Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – email@example.com
This blog is intended to give you a flavour of how I work. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the bottom right of this page
A common theme in my work as a couple counsellor is working with the aftermath of an affair. Affairs can destroy relationships, but paradoxically they can also be a trigger to helping couples to improve their relationships.
Affairs can have many different causes but the results are generally the same – a loss of trust for the non-affair person, accompanied by feelings of rejection and betrayal. Regaining trust is often a slow and painful process, and one that can seem impossible at first – but it can be done, through a combination of patience and understanding. Communication is immensely important in couples dealing with the aftermath of an affair. There have been secrets, big secrets, and it is important that both parties are able to be honest and open with each other in order to rebuild a sense of partnership.
It is very common for the non-affair person to have questions – sometimes a great many questions – about what has happened. It is also very common that the affair party doesn’t want tot answer these questions, whether through guilt, or through not wanting to hurt their partner further.
All couples are different, but in general I think it is important that these questions are answered. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that it is a way of rebuilding trust. A refusal to answer questions is a continuation of the secrecy that has been going on during the affair. The non-affair partner will feel blocked out by a huge wall of deceit and lies – getting honest answers to questions is one way for that wall to be dismantled – a slow process, brick by brick.
The second reason for providing answers to the questions is that often the non-affair partner needs to rewrite history. For the duration of the affair, the life they have been living has been false, based on assumptions that are not true. When the affair is revealed suddenly there is a huge gap in the story they hold about their life, and they need to fill that gap with a new history, a new understanding to enable them to move on.
For the affair partner, the process of answering questions can be stressful. It is important to understand how these questions are helping your partner, and be patient with the process. You may well find that your partner asks the same questions multiple times – that is normal, it’s a way of building trust. You may feel that the questions are never-ending, and if that happens it can be a good idea to put time boundaries around question and answer sessions, so that you both get a break from a difficult process, and also so that the non-affair partner has time to think – to digest the answers they’ve received and think about what other questions they have.
For the non-affair partner, there is a danger in this process that answers lead to more questions, and in some cases this desire to know what has happened can become obsessive. Beyond a certain point, it’s therefore important to start filtering the questions you have, concentrating on those that are genuinely going to help you understand what has happened, rather than those which are just about knowing details which ultimately are insignificant.
Counselling can help in various ways, by improving communication, by building trust, by developing an mutual understanding of what has happened, by giving you some tools to help deal with difficult moments, and to re-negotiate the relationship in the future. I will write more on these themes in the next few weeks.