Engagement coach talks affairs - KMSP-TV

Engagement coach talks affairs

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You probably know someone who has had an affair, and maybe that someone is you. Adrienne C. Laursen, LMFT and owner of The Engagement Coach, discusses what defines an affair, whether to tell your partner, and how to recover from it once it's happened.

1. What Defines An "Affair" In A Committed Relationship?

Every couple's definition of what constitutes an affair is likely going to be different based on their values, opinions and upbringings. I like to think of an affair as: Any relationship outside of your committed relationship that requires denial, secrecy, lying, omission of details, feelings of sexual attraction and/or intimate emotional conversations. It's important to talk with your partner about parameters for friends outside of the relationship, to ensure you both trust each other and feel comfortable with what your partner is doing and with whom they're doing it. The rule of thumb on affairs is fairly simple… if you can't comfortably share what you're doing with your partner, you shouldn't be doing it.

2. To Tell or Not To Tell? {that is the question}

There is a lot of controversy about whether an unfaithful partner "should" tell his/her partner about either an emotional or sexual affair. That question can only be answered by you. Some feel that by telling your partner you're relieving yourself of a guilty conscience. Others feel that by not telling, you're misleading your partner and the future of your relationship. The fact is that once you've cheated, you've cheated! The betrayal of your partner's trust won't go away, and if you want to have a future with your partner that is built on a foundation of emotional intimacy, honesty and trust, you're going to need to work through it together. Of course there is the risk that you partner will leave you and choose not to work on the relationship. Either way, ask yourself this question… "If your partner was unfaithful to you, would you want to know or go on in the relationship being blissfully {or unblissfully} unaware?" You owe it to yourself and your partner to discuss the disconnection and unhappiness that you're feeling in the relationship, and to give him/her the chance to make it right.

3. Why Both Partners Are Usually Responsible

If you're dealing with an affair in your relationship, you CAN get past it! It's important to remember that this process takes a lot work, a lot of vulnerability and a tremendous amount of transparency. Initially, it's easy to focus on the person who had the affair as the one to blame. While that person is solely responsible for his/her choices and actions, it's important to remember that both partners played a role in creating the distance, hurt and lack of intimacy in the relationship, that likely led up to the affair. That can be a hard pill to swallow when you're the non-cheater, but looking back at your relationship, it becomes clear that the relationship was likely on the rocks well before the affair occurred. {of course this isn't always the case, some people just cheat to cheat} Trust and forgiveness are key components to rebuilding the connection. The offender has to work genuinely hard to repair the damage he/she has caused {and be genuinely sorry for their actions}, and the non-offender has to be willing to work on their issues that led to the disconnect in the first place.

4. How To Rebuild Trust In Your Relationship After The Affair

The first part of rebuilding trust in the relationship is for the offender to be open and honest about what happened. This does mean answering questions about who/what/where because your partner will want to know what happened. In addition, the offender also has to allow the non-offending partner access to their life. Because of the amount of secrecy involved in an affair, it's important to show your partner that you're not doing anything wrong and that you truly want to repair the damage you've caused. You both need to identify actions that will allow the offender to rebuild trust throughout every day, and then complete those actions. This isn't forever, but initially it will be hard for the non-offender to work on the relationship if he/she feels you're still keeping secrets or not genuinely sorry. It's important for the offender to show empathy for how the non-offender must be feeling.

After an affair occurs, it isn't likely that a couple can work through it {truly work through it} without the help of a trained therapist. Because of the complex emotions involved, a third party is really necessary to help you both work through those emotions in a constructive way and to help you begin to repair some of the damage the affair has caused.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION: "After The Affair" by Janice Abrahms Spring

5. Tips To Prevent It From Happening Again

Affairs happen! They happen in every kind of relationship and there's no way to know when or if it will happen to you. The best defense for keeping an affair out of your relationship is having truly open relationship that focuses on trust building, communication and emotional/sexual intimacy. It's important to always be working on these core components to ensure you and your partner stay connected and in-tune with one another. Don't have secrets in your relationship to start with and if you feel yourself being pulled away from your partner, identify it and be accountable for it and address the concern with your partner BEFORE things get out of control.

For more information on Adrienne's counseling services and relationship tips, please visit her website at www.TheEngagementCoach.com.

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