The Grief of an Affair

Read half one of this two-part article: How Do Affairs Happen?

The revelation of a accomplice’s affair (sexual or emotional) comes as a shock to the harm accomplice, even when doubts exist. The loss of belief in a relationship is not any completely different from a bodily loss. The closeness of the connection and the harm accomplice’s notion of preventability had been recognized as predictors of the grieving course of’s depth and length in a examine on human grief by Bugen. The predictors wouldn’t be completely different within the case of belief loss as nicely.

The course of of grief consists of 5 emotional levels to restoration from loss, as per the Kubler-Ross mannequin. This course of isn’t linear, and the harm accomplice can discover themselves at any stage all through various timelines. The levels of belief loss, making use of the grief mannequin to the aftermath of an affair, can be as follows:


The harm accomplice struggles to understand what occurred and is commonly unaware of the Gottman-Rusbult-Glass betrayal cascade that the betraying accomplice skilled or is experiencing (Read additional in regards to the betraying accomplice’s struggles within the article, “How Do Affairs Happen?”). The harm accomplice tends to attenuate the ache of the affair initially and goes via the part of “something is amiss, and it will be set right.” There is a powerful want to substantiate with the accomplice by asking questions in a number of alternative ways as they really feel that this can’t be taking place.


The harm accomplice begins to piece collectively the incidents from the previous, and the fact steadily emerges. There is obvious anger in regards to the betrayal, harm for being let down, and unhappiness about dropping the connection. The anger will be towards oneself for letting this occur, the accomplice who did this to them, and the liaison who shouldn’t have crossed the boundaries. But then, there’s additionally the worry that the anger could push away the very particular person they nonetheless love. The worry of dropping the accomplice ends in suppressing anger, which can erupt abruptly at completely different factors because the entirety of the state of affairs sinks in. There may additionally be self-doubt about their position within the case, which is overwhelming, given the immense emotional stress already persisting.


The emotions of confusion, ache, anger, and different feelings appear insufferable and threaten the loss of management. It is a helpless state intensified by highly effective feelings and subsequently comes a must regain management. The harm accomplice tries to reset the previous by exploring completely different paths, resembling “if only I had stopped her that day when I saw her messaging,” “what if the other person had misused the situation and my partner is not at fault,” and so on. There is a wrestle to heal the ache sooner by offering logical explanations and intellectualizing emotions. The harm accomplice could attempt untimely closure to postpone experiencing painful feelings.


Here one feels the complete affect of dropping a trusted relationship. The affair erases all the things the harm accomplice believed. While the primary three levels are extra cognitive and solution-oriented, this stage is emotional and experience-oriented. It would possibly contain heaviness and isolation. The harm accomplice experiences intense feelings of anger, unhappiness, and doubts that may really feel like there isn’t any extra working away. Questions could come up like, “does my partner love me at all?” “I should have given more time and attention before,” “What do I do now?” and so on. These questions tackle the issues at a deeper degree, releasing intense feelings. It is a troublesome part that may really feel foggy. Though despair could really feel like a consolation zone because the interior battle lessens, dwelling right here indefinitely is unhealthy and would want counseling help to maneuver on.


Acceptance comes regarding what occurred and what it means sooner or later. It isn’t an ideal decision and everlasting closure (with feelings and interpersonal realities) however a transformative stage following a major change. The harm accomplice could begin to have ideas like, “I am aware of what went wrong and can understand the reasons,” “I will be able to forgive and move on,” and so on. At this level, the attitude is extra on the current second and future fairly than the previous. Hope is renewed in regards to the restoration of the connection. This stage feels completely different because the outlook in the direction of a number of points of life adjustments.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Shirley Glass famous that the harm accomplice typically suffers from a PTSD response following an affair’s discovery. According to Drs. John and Julie Gottman, if the under signs persist, then the probabilities are that the harm accomplice is experiencing PTSD. 

  1. Recurrent recollections and intrusive visualizations: “Deja vu” occasions, days, areas, and so on., are likely to set off flashbacks of affair specifics. For instance, recurring dates of when the harm accomplice had discovered in regards to the affair set off recollections and associated feelings that may induce flooding (stress) and panic assaults.
  2. Oscillating moods, confusion, irritability, and outbursts: As the harm accomplice struggles between emotions of betrayal and acceptance, there are durations of emotional numbing adopted by explosions.
  3. Intense feelings of anger, harm, disgrace, grief, and frustration: There are ambivalent fears of anger, guilt, self-doubts, and so on., that may overwhelm the harm accomplice. Empathetic listening goes a good distance in therapeutic.
  4. Hyper-vigilance and startling: Hurt companions can grow to be startled and vigilant about mundane issues like message notifications, cellphone rings, delay in replies, and so on., and could appear to make unimaginable calls for. Compassion and assurance will assist.
  5. Avoidance, detachment, and seclusion: The overwhelming emotions seem difficult, and isolation could appear to be the one choice. The betraying accomplice typically misunderstands it as distancing and tends to remain away. It could improve the emotions of rejection within the harm accomplice when what is required is emotional help.
  6. Loss of focus and curiosity: The despair signs of demotivation, loss of curiosity, lack of power, irregular sleep, no urge for food, low emotions, and so on., can persist.
  7. Hopelessness in regards to the future: As the world, they know, collapses, there could also be hopelessness and helplessness in regards to the relationship.

Although not all companions harm by an affair will develop PTSD reactions, many will expertise grief and despair. Hurt companions could grow to be obsessive about the affair’s particulars, really feel powerless with their feelings, and want therapeutic help at such occasions. It is necessary to notice that these reactions are regular responses and might profit from couple remedy.

Final thought

An affair shakes all the things that the harm accomplice believes of their understanding of themselves and the world. Gottman Method Couples Therapy might help a pair study to atone, attune, and connect as they restore new function and which means collectively.

Has your relationship skilled a sexual or emotional affair? The Gottman Institute is at present in search of {couples} for an worldwide examine on affair restoration. For extra information, please click on here.


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Glass, S. (2007). NOT “Just Friends”: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity. Simon & Schuster.

Gottman, J. (1995). Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last. Simon & Schuster.

Gottman, J. M. (2011). The science of belief: Emotional attunement for {couples}.

Gottman, J., & Gottman, J. (2017a). The Natural Principles of Love. Journal of Family Theory and Review, 9(1), 7–26. doi: 10.1111/JFTR.12182

Gottman, J., & Gottman, J. (2017b). Treating Affairs and Trauma. Unpublished manuscript,  Gottman Institute, Seattle, USA.

Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (1986). Assessing the position of emotion in marriage. Behavioral Assessment.

Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (1992). Marital processes predictive of later dissolution: conduct, physiology, and well being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63(2), 221–233. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.63.2.221

Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (2002). A Two‐Factor Model for Predicting When a Couple Will Divorce: Exploratory Analyses Using 14‐Year Longitudinal Data*. Family Process, 41(1), 83–96. doi: 10.1111/J.1545-5300.2002.40102000083.X

Hall, C. (2011). Beyond Kubler-Ross: latest developments in our understanding of grief and bereavement. InPsych: The Bulletin of the Australian Psychological Society Ltd, 33(6), 8.

Holland, Okay. (2018, September 25). What You Should Know About the Stages of Grief. Retrieved from being/stages-of-grief

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