When you have been through an affair in your relationship it can feel like everything is thrown in the air and up for questioning and potentially redefining. This can be a good thing in the long run although it can feel quite painful emotionally as you go through it. The following themes came out of my Beyond Affairs Network BAN meeting last night on the theme of Love.
Difference between love before and after the affair
We all agreed that love looks different on the other side of the affair. “The fairy tale is over” and what replaces the fairy tale is a love based on reality. People are only human but that’s not to say that excuses all or any bad behaviour – love after an affair is earned by showing up every day and doing the right thing. It is a shift from unconscious to conscious – from blind to earned. Those on the journey wondered if the love after an affair, given that the innocence had now gone, could ever be as good as before. I say hang in there because reality love can be much better. It is a love based on a conscious choice that two people make every day that the other is the person they want to do life with. While that choice, when you first get together is assumed, actually not assuming and consciously choosing can make it feel more special. This applies to those that continue a relationship with the same person or find love with someone else. After divorce it is the “conscious choosing” that ensures you don’t end up down the same path with a different person and gives you the confidence to love again.
Love as a verb – a doing word
After an affair it is really hard to get your head around the idea of showing the person that betrayed you any love at all. They have hurt you badly, so this is understandable. But at some stage, if you want to rebuild the relationship you need to act your way into loving again. Start doing the loving behaviours and you will find that the feelings catch up.
What do you recognise as love and do you need to adjust it
Examining what you see as love may be useful to understanding how to rebuild your relationship or what you should be looking for when ready for a new relationship. We all learn what love is from the modelling we saw as kids from our caregivers and from the love that was given to us from the person or people who were our primary caregivers. If this was a healthy model then great, you probably have a good sense of what love should be. But if this modelling was not so great, it is likely you have unrealistic or unhealthy views of love that will need to be reassessed and redefined for any future relationship. If you would like to know more Chapter 3 in After the Affair by Janis Abrahms Spring (a great book for healing) will help you think this through.
All of this needs to be underpinned by a growing self love. After an affair our sense of self gets a beating but without rebuilding yourself and learning to love yourself again it will be impossible to ensure that any love relationship you develop will be healthy and right for you.
And remember, when you are in great pain it is hard to imagine that you will ever feel that love again but in reality it is all around you, it is just that in the pain it is hard to see sometimes.