In the aftermath of an affair, drawing boundaries with the third-party participant is an absolute necessity. Even if the affair has ended and your spouse has committed to respecting the agreed upon limitations concerning interactions with this individual, you both need to prepare for any inadvertent encounters or those initiated by the third party. The central tenet is simple: the partner who participated in the affair should immediately inform the other about any such incidents, irrespective of how the meeting occurred.
Consider this hypothetical scenario: Robert, who was unfaithful to his wife, Lisa, receives an email from his former mistress, Emily. Robert is reluctant to share this with Lisa. "Why stir up unnecessary trouble by mentioning this? Our relationship is improving. I haven't replied to the email, so why not let sleeping dogs lie?" Robert's apprehension is somewhat understandable, but there are compelling reasons for him to share this information with Lisa.
First and foremost, withholding such information echoes the deceit and secrecy that characterized the affair, and this contradicts Robert's commitment to building an honest relationship with Lisa. Even if Lisa never discovers the email, the integrity of their relationship is undermined. Moreover, if Lisa does eventually find out about the contact, her trust in Robert, already fragile from the affair, will suffer a further blow. In contrast, one of the most potent steps Robert can take to rebuild trust is to share this information proactively.
Lisa is primarily concerned about the potential revival of Robert's affair. If Robert consistently informs her whenever Emily attempts to contact him, Lisa can begin to trust Robert again and feel that they are collaboratively addressing the issue. Although revealing interactions with the third party can be momentarily uncomfortable, it usually fosters trust in the long run. Thus, the counsel here is straightforward: if you wish to restore a trusting relationship with your spouse, disclose any interactions with the third party, no matter how insignificant they might seem.
The converse of this advice pertains to the partner who was cheated on. Discovering that your spouse and the third party have had any form of contact can be distressing and threatening. It is a natural instinct to react vehemently towards your partner. However, doing so can unjustly penalize your partner, especially when the contact was initiated by the third party and was out of your partner's control. It is crucial to differentiate between exchanges instigated by your partner and those resulting from intrusions by the third party.
While it's completely normal to express feelings of anxiety, hurt, or anger, it's essential to communicate to your partner that you're not blaming them for the current situation. In other words, distinguish between the pain caused by the affair and your feelings about the recent interaction with the third party that your partner is now sharing with you.
Alongside being rigorously honest about any interactions that occur, it's important to take decisive action to prevent the third party from infringing upon your relationship. Couples may choose to act together, perhaps by jointly drafting a letter, sending a shared email, making a combined phone call, or even meeting the person together in a public place.
Consider the case of Sara and Jack, who jointly called Michael, with whom Sara had an affair, just before leaving on a vacation. Despite Sara ending the affair months ago, Michael continued to email Sara, expressing how much he missed her. While not every couple would choose to begin a vacation this way, for Sara and Jack, it was a symbolic act of closure before starting their holiday together. They made it clear to Michael that there could be no further contact, emphasizing their united front.
Regrettably, such messages are sometimes ignored. A third party who refuses to withdraw might attempt to undermine the marriage, lure back the partner, or even resort to threats. Such threats should be taken seriously, and external help might be necessary. Some couples have engaged a lawyer to draft a letter warning the third party of potential legal action should the harassment continue. Others have contacted the police to obtain a restraining order.
There are also anti-stalking laws in many jurisdictions intended to prevent relentless, undesired intrusions, especially when the recipient has explicitly asked the perpetrator to cease and the recipient feels physically unsafe. If all these measures prove insufficient, if the third party presents a danger to you or others, or if the third party continues to destabilize your relationship, you might have to consider the extreme measure of relocating to a different community. There have been cases of couples moving across the country to escape an individual who persistently refuses to relinquish the affair.
Surviving an affair requires a multifaceted approach. It involves open communication, trust-building, setting boundaries, and, in some cases, seeking external assistance. you're not alone in this journey. Seek professional help if necessary, and always prioritize your well-being and that of your relationship.