Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

couple unhappyTears in her eyes, Rachel admitted to Tom she had an affair. But does this mean the marriage is over?

Betrayal cuts deep and undermines the trust in any committed relationship. Affairs are secretive relationships,  emotional connections to someone outside the relationship, and an expression of sexual desire. They can happen in a number of ways and wherever opportunity exists.

One of the reasons affairs hurt so deeply is because of betrayal. When we commit to a relationship, we believe the person should meet all our needs, yet affairs say, he/she did not.

Unmet needs often include feelings of loss, an unhappy sense of self, a longing for autonomy, an adolescence never had, a wish to feel alive or to beat back death–all representing both longing and loss. Affairs are less about sex and more about desire. And they don’t always mean the other person has failed to do something.

In today’s world, we feel entitled to pursue our desires and believe divorce would help us be happier. But rather than seek happiness (which might be grounded in a person’s own unresolved issues of loss and need) outside the relationship, it is possible to stay in a relationship and deal with the underlying issues of unhappiness.

The jolt of an affair can reveal a person’s issues and move the relationship into a deeper sense of meaning and connection. Good can come out of what might have been the status quo for a couple.  A more intimate and meaningful relationship in which desire is rekindled can be built.

The work is not easy. Healing begins when the perpetrator acknowledges wrong doing and realizes the depth of hurt he/she has exacted on the partner. The deceived one must deal with the loss of self-worth and resist the curiosity of seeking sordid details that will only inflict more pain in the imagination.

Instead, the betrayed one should focus on questions like what did this affair mean in the relationship, what prompted the person to look outside of the relationship,  and what can be built in our relationship to meet unmet needs and desires. Questions like these will move the relationship forward and can reorganize the relationship into one of  growth opportunities.

The longing for desire and more is at the root of most affairs. Certainly a deeper intimacy with God can meet that need and may be at the root of the problem. The need for validation, unconditional acceptance and love can only be fully met in a spiritual life that may also need revitalization.

 

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