When I met my now-husband, I was still married to my son’s father. My partner and I had a relationship that was toxic and filled with abuse in its various forms, but we’d stayed together out of habit and obligation. I knew on a rational level that I could leave, but trying to fit all the puzzle pieces together of how seemed utterly impossible.
How would I support my 2-year-old son with a business I had just started while also balancing my college courses? How would I find a place to live, much less find the money needed to pay for it? How would I be able to seek my degree, build my business, and be a present and proper mother? These questions were paralyzing.
What I went through is an all-too-real and frequent reality for many. What I have learned through my personal as well as professional experience guiding women through their own affairs is that by examining the spiritual context of an affair (which is how I finally left), we can step into the container of personal growth and expansion that’s very much needed and even—and perhaps ironically—heal our marriage or relationship with our significant other. Here’s how:
1. Examine your feelings.
How does the person you’re having an affair with make you feel? Respected? Confident? Desired? Whatever these feeling are, and there are likely many, these are the areas that you are asked to dive deep into. These are the very qualities that you need right now. But most importantly, these are the areas you need to do the very deep and very personal work within. There is medicine in how our affair makes us feel, and these emotions create awareness around what we’ve been lacking and needing in our lives.
2. Examine your “why.”
What are the motives behind your affair? Do you just want to feel good, or have you fallen in love? Do you feel the need to create drama because you are feeling bored and stagnant in your daily life? Do you seek attention? This step requires some pretty bold and brave honestly, a type of honesty too few of us are truly capable of without the ego trying to shade the truth. This is why I suggest examining this aspect with a trusted friend, coach, or therapist.
3. Examine your action.
Do you stay or do you go? Do you come clean or do you not? Is your affair evolving into more? The information we learn about our affair and what it brings to the surface creates the capacity for massive growth and personal evolution. It also informs the actions we take or don’t take. In some cases (like my own), affairs can teach you how to move beyond an unhealthy relationship. It was exactly the catalyst that I needed to do the work on myself. In fact, it was how I met and married my life partner—and the same could be true for you.
But not all affairs come into our lives to introduce us to our life partner. Sometimes the other person is merely an expander of the areas and ways in which we must grow so that they may take us beyond our current relationship. An affair does not necessarily have to break a relationship. In fact, sometimes it’s exactly what makes the relationship stronger by creating the container for growth needed within you both and strengthening your connection as a whole.
While the pain that is present on all sides of a triangular relationship is entirely valid, we must create the spaciousness to see both sides of the coin. Seeing affairs as merely mistakes or behavior of bad, deviant, or somehow morally bankrupt individuals is a narrow and outdated perception, a perception rooted in resentment, shame, and pain and one that does not serve anyone.
Spiritually, affairs are more than just the breaking of oaths made. They are incubators for learning and self-discovery, and they often arrive after we have failed to do the work on our own. This of course means they are avoidable, by doing the all too important work before things reach critical mass. Alas, there are many instances where events that take place in our lives are part of a greater plan than we may realize. By taking a bird’s-eye view, we can see beyond the wall of emotion and take in the medicine we are meant to receive by our affair.
The power of these steps resides in the realization that this person and the affair we are having with them were put in our path to expand us, to show us where we needed strengthening and what needed our attention. By examining affairs in this way, we take back the power over our growth and our lives. We rise from the shame of our affair and the pain it has caused to see them as containers for our personal growth—growth that informs the rest of our lives and can help us to become the person we are meant to be.