Relationship Coaching
   with Amy Newshore M.Ed, CMHC

Powerful • Productive • Result-Oriented

Let’s Talk Relationships: Can relationships survive infidelity?

Amy Newshore

For the Recorder

Published: 8/4/2023 1:51:04 PM

When infidelity has been revealed, the worst nightmare in a marriage or relationship has become a reality. The life that was known before has now drastically changed into one of uncertainty and immense pain.

The term “infidelity” is used here to mean a secret sexual or emotional affair that betrays the agreements shared by partners, regardless of whether they have chosen monogamy or ethical non-monogamy.

It can be absolutely possible to heal from infidelity and keep the marriage or relationship intact, but the traumatic impact of affairs cannot be underestimated. The tremendous emotional fallout for the betrayed party consists of a whirlwind of emotions such as numbing shock, deep hurt, bewilderment, and overwhelming anger. Navigating through these emotions is in itself a daunting task, while daily responsibilities of working, parenting, etc. still require attention. Anxiety looms large as there are no quick answers to persistent questions such as: “What now?” “Can our relationship survive this?” “Can I ever trust again?” “How can I possibly get through this pain?” “Should I listen to my friends’ and family’s opinions as to what to do?”

For the one who was unfaithful, drastic consequences such as immense guilt, shame, remorse, and confusion can be debilitating as well. Along with dealing with the disequilibrium resulting from their own actions, the betrayed partner will require a lot from them, including whatever length of time is needed to heal, ongoing attentive listening as they express their pain, answers to their questions, and a lot of continued reassurance.

Sometimes the marriage or relationship needs to end after infidelity. On the other hand, infidelity can be a catalyst for enormous growth and needed improvement of the relationship. This can only occur if both parties want to do the arduous work of repair, and make this a top priority in their lives.

When there is skilled support and guidance such as from a couples therapist, affair recovery can result in a marriage or relationship that is better and stronger. A foundation of safety and trust, as hard as it might be to believe, can be restored. These are the essential ingredients needed for preventing future betrayals.

Often, a troubled relationship that is stuck in dysfunctional patterns needs some shaking up. Things just need to change. Although it is a most unfortunate way to go, an affair is so extremely disruptive to the relationship that it often leads to partners finally facing their issues. If the relationship is to stay intact, what is required of each partner is to be able to look at their own contributions to the problems. This does not mean that the hurt party is in any way responsible for the affair. The unfaithful partner bears full responsibility for making that choice.

Dynamics in a relationship such as shutting down, yelling, being dismissive of the other, criticizing and blaming are always unhealthy expressions of unmet important needs such as the need for attention, empathy, consideration, appreciation, equality, self-expression, and being understood. Unmet needs are the underlying cause of unhappiness in relationships. In my opinion, since every one of us has “needs,” this topic should be normalized and easily discussed. Needs have to be brought out into the light and addressed, in order for a relationship to be and stay healthy. If partners continue to have needs that go unmet and do not address them with each other, they will grow apart. Without ongoing authentic communication about each other’s feelings and needs, the precious bond between partners will fray and the relationship becomes either stagnant through avoidance of conflict or becomes one that is fraught with hostility.

If a partner is developing a relationship with someone outside of the committed relationship through having an affair, this choice is (often unknowingly) an attempt to get some important needs met. Clearly the much better, healthier and ethical thing to do instead is to address one’s unhappiness by engaging in authentic communication with one’s partner and work together as a team to better meet each other’s needs.

Relatedly, a partner may stray as an attempt to reclaim parts of themselves they have lost touch with. A new person may appear to be the impetus for those parts to re-emerge. An affair may offer the experience of reconnecting with one’s own aliveness, fun, authenticity and passion — parts of oneself that may not have been experienced for a while. It is often an illusion, however, that these qualities can be sustained with this new person, without truly knowing them.

After an affair is revealed, a decision on the betrayed person’s part to leave the marriage or relationship can seem to be the right way to go at first. But it might be wise to not make this life-changing decision hastily. When this decision is driven by intense emotional pain, without having explored the issues underlying the affair, an opportunity for reconciliation may be missed. I have seen many cases in which healing and moving forward together is indeed possible. As hard as it might be to imagine, a stronger foundation of trust can be established as long as there is motivation, a growth mindset, dedication and hard work shared by both partners.

Mustering up the courage and stamina needed to face the pain the affair has brought on and persevering through the recovery process often leads to a clear resolution to the crisis — with the partners finding their way to restoring the relationship, or deciding to go their separate ways.

For readers who are facing infidelity, it may seem hard to imagine that a positive outcome can bloom out of such trauma and pain. I am cheering you on to emerge from this crisis with clarity about your path forward. As mentioned, some relationships after an affair need to end. Many couples, however, have successfully moved forward. Perhaps this will strike a hopeful chord in your heart — that what may feel to be impossible (to restore trust, to recover) might just be possible.

Amy Newshore is a couples therapist/coach who earned her masters in clinical mental health counseling at Antioch New England University and went on to train in the Developmental Model for couples therapy along with Non-violent Communication which serve as the foundation of her work as a relationship coach. For more information visit her website at www.coachingbyamy.com.


Feel Free To Contact Me