As we have been shut down as a society, there will be changes for some couples as the world begins to open up again, I am especially thinking of the couples who are healing from an affair.
Some of these couples have had a respite during COVID; a safe (and forced) cocoon within which to heal and rebuild. When we start to live more normally, some of these partners will be going back to the office, the gym, to business travel, these are the very triggers and temptations that may have stimulated the infidelity.
For hurt partners, an affair is traumatic. Their world has been ripped apart, the ground beneath them has fallen through, and nothing feels safe and normal. During Covid, they may have had an opportunity to spend time with their spouses, to ask the questions that inevitably arise, to talk through the meaning of the affair, and to begin creating a foundation of trust.
For couples that are emerging from this safety net the question may be looming; can a marriage survive an affair after COVID? Your relationship can certainly survive and even thrive but it will take some careful attention and intention. Notice where the potential problems may lie and know how to respond.
Once we start to enter the world again, two pitfalls lurk:
4 things couples can do as they are healing from an affair
While there are challenges ahead there are things that you and your partner can do to continue healing and to avoid setbacks.
- 1The person who had the affair will need to have renewed empathy for what those triggers will feel like for the hurt partner. This sounds easier than it actually is. For the betrayer partner, talking about the affair can bring up feelings of guilt and shame. Often, the betrayer partner wants to move on: “we’ve talked about this so many times. When will you get over this?” But if “betrayer partners” can soothe their own emotions and stay tuned into the hurt partner's needs and understandable vulnerabilities, the couples will have a much better chance of staying connected through this difficult time.
- 2Putting a plan in place is essential. If a partner had an affair on a business trip and will now be traveling again, the couple will want to talk specifically about what to expect. How can the betrayer partner help the hurt partner? Would calling to check in more frequently help? Do reassuring words of commitment help? What plan can they put in place to help the hurt partner feel more secure, and also help the betrayer partner earn trust?
- 3These couples will need to stay even more connected during this time by talking, spending enjoyable time together, and working through conflict. The hurt partner may feel scared and vulnerable and reaching out to their spouse and sharing those feelings can help build trust.
- 4Self-care is always essential. This includes; eating nourishing food, sleeping well, exercising, talking to good friends, engaging in meaningful and restorative activities, managing stress. When we take care of ourselves, we have greater bandwidth to work on our marriages.
While a slip-back into the raw feelings can be difficult to experience, if the couple has already worked through the initial shock and pain of the affair, they will likely be able to work through this next difficult stage as well.
Talking with one another is essential. Remaining open and honest about difficult feelings and helping the hurt partner feel seen and validated will help these couples work through this challenging time.Can a marriage survive an affair after COVID? It certainly can. If you are one of these couples healing from an affair, I wish you the support of people who love you, resilience to feel painful feelings, and the courage to ask for help when you need it.