7 Tips For Dealing With An Affair Often times when an affair happens, you may be the last to know. Use these tips to regain yourself and get a grasp on your marriage. BY SHARON M. RIVKIN, MA, MFT
Once you find out about yourself, it's important to take the proper steps to move forward.
Usually weíre surprised by an affair because weíve ignored the early warning signs, such as arguments that never got resolved, or built-up feelings of resentment due to diminishing communication and emotional and sexual interest. We donít realize that these are the seeds of affairs. We donít take these signs seriously because we think the issues will go away or resolve themselves. But they donít. They unconsciously build momentum, and before we know it, we have found out that our partner has cheatedÖwithout us even knowing the marriage was in trouble.
No matter what your situationóif you did or didnít know about the affair, or if you didnít even know you had marriage problemsóyou donít have to blame and shame yourself. Instead, take the feelings of betrayal, doubt and insecurity and learn about yourself. You may be rolling your eyes and saying, "Why do I want to learn about myself? I want to know why it happened, and why I didnít know!" Learning about you takes the focus off of your spouse and enables you to regain your self-worth and stop questioning every decision and choice youíve ever made.
Here are seven tips to take action now that you know about the affair:
1. Donít blame yourself.
2. Donít dwell. Move beyond the wonderment of why you didnít know and begin the healing process by using the next five steps.
3. Expect an emotional rainbow. Know that youíll go through many stages of grief ranging from anger, sadness, relief and even feelings of love for your spouse. Donít be surprised if passion and excitement are reignited after an affair.
4. Use this crisis as a time to look within. Look at the history of the relationship. See where you knew something was wrong and how you ignored it, or thought you had dealt with it.
5. Learn from what happened. How can you change your beliefs and patterns so that you are aware and can effectively address your fights and disagreements? Unresolved issues can lead to affairs because partners feel helpless and hopeless to connect with each other, thereby leaving the door open to seek connection elsewhere.
6. Formulate a good support system for yourself. You want to gather a group of people you can trust so you can voice your emotions immediately. Getting support at these times is critical because supportive friends and family can help you to feel better about yourself and cofirm that youíre not alone.
7. The pain may require professional help. If your feelings are severe and you find yourself in a depression, or with constant anxiety and/or hopelessness, seek professional help. The quicker you get help, the sooner you will feel better about yourself and develop new tools to deal with your feelings of betrayal. Donít wait!
This may seem like the end of the world, but itís really a new beginning. Itís an opportunity for growth and change within yourself and your marriage. Remember, stagnation kills relationships, but change keeps them alive. The more conscious we can become of our own patterns and those of our spouse, the better chance we have of not being the last to know.
Sharon M. Rivkin, Marriage and Family Therapist, and author of "The First Argument: Cutting to the Root of Intimate Conflict," (www.thefirstargument.com) has worked with couples for 25-plus years. Her unique insight into the first argument was featured in "O: The Oprah Magazine" and "Readerís Digest," and has attracted people throughout the U.S. and abroad for consultation, workshops, and courses. For more information on Sharon Rivkin visit www.sharonrivkin.com.