Heartbreak

The 3 Types Of Couples Who Experience Affairs (& The Ones Most Likely To Stay Together)

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couple facing a sunset together

The discovery of an affair marks a momentous crossroads for most couples. According to noteworthy psychotherapist Esther Perel, couples go in one of three directions afterward.

The future of your relationship after the discovery of an affair is often determined by how you, as members of the couple, recover. 

You could call these categories "bad, better, and best", though Perel describes them as: "they never really get past the affair", "they pull themselves up by the bootstraps and let it go" or "they leave it far behind".

Your chances for happiness hang in the balance. 

RELATED: The 7 Steps (Almost) Every Marriage Experiences Before A Major Affair

Three categories post-affair couples fall into (and what they say about you and your future):

1. Sufferers:

These are couples who never get over the affair, but for some reason choose to stay together, sniping at one another, one person blaming the other forever for cheating. 

The other person either blames the person they cheated on or gets stuck in a hangdog, “I’m a heel” position forever.

The betrayed stays forever in the pain of having been cheated on and never lets it go. Decades later, these people are still together and absolutely miserable.

These people likely had a difficult childhood and learned maladaptive roles and patterns they are still stuck in today. Chances are they would have had a difficult time in any relationship whether someone cheated or not.

More than anything, this couple needs the kind of therapy that takes both partners back to look at childhood and heal emotional issues such as avoidant attachment or codependency that both people have struggled with all their lives.

RELATED: How To Tell If He's Cheating (Or If You're Just Paranoid)

2. Builders:

These are the couples therapist Daphne Rose Kingma calls “Say it isn’t so.”

“I promise, I’ll do anything,” Kingma writes. “Just say it isn’t so. Forget all my complaints. Forget everything I thought was wrong. I can’t face life without you and life without a relationship. I don’t care what was the matter. Let’s go on a vacation, let’s get therapy, let’s forget everything — you’re perfect. Let’s start over.”

These people peek at what life would look like without the relationship, get scared, and panic. They look at the dividing of the property, the selling of the house, the criticism from children, another family, and friends, and try to go back in time to before the affair happened.

The people are still “close” in that the home and family activities are the same and they are still building that family together that looks okay, but they just ignore that the affair happened.

They don’t process any of the problems that were going on before the affair, and they still are not emotionally intimate with one another.

The marriage looks as if it is “saved,” but all the problems are still lurking within it. They are just ignored rather than talked about. In time another affair may happen, or the marriage may grow stale and fall apart anyway.

RELATED: 5 Early Signs A Man Is Going To Cheat On You (Even If He Hasn't Yet)

3. Explorers:

These are the couples who lean into the yoke and do the work. The betrayed partner talks all about the hurt and pain and the betrayer accept what they’ve done and do everything they can to reassure their spouse.

As they come back together in love, the person who cheated can talk about why they felt the way they did in choosing to cheat.

These people delve deep into what went wrong in their relationship, going all the way back to childhood if they have to, and build a new relationship from the bottom up.

This kind of recovery can take up to two years.

It’s a harrowing experience to go through, but these are the couples who say at the end of their recovery: “This has been a horrible experience and I would never wish it on anyone, but at the same time it’s a good thing it happened because we would never be the friends and lovers we are now without it.”

Especially when you are still reeling at the discovery that your spouse has been unfaithful, Option Number Three looks almost unthinkable.

But it has by far the best outcome, and it’s the best chance you have of transforming your marriage and your home into a place that will nourish you, your partner, and your children for as long as you both shall live.

You don’t want to end up like the first two couples. As soon as you are able, try to look at the affair as a signal to roll your sleeves up and get ready to work hard, and find the best therapist you can.

RELATED: 15 Telltale Signs He's Cheating On You, According To Cheaters

P.D. Reader is the author of Struggling In or With an Affair: A Guidebook. She writes about astrology and infidelity on her website.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.