picture of broken flower pots

Affairs in relationships

When an affair happens in a committed relationship it is often an act of betrayal to one partner and a source of shame to the other. There are therefore two injured people despite it not appearing so.


When an affair is uncovered there is typically a crisis within the relationship. Accompanying this is emotional pain which is every bit as excruciating as physical pain. There is often a pressing need to attempt to relieve this pain by reacting in some way. This may be to end the relationship immediately by leaving or insisting the other leaves. Alternatively there may be panic and fear of the other partner leaving for the other person. There may be an initial clinging and agreement to certain unconducive conditions.

In this situation it is better not react in the moment and make extreme decisions that may regretted later

Serial Affairs

For the few individuals who have multiple affairs this usually indicates that they need constant reassurance. This may be due to feelings of inadequacy, emptiness, to prove themselves sexually or unable to move past the early stages of being passionately ‘in love’ and unable to commit to a deeper and more meaningful relationship. In this instance it may be necessary to embark on individual counselling or them to understand their reasons for not being able to stay faithful within an agreed committed relationship.

Confronting the Affair

Frequently the person who has been betrayed detects something is different in a partners behaviour. Although they knew something was wrong it can be difficult to broach as their partner may just deny anything is happening. Conversely they may also be afraid of what will happen if their fears are proved right and what they do then.

At some point the affair comes out into the open. It is then it cannot be ignored and has to be confronted for better or worse.

Admitting the Impact

The person who had the affair may not appreciate the impact it has had on their partner and may seek to downplay the trauma that this has caused. Equally they may discount the importance on the relationship or their involvement with the other person.

If the relationship is to get past this rupture then the person who had the affair has first to admit to themselves the betrayal of the relationship and the impact on the other.

Relationship at Risk

The affair puts the continuation of the relationship at risk. It will take time to decide if they are trust worthy and if the relationship can be built or even if there is the will to do so.

It’s important to look at the relationship prior to the affair and understand what was happening to both partners as a couple and as individuals. In some instances there have been ongoing conflicts that have not been discussed and resolved instead they have been ignored to keep the peace. In other situations one partner feels left out, ignored or stifled and a lack of identity.

There is a Reason

Affairs don’t just happen. It might be a personal crisis such as bereavement or illness. A father may feel pushed out when a baby is born. A mother may lose her role when children leave home. The fear of losing a relationship may also lead to an affair in an attempt to head off not being left alone. Relationships go through changes as time passes, this has a direct bearing on what happens individually and as a couple.

Pain, Empathy and Respect

Both partners will hurt emotionally and it is an important part of the healing process that each can recognise the other pain in an empathic and respectful way.

This is not to excuse what has happened, rather it’s important for both partners to understand what lead up to the affair and their part in it.

This enables better choices to be made and decisions about what changes need to be made for the benefit of any future relationship.


Often the next phase is to work through the areas of conflict that have not yet been addressed. This is helpful in two ways. The first is to recognise the conflict that is still in the relationship. Bring in out into the open so it may be acknowledged by both partners and then worked through. The second is being able to acknowledge and address conflicts that arise in the future.  Differences can then be resolved in a positive way that enhance the relationship, rather than diminish it.


It takes time, courage and patience to rebuild a committed relationship. There is a need for each to consider if they are worthy of the others trust. Hold the in mind what has happened with awareness and insight. Continue to be mindful of what happened in the past so that it is not repeated in the future.