Last weekend my partner of seven years confessed to me that for the past year he’s been seeing someone else. He says he’s realised his mistake, realised that he wants to be with me not with her, and wants us to start again.
I feel so stupid and so betrayed that I can’t bear him in the same room as me, and frankly I don’t know why I haven’t already thrown him out. The friends I’ve told – and my mother – all say I should let him go.
But there’s some part of me that wants to make it work – I remember the good times we’ve had and I want them back again. I also think that the fact he’s come clean means he genuinely does want that too. But am I just being weak? Should I show him the door, or forgive and forget?
Let me tell you now that you’ll never forget this – nor should you, and nor should your man. Because an affair is always a sign there’s something wrong and that you need to take notice. So don’t simply push this under the carpet, accept your man’s protestations or go on a second honeymoon.
Can you forgive? The way to forgive that isn’t helpful is to blame yourself for what happened as an alternative to blaming your partner. A lot of women in particular do this – convince themselves that their man was justified in playing away because they themselves weren’t thin enough/ sexy enough/ loving enough. Again, do that and you are not only making yourself feel bad but also giving your man carte blanche to repeat the affair, but this time with you giving him encouragement and a free pass.
To my mind the only way to get over an affair is to admit it, regret it, and start again. And the good news is that in fact, that’s what your partner is trying to do. He’s confessed all, he’s said he made a mistake, and he wants to recommit to you.
Should you agree? If he’s got a track record of infidelity then no – because for all his fine words he’ll just do it all again a way down the road. If he won’t agree to ending the affair, then no – because clearly he isn’t going to change. (And if you’re sure that you yourself could never, ever, ever put this behind you, then no – because there’s no point in prolonging the agony for both of you.)
But if he genuinely wants to start again – and you want that too – then this is what to do. Go together to counselling: explore just why your man had an affair, what was happening under the surface that he was tempted and he fell. Was he bored? Did he feel trapped? Was he under pressure at work? Was he having a midlife crisis? None of these reasons are excuses – but they are signs that there’s a problem which needs sorting – otherwise things will never be right between you.
Some couples say that an affair was a turning point – it made them realise what was wrong with their relationship and put it right. So it may be worth trying again – you may even end up with an better relationship than before.
Susan Quilliam also offers email, phone and face-to-face coaching on relationship and sexuality issues. Contact her here