- The Crisis Phase
This is the first phase, associated with the time when an affair is exposed or confessed. Although this time brings with it intense feelings of uncertainty, shock, anger and betrayal, it is crucial to remind oneself that this is just a phase and it will pass. During this phase It is also important to give each other space and not make any rash decisions regarding the future of your relationship and whether you would like to resume sexual intimacy. Instead, focus on taking care of yourself and seeking support as during this time, there may be many feeling of loneliness and confusion, brought about by the new information.
This is also the time during which the grieving process begins. Both partners will go through this process, grieving the idea of the future they were building and the vision they had of their relationship. Although painful, grief also provides the opportunity to choose to create space for a different future. If you do decide to have sex during this phase, it is important to keep in mind that the rest of the healing process still needs to unfold.
- The insight Phase
This is also known as the understanding phase. After the intense emotions of the crisis phase start dying down, you will start to be able to explore what led to the affair. Although you might still be unsure about the future of your relationship, during this time you will be more open to empathise with each other and get a clearer picture of how things happened. Here, you may also start thinking about what role you both played during the time that led to the affair. Having more information on the roots of the affair may provide a more holistic picture of the situation and alleviate some of the frustration and unanswered questions you may have. Here, you may be able to start making decisions regarding how you would like to move forward.
Here, many couples, may often discuss sexual issues from the past and how they would like to move forward. It is common for sexual desire to go up and down during this phase and sexual performance may suffer, with some experiencing orgasmic difficulties, erectile dysfunction. It is important not to use sex as a tool to control the other partner or to ensure they don’t leave as this will only increase stress levels and the inability to perform.
If both partners are willing to share the responsibility of what happened, new dynamics of the relationship will come to light and you will be able to notice more factors that led to the affair. Here, you will both feel a shift in how the affair is viewed and can move into the next phase of recovery; the Vision phase.
- The Vision Phase
Once you and your partner have both reached this phase, you can make decisions about whether you wish to rebuild your relationship or let go.
Keep in mind that forgiving does not mean accepting your partner’s behaviour, but rather choosing to not let their actions have power over you. Research suggests that being inclined to forgive can provide a healing element in relationship issues and in fact therapists value forgiveness as an essential ingredient in overcoming infidelity (National Council on Family Relations, 2006).
Remember, resuming sexual intimacy, may or may not be the right step for you in the current moment and it’s always best to talk to your partner. Each experience is different and professional guidance can help you reflect on what’s best for you.
Michaela Pace is a Psychology graduate from the University of Malta. She has worked with children and adolescents within the social sector and currently works as a Triage Officer and Chat Bar Coordinator within Willingness Team. Michaela aims to further her studies locally by pursuing a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy in the near future.