Talking family values is one thing, putting them into practice is quite another.

Politics has reached a new low and the recent dramas should leave us all with a sense of shame. Do we vote for people to engage in personal mudslinging in parliament? Do we want to purchase publications that print gossip better left in a gutter? No, I don't think we do and those who acted in ways the general public find distasteful may find themselves lumbered with a set of unintended consequences.

Politicians across the spectrum support positive family relationships and recent political events have provided them with a perfect opportunity to demonstrate some leadership. However, some have clearly done the opposite!

Some pressures make affairs more likely

Members of Parliament live apart from their partners several days a week, work long hours, battle job stress and watch their back in case someone puts a knife in it. Such pressures create a 'hothouse' atmosphere; perfect conditions conducive to affairs developing.

People from all walks of life face pressures similar to the ones politicians have to contend and struggle with. Others face different but equally significant pressures, for example, financial stress. However, pressure is only one of the motivating influences which may lead someone towards having an affair.

Values play a part too

Beliefs and values act as little voices in our heads which throw a green light to proceed or a red light to say, "no, don't do it". The level of contentment you feel with your relationship may be the deciding factor in determining to remain loyal to your partner or to take a step back from your commitment to them.

Judging others for having an affair is tantamount to saying "I don't understand you". We can't really stand in another person's shoes and know their motivations with any certainty. In addition, how can we judge when so much more could be done to support healthy relationships? For example, Parliament could model itself as a workplace which actively supports positive relationships for its members.

The damage affairs can do

However, affairs injure relationships because, for most couples, they breach an important agreement and destroy the trust which couples have built their commitment on. Affairs, when exposed, unleash an 'emotional twister', which creates havoc for those involved in the most unimaginable way.

Understandably, such relationship injury leads people to walk away from their partner. Many carry on however, flooded with shame, anger and outrage, which they seemingly have no control over. Others find themselves living in an emotional void bereft of the love and closeness they once felt in their partner's company.

The choices you face

Couples experiencing this relationship injury are left with three main choices: to separate, to stay the same or to rebuild their relationship. Separation is a reasonable response to an awful situation. More about this topic in another article. Staying the same is a less helpful choice but no less understandable. Feeling hurt may make you want to leave. However leaving a partner who you have loved, a lifestyle, home etc can feel like a huge step.

Steps for rebuilding

Rebuilding your relationship, even though it may feel like a hard choice at the time, has worked for many couples. Those who have chosen to rebuild their relationship after an affair have found the following steps useful:

1. Gain support from people you trust. Stay away from those who have their own agenda about your leaving or staying in the relationship (unlike Parliament).

2. If the emotions are running high between you and your partner, give yourself an emotional break. Discuss the affair and its associated emotions at set times, for example, with your couple counsellor. At other times, talk about how you feel with the people you can trust or contact a Help Line.

3. Be clear with your partner about what is acceptable and unacceptable in your post-affair relationship.

4. Put your hurt on the table and be clear about the impact of the affair on the relationship.

5. Gain assurances from each other and make a commitment to work on your relationship (this commitment may take place within a set timeframe, for example 12 weeks)

6. Examine (without blame) what led to the affair and deal with the issues raised.

7. Develop a vision for your relationship and take steps to achieve it.

8. When you are ready (perhaps within a 3 to 6-month timeframe) look towards completing an act of forgiveness.

9. Give trust time to build.

Our Online relationship reporter has been involved in couple and family counselling for twenty years.

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  • Dee-Dee says
    ...unfortunately IMO you reap what you sow......if you have an affair you risk your relationship and the consequences of doing so.....if you want a relationship to work, then you put bloody hard work into it.....having an affair is a cop out, it you don't want to be in a relationship then don't have the balls to say hey this is not working...don't go hurting the person by running an affair in there face.....
    • Dee-Dee says
      ...opps I meant rubbing not
      • jewelz says
        i agree kama's a b.... for those who think they are clever playing this game .
        This does not work because the player will end up being played the same game to teach the trater a lesson. These people are so up themselves to do this and it always turns to crap for them .
        • Dee-Dee says
          ...yep totally agree if someone is up for playing shit games like this then good luck when your found out....not worth many people get hurt.....
        • StillMe says
          Yeah, in my opinion if you have an affair then your relationship is over. Better to try to work on what you have first, and if it you can't make it work at least have the decency to end it before starting the next relationship, or affair.
        • Wice says
          It’s so easy to generalise. You may well all shoot me down, but I'd like to take a look at the affair as maybe just one "slipped stitch' in the tapestry of an enduring relationship.

          I've seen it happen a number of times in what seemed to be solid marriages. Of course affairs are devastating. They destroy trust and crash self-esteem. They cause pain and guilt and sadness. But they'd don't have to mean the end.

          The stages that the 'innocent' party goes through are very similar to the five stages of grief so often described when someone dies:
          Denial: “This can’t be happening to me. I don’t believe it.”
          Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame? How could he do this to me?”
          Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will be a better wife/partner/lover”
          Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything. I don’t want to go on.”
          Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

          No relationships are perfect and what happens in relationships is never totally black and white. We all come with our own baggage and different hopes and needs. If hubbie ever had an affair, I think it’s I would try to look at our whole relationship (I hope I am doing this all the time anyway), before condemning it to the rubbish tip. Of course, he would have to be on board as well and I doubt very much that he would get another chance if it happened more than once. However, I love my partner. We’ve shared so much. I would rather build on than destroy what we have.

          I would want to know:
          • What caused it? What’s his side of the story? Where do I fit in?
          • Does he take responsibility for his actions or does he try to shift the blame to me?
          • Does he honestly regret what he did and is truly sorry?
          • Why is he sorry – because of the effects on him or me or maybe the kids?
          • Do I know that he loves me despite his behaviour?
          • Does he love the ‘other’ woman?
          • How does he show these feelings to each of us?
          • Could his actions actually bring us closer together by finally getting our everyday relationship problems into the open so we can work on them?
          • Is he just weak , selfish or oversexed - or did something else make him behave this way?

          I don’t think that there is necessarily a place for blame and forgiveness in the equation either. Obviously, there are instances of someone deliberately sabotaging their long-term relationship by having an affair. I believe these people don’t deserve a second chance or even any kind of consideration; nor does the person who continues a prolonged affair and feels no remorse. You are better off without them.

          More likely, however, an affair happens because the opportunity arose and the person for whatever reason, needed it, was weak and succumbed. Of course they knew it was wrong but like manslaughter, it was not planned to harm someone else. If you really want your relationship to continue, then for me, it would not be about blame and forgiveness but about why and how, understanding where we both were and now are, and moving forward together.

          It’s never happened but I’ve sometimes thought I would rather that my hubbie had a physical affair rather than love another woman (or man) the way he loves me. After all, it may not make it right, but many people can have intercourse without it meaning very much – either outside or inside a long or short-term relationship. However, how many people are really intimate soul-mates who understand and accept each other with all their strengths and weaknesses – what we promise to each other when we make our marriage vows?

          • Dee-Dee says
            ...affairs can make relationships stronger if those involved want to continue their relationship and are happy to do so....but many don't work because of a number of issues like trust, communication etc etc...can bubble to the surface when an affair has occurred...I myself could never remain in a relationship if an affair has occurred and I was made aware of it...that type of stuff would eat me up...I wouldn't trust a single move he made...and wouldn't believe anything he said...I would definitely be if that was ever to occur I would me that would be better than remaining in a relationship that would be strained and not happy for those involved....I could never imagine my man having a physical affair or being in love with another women or dear I say another man....if he loved me, they way he says he loves me then an affair would be the furtherest thing from his mind.....and like I said if one was to occur I would walk because I know I deserve better.....
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