Are you experiencing devastation and pain from a boyfriend’s affair? Are you unsure on how to go about in recovering from your boyfriend’s affair? To help understand the impact a boyfriend’s affair can have on the relationship and tips on what you can do to recover from your boyfriend’s affair, I have interviewed psychotherapist Kevin Rhinehart, LMFT, LCSW, CSAT.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a licensed psychotherapist operating in the state of Idaho, licensed as both a Marriage and Family Therapist and as a Clinical Social Worker. I have over 20 years of experience helping men, women, and their relationships work through the issues in their lives, which keep them from experiencing life as it was meant to be enjoyed.
I have expertise in the treatment of sexual addiction and in relationship recovery after an affair, although one need not be an addict to have an affair.
I see clients in my private practice through the Center for Hope and Healing, located in Meridian, Idaho, which is next door to Boise.”
What type of impact can a boyfriend’s affair have on the relationship?
“The impact on a relationship of any betrayal can be huge, and an affair, be it emotional or sexual, is no different. Part of the reason the reaction can be so strong is an affair undermines some of our most core needs: the need for security, worth, and relationship/coupling. Additionally, a basic human hope is that those needs stand a good chance of being met if there is a relational foundation of honesty and fidelity. When those principles are broken by an affair, much of the basis of the relationship and our hope of our needs being met have been destroyed.
The impact typically will be one consistent with trauma, as a betrayal of trust (aka affair) is. Emotionally, one can expect a sense of shock, disbelief, anger, feeling numb and lost, confused, and sadness. One should expect the strength of these emotions to be strong. The degree in which she feels these emotions often will correlate with how meaningful the relationship was to the woman, her own emotional wiring, her sense of self.”
How can a girlfriend recover from her boyfriend’s affair and should she stay in the relationship?
“The first task of her recovery is to grieve, regardless of whether or not there is the option of reconciliation. To do so, she needs time, space, and support to do this. One of the best ways of grieving is to grieve with those who will be supportive and nonjudgmental, either of the woman or her boyfriend. Bashing of either party, while tempting and can feel pretty good for a moment, is often destructive in the end.
At the same time she is grieving, it isn’t unusual or abnormal for her to consider possibilities of reconciliation, and this can be complicated by some pretty creative and persistent men asking for another chance. This is where things can get pretty tricky as their joint desire for reconciliation can undermine the processes she needs to go through that bring her healing and wisdom. She needs to have the strength and courage to go slow.
When she is willing to go slow, I use a three part process to sort out the reconciliation question (once sufficient progress has been made on the grieving front). First, does he accept total responsibility for his actions? The more he lies, makes excuses, blames, and rationalizes his betrayal, the lower the chances are for a healthy reconciliation and future together. Second, does he have insight into why he did what he did? She needs to know if he understands why he did what he did, and furthermore, that he is doing something about it. “I’m sorry and I’ll try really hard to not do it again” doesn’t cut it. If he is able to say something to the effect of “I have major issues with intimacy and I am working to address those issues,” then there is some potential and an opportunity for a reasonable set of options. Naturally, she should be interested in what it is he is doing to address the issues. Thirdly, I want to know if he is able to express genuine empathy, that he really is getting emotionally why the woman is hurt, is able to tolerate her pain, and give her support (versus “Stop being upset with me; I said I’m sorry — You know, I feel really bad too.”) Frankly stated, the more these parts are missing, worse are the chances of a healthy reconciliation and happy future together.
Some of the men I have worked with in these situations get it. Many don’t. Of those, some will do the work required to get it. For the remainder of the men that don’t get it, chances are efforts at reconciliation will not produce a sustainable relationship.
Another important factor has to do with the woman’s motivation for reconciliation. To be healthy, it must come from a foundation of her own emotional well being, not out of emotional neediness (“I can’t stand this pain/someone is better than no one/I am nothing without him.”) The needier the woman is, the more prone she is to make poor relationship and reconciliation decisions.”
What type of professional help is available for a girlfriend that is having a hard time recovering from her boyfriend’s affair?
“Professional help is an important aspect of the recovery journey. The professionals needs to understand the grieving process, the traumatic nature of betrayal, and be skilled in assessing and building on a woman’s sense of self, helping her discover and build on her worth and strength.
The importance of professional help increases if the betrayal leaves her seriously depressed, if she has difficulty in maintaining her responsibilities of life, or if she is feeling suicidal. Additionally, if there is a history of relational betrayals, either from different men or the same men, professional help can help her break free from that trend in her life.”
Thank you Kevin for doing the interview on recovering from a boyfriend’s affair. For more information on Kevin Rhinehart or his work you can check out his website on www.kevinrhinehart.com.
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