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The Good News About Infidelity — Part 3: The Future

Rachel Alexander June 12, 2022

{3 minutes to read}  This article, the last in the infidelity series with our partner and friend, couples therapist Meredith Keller, LPC, ACS, looks to the future for couples overcoming a marital breach:

Where Do We Go From Here? 

The future concerns itself with co-creating a new and better relationship, informed by the therapeutic explorations in the early phases (the Past and Present).

What can emerge now can be a deepened intimacy, a richer, more mosaic relationship, where more of the other can be present, shared and known.

Here in the process, the couple is building something new, expanding their relational structure so that it can now accommodate who they more fully know themselves to be. This expanded structure has room for the hidden, unexpressed and disenfranchised aspects of themselves. 

It is quite possible to heal after an affair. And not only that, but also, with the necessary work, grow the relationship. 

Part of the work that Meredith does in this part of the process recognizes and acknowledges that the betrayed spouse will be triggered from time to time. Certain things will set each one off. The couple, together with the therapist, develops a framework and strategy for handling these events when they arise.

And what will arise will require thoughtful, regular management. This is anathema to our Ryan (the “injured” spouse) having a free pass to beat the heck out of Lane (our transgressor); it is not a set up wherein Lane must steal himself against an endless barrage of backlash. The framework is meant to avoid punishment, abuse, stonewalling and toxic reliving of the hurt. Instead it is meant to anticipate that the hurt will naturally arise,  and both parties must be prepared to meet it with the patient attention it requires in order for it to resolve. In this way the spouses continue the healing process, while establishing safety and solidarity.  

Some examples of how the couple preemptively plans to navigate the post-affair pitfalls:

  • When Lane has to travel back to the location where the affair took place, Ryan becomes afraid of another infidelity. Lane and Ryan might agree that Lane will leave the location app active on his phone during the trip, and will be in frequent contact at designated times and/or responsive when Ryan texts or calls. The couple might agree that Ryan will need to talk when worrying thoughts arise and that Lane will listen and reassure Ryan of their love for one another.  

  • If the computer was integral in the affair, Ryan might worry when Lane is on the computer outside of work hours. Again, the spouses will develop a supportive interaction around this. Maybe Lane agrees to leave the computer history active and all Internet searches public. Perhaps Lane invites Ryan into the computer room to share what is being looked at/worked on.  

With any plan, the betrayed spouse must be able to come to his partner when triggered and verbalize what he is wondering or feeling without being told to “Let it go, already!” The betrayed spouse can ask for his preferred types of assurances, perhaps a hug or verbal affirmation, so as to feel reconnected. As they encounter post-affair challenges, the couple can work together in this way, (rather than repeat the avoidant, combative or defensive behaviors enacted prior to and during the affair), to create a new way of being together. This new way is on the side of the self and the other. This new way is on the side of their relationship.

Rachel Alexander

Rachel Alexander
Alexander Mediation Group

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