Other people can sense it when they’re with you and your partner. You can see it, hear it and feel it when you are together. There is a subtle (or not so subtle) layer of something between you that wasn’t always there.
It’s a distance, a tension, a strained or forced energy…and it’s why you’re feeling dissatisfied and maybe even second-guessing your decision to stay with your partner after he or she had an emotional affair.
It’s a lot like the dust that settles over everything when home or business renovations have been going on. Stores post signs that say, “Pardon Our Dust” as workers drill, hammer and sand. You may have to walk around tarps to avoid the construction going on.
It’s loud and inconvenient, even if you’re well aware that improvements are being made.
Your relationship in repair is much the same. As you and your partner navigate the days, weeks, months and maybe even years after the emotional affair, you are going through renovations of a different kind.
You’re learning to trust one another again as you also learn from past mistakes that were made by both of you.
Even if you feel relatively certain that one day this work will pay off and you and your partner will rebuild your relationship into something even better, for now, it’s inconvenient and uncomfortable.
This relationship repair phase often feels strained and uncertain. You can’t know for sure whether or not the damage can be overcome completely or at all.
It’s important for you both to be patient with yourselves and with each other. When you feel irritable or are filled with doubt, remember that re-construction is in process and that it won’t happen all at once.
Recognize the improvements you two have made so far. These might seem insignificant or minor, but notice them anyway because they’re important.
Is your partner sharing more with you than before?
Are you responding differently than you used to?
Are you two making time to connect in new ways?
Not only does this level of awareness help ease impatience when it comes up, it also fosters appreciation and that’s an essential element of a healthy and happy relationship.
One reason why relationships don’t ever recover from an emotional affair is because the couple can’t shake the residue of the affair. The layers of stored up anger, resentment and mistrust make it impossible for either of them to see and appreciate the good stuff that may be trying to take hold.
The “dust” of the hurt feelings covers everything…and suffocates love completely.
Consciously clear the air.
What you might not have fully done yet is to clear the air. We’re not suggesting that you rush into the room screaming and shouting at your partner. We are encouraging you to continue the process of allowing your emotions in healthy ways.
Too many people limit themselves emotionally. They believe that they get a finite amount of time to have strong feelings about the emotional affair (and other relationship challenges) and then, that’s it.
The reality is that your emotions about a betrayal will fluctuate. Something will trigger you and a wave of rage or grief may come over you. At other times, you’ll touch in to warm and loving feelings.
That’s all natural and part of the process.
To consciously clear the air means to give yourself permission to feel what you feel. You don’t necessarily have to dump what you’re feeling on your partner, but do be honest. Give yourself personal space when you need it to let out those raw and intense feelings in ways that don’t harm you, your partner or anyone else.
Move forward from right NOW.
When you regularly clear the air and allow your emotions to come up and release in healthy ways, you can more easily move beyond the residue of the affair.
It’s easier to really be present and to respond from what’s happening right now– instead of from old emotional wounds.
Things can get confusing when you’re repairing your relationship. Your partner will say or do something that reminds you of the time when he or she was cheating. You immediately get suspicious and you may either impulsively go on the attack or withdraw into yourself.
With both of these reactions, you’re not helping your relationship. The residue builds up even more.
As quickly as you can, ask yourself the question: “What’s true now?”
You might not have a definitive answer, but this can help you shift your thinking and move out of the past and back into the now. Review what you know about the present situation.
Do you have reliable information that– right now– your partner is not being honest or is somehow betraying you? If so, then follow up and get facts to help you make a decision.
But, if you are basing your suspicions on what happened in the past, then you’re letting the dust cloud your view. Clear it and re-focus on what’s best for you (and your relationship) now.
Things can get confusing and frustrating when you’re trying to rebuild trust after an emotional affair. Susie and Otto Collins are Breakthrough Relationship Coaches who help couples and individuals transform their relationships and lives. Click here to find out more about their telephone, in-person or Skype coaching program.