Upset couple on couch

Few things are as painful and potentially destructive to a relationship as an affair.

For many people, the hurt can be overwhelming and can mean a long-lasting rupture in the relationship, sometimes permanent separation.

Well-meaning friends and relatives often reinforce the belief that separation is the only course of action. ‘Kick him out!’ Leave her!’

However they say it, many people want us to take action.

Not surprisingly, so do we.

When we are in pain, it is natural to take action. When the pain is great enough, doing something can relieve the pain and make us feel more powerful. when our partner has been unfaithful, it is we will feel powerless and vulnerable, and these are feelings which are intolerable for most of us.

The problem with this, is that taking action might relieve us temporarily, but it does little or nothing to change the situation. Taking action may mean that we leave ourselves no possibility of reconciliation and repair. There is a lot at stake in breaking up a relationship. The longer we have been together and the more we have invested – children, house, investments – the more we have to lose.

And then there is the emotional investment we have made in the relationship.

I am not referring here to situations where a partner has been constantly unfaithful or abusive. There are cases where separation may be a reasonable course of action.

In most cases, relationships can survive an affair. Many of the couples I see have been able to repair the relationship and even improve it.

If couples are able, in most cases, they can repair the relationship and learn to trust each other again. Trust in the relationship is usually the main casualty of an affair, and it is difficult to re-establish. Most of those who have been ‘cheated on’ remain suspicious and often want to check every email, phone call and text message their partner receives. The cheated on partner will often want to lay down restrictions on their partner’s movements and who they see.

Many of these are understandable and even reasonable, up to a point. Ultimately, though, it is important to give up playing detective, since this rarely reassures us. I often say to couples, that if we go looking for evidence of unfaithfulness, we will find it. It is easy to interpret something that is innocent as betrayal.

That is not to say we should simply be blind and ignore danger signs – far from it! We must learn to be willing to question our partner’s behaviour – respectfully and with willingness to listen

The prime approach to rebuilding trust in a relationship is building the communication between the couple. When we have deeper, more intimate conversations, we build a clearer picture of what is in our partner’s minds. We can become confident about what they will do – and what they won’t do.

Communicating what we a re feeling, thinking and what we want allows us to build a relationship that we want. If we are in a relationship we want, we will not want to destroy what we have.

To have a positive outcome, it is essential to seek professional help. Few, if any, of us are able to have the perspective needed to resolve the issues involved in this situation. A professional counsellor, who you feel comfortable with, can lead you through the process of repairing the relationship and help you ensure that your relationship can continue into the future in better condition than before.