Affairs are one of the most important wake-up calls, too. But we don’t have to always jump to our initial response of trashing the relationship from the moment of discovery. The recovery process is rich with the opportunity to really see aspects of your partner and depths in your relationship of which you were probably unaware. Processing the crisis requires establishing emotional safety and an agreement to not make any immediate decisions. It is a time that demands the courage to address the painful effects of the affair to the relationship while allowing the room for the volatile emotions that need venting. Because an affair is an erotic injury to the relationship, it has to be dealt with in the erotic lives of the partners. Reclaiming your sex life is critical to recovering from an affair.
Taking the steps to reconnect intimately can feel like pouring salt on an open cut. This is especially true if your attempts to understand the affair are demanding a full disclosure of events. The more time spent on the detective work of who, what, where and how the affair happened, the more painful will be the attempts to re-connect. Opening up and dealing with the insecurity and uncertainty of this fragile time can become quickly impossible if the meaning of what happened gets overrun with its details. Learning to ask for what you really need to know in your heart and not your mind is a big step towards discovering a path towards a newly defined relationship — whether it be reconciliation or separation.
Successfully working through these painful passages depends on developing a whole new level of empathy. Empathy exists between people in the field out beyond right and wrong. It takes and holds both partners’ experiences equally and creates a kinship of shared humanity. Asking questions that allow both partners to focus on why the affair happened and what it meant to each of them is an entirely different kind of discussion. Having the courage and curiosity to want to know what your partner learned about his or her self with someone else and what it felt like for them to feel like they were betraying you even as they had their own needs met is where a new intimacy can be born.
Beyond the guilt, shame and anger that classically defines the experience of infidelity lies an untapped depth of knowing another person’s erotic needs and desires and being able to learn to reveal your own. It is rich with sexual energy that can actually reinvent the monogamous contract you are grieving. Seeking forgiveness or even granting it mentally or verbally will not end the affair; there will always be someone else in the bedroom until both partners re-engage intimately with a new shared understanding and agreement about the sharing of their erotic selves.