By David Joel Miller
7 things you need to know if you stay together after an affair
Divorce After an Affair?
Photo courtesy of Flickr (DrJohnBullas)
So one partner has had an affair, should you divorce? Should you stay and try to work it out?
Here are some of the things that you need to think about, talk about and work through in counseling before you decide whether to stay together or separate.
1. Do you and your partner share any common values, goals and interests? What do you have in common other than having been sexual partners?
Having common values and goals for your life is a great predictor of long-term compatibility. In the first intoxicating insanity of love we often do not ask questions about the values that underlie our potential partner’s desires and dreams.
No matter how hard you try to support your partner’s dreams and goals if you have different values the results are uncertain.
Any couple should expect to have tough times. Affairs are one of the toughest. So are deaths in the family, particularly the death of a child. Addictions are another severe crisis.
When a couple is thinking about the decision to stay together or part ways, now is the time to have those discussions about your values. That discussion can bring you closer together or help you make the decision that this relationship is not salvageable.
2. How will you feel about yourself if you stay? What does it mean to you if you go?
The first few weeks after the discovery of an affair you may be asking yourself all sorts of questions about you. How did you make this mistake, is it your fault that the partner cheated.
This is a time to get in touch with yourself. Some people can never forgive or forget. This is an especially difficult problem for those who have been the victim of abuse or neglect in the past. If you already had “trust issues” this crisis may be beyond your ability to accept.
Think this through carefully. If you can feel good about yourself for the decision to stay, then give this a chance. If you feel you can never forgive yourself for letting them get away with this then your own mental health may demand that you leave.
3. How will you feel about being alone?
Are you likely to get into another relationship to fill that void? If you do start a new relationship they will have a sexual and relational past.
Being alone can be a scary situation. If you are fearful about that think carefully about your ability to stay single for any length of time after you end up separating.
Each partner you pick will come with a past. People fresh out of a relationship, those who are afraid to be alone, are at extra risk to start a relationship with a person who has their own set of problems and their own emotional baggage.
If you have a lot of time invested in a relationship, be careful that you do not leave one partner because they had an affair only to enter a new relationship with someone who is single because of their affair.
There are reasons why people are single. Think about what attracted you to this certain partner. Will those same things be attractive in a new partner? What are the chances that you will pick a new partner that may cheat or have an undesirable sexual past?
4. Did you contribute to this in any way? Will you change or will you pick a new partner and go through this again next time.
If you had a role in these problems, say you did not have those discussions about problems with your partner before they started the affair you will probably contribute to the same sort of problems with the next partner.
It takes two healthy people to have a healthy relationship. If you are healthy and both you and your partner are willing to work on mending this breach, you have a good chance of ending up with a great relationship. If only you will stay and do the work.
5. Is he or she reliable in other ways or is this part of their pattern of being unreliable.
If this is the only significant problem in your relationship then it may well be mendable. If this partner has a history of not coming through when you need them, they are not likely to change just because you know about the affair.
6. Besides being lovers were you two really life partners.
If you have things in common, you like the same things, have the same hobbies and want the same things out of life, consider staying together and mending the problems in the partnership.
If the only thing you had in common was the sexual part or if the emotional closeness you had is gone and neither of you are willing to do the work to get it back, then the chances are good that you will never be life partners.
Two people living separate lives under the same roof is not much to settle for.
7 What other serious problems does your partner have?
If your partner has other serious problems, addiction, alcoholism or gambling, an affair could be the smallest part of the problems you will have to face. Criminal lifestyles can sweep you up. So can most any other addiction.
All of these are things to consider before making your decision to stay or go. It can help to talk this through with a Marriage Counselor or trusted advisor.
For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at http://www.counselorfresno.com/recommended-books/
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