keep you in this response. Listen to them tell you how terrible your partners is and this will keep your distress front and center. Okay, I’m a bit sarcastic here, however, does this sound familiar? Even a little? See, you’re likely not looking for reinforcement of your fears from friends and family (and they have best intentions) but what often happens is your experience triggers fear in them. And there you are, you and your confidant reacting in fear together.
Another good way to stay in the fear is to focus on it by targeting in on all the other relationships that are breaking up. I’m sure you’ve heard of a few. Check out the tabloid headlines and listen around the water cooler. Hear how the right thing to do is to leave and "save face". You’ll get that fear reinforcement.
But maybe you’d rather not reinforce your fear.
Maybe you don’t want to hold fear front and center.
So move through that fear just a little and read this:
Relationships do repair.
Maybe you just haven’t had the chance to see it. Sadly, repair isn’t talked about much. I guess “repair” just isn’t as exciting to hear about as a “heated divorce.” Too bad. Because if it were talked about more, you’d know that many good relationships experience events that challenge partners’ trust and love for one another. And many of these relationships repair.
Has your relationship been fulfilling and enjoyable up to now?
Beneath the fear do you still love your partner?
Are you open to repairing your relationship?
How about your partner?
If you’re both open to repairing your relationship, a well trained couples psychotherapist can help. When you call a therapist, ask about “repair work” and ask how they might work with you and your partner. When both partners work together repairing trust and love is possible.
If your partner won’t seek therapy with you. . . go on your own. See someone who is skilled to work with you individually and understands relational repair as well. A lot can happen for you and your relationship as you sort through your feelings and move to a better understanding of what you want in relationship (or not) with your partner.
As hard, shocking, challenging and painful as an affair can be, with work and professional guidance, you have an opportunity for personal growth. Add a willing partner and the two of you have opportunities for relational growth beyond what you can imagine. Opportunities beyond repair. What I know is that couples can move through pain to repair and grow together in fulfilling meaningful relationships. I’ve seen it. And you likely have too. . . as every good relationship you see has been through its' own challenges and growth.
Nannette is a mother, wife, daughter, friend, psychotherapist and blog writer. She is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and works with individuals, couples and families in her private psychotherapy practice located in Kennebunk, Maine. Nannette has faced a number of relationship challenges as well as had the wonderful opportunity to grow in her marriage of 22 years. Nannette appreciates your thoughts and comments and hopes you’ll look for additional Healthy&Whole blogs on her website nannettenerozukecounseling.com
Photo & Image credits: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Couple In Love Having Break Up courtesy of smarnad; Young Couple Having A Dispute & Blonde Female Hide Her Face courtesy of David Castillo Dominici; Loving Couple courtesy of Ambro