“Every problem comes to you with a gift in its hands.”
A third party has no power to break up a healthy relationship. No one can come between you and your partner unless something has already come between you and your partner. A mate having an affair is not the cause of a breakup; it is a symptom of a breakdown in the fabric of the primary relationship.
From the Big Love perspective, an affair is not a cause for condemnation of self or other; it can be the most valuable wakeup call of a lifetime. The most important question to ask of a partner who has strayed is: “What were you looking for that you were not finding in your primary relationship?”
There are two possible answers:
(1) What he wanted was available at home, but he did not have the vision, willingness, or ability to see and claim it. Perhaps he bumped up against a fear of intimacy, or he did not have the communication skills or emotional depth to work through the issues; or
(2) the home relationship simply did not have the substance for longevity, the partners were not (or are no longer) well matched, or the relationship was in some way toxic. The affair, then, was an unconscious statement that something was not right with the primary relationship.
In either case, the affair coming to light is a blessing. If the love at home was real, both partners now have the opportunity to go deeper, tell more truth, heal the issues that were troubling them, and create a partnership that transcends what both were settling for. Like a broken bone, when a fractured relationship heals, it grows stronger than it was before the break, strongest at the point where it knit. If there was not a lot of substance to the relationship in the first place, or the partners grew irrevocably in different directions, it is probably a blessing that one partner took the step to leave.
The affair set into motion a series of events that forced you to to tell more truth and ultimately freed both of you to get on with your lives. Granted, it would have been more gentle if the person who strayed came forward with direct communication, but, as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Our bodies communicate what our words do not, and if your wife took her body to another man’s bed, she is making a statement that cannot be denied.
The only thing worse than an affair that comes to light is an affair that does not come to light. Yes, there was pain and upset in the aftermath of the revelation, but consider the alternative: You could have gone on for many years trudging through a half-relationship, your issues buried and your hearts weeping, never confronting the issues that were slowly killing you. Rejoice that you can now take the next step toward going deeper with each other, or moving apart. At least you have the truth on your side now. Don’t waste a moment blaming the third party.
Who he is, or how she connected with you or your partner, and the details of the drama are of little importance in the face of the gifts and lessons available to you and your partner. Truth be told, it could have been anyone. If you or your partner wanted to leave, there are millions of people to run to, and if it wasn’t Sally or John, it would have been Sue or Bill. The name, face, and story are far less significant than the who. And if there have been several or more outside partners, it really doesn’t matter, for in such a case you can see quite clearly that the behavior was about the mate who strayed, not the third parties.
Meanwhile, the third party has her own inner work to do. Why she would choose to get involved with someone who is married or in a relationship is something she needs to look at and come to terms with. But one thing is clear: That is none of your business.
The less time and energy you spend analyzing, judging, or punishing the partner who strayed or the third party, the more time and energy you will have to make the experience work on behalf of your own growth and the evolution of your relationship. Attempting to blame a third party is a tactic of distraction that takes the spotlight off of you and your partner. Bring your introspection back home, for it is there that you will find healing. An individual who is satisfied in a relationship cannot be seduced, nor will she seek diversions. There may be momentary attractions, but if you and your partner have a Big Love and the willingness to connect in depth, the fulfillment both of you seek is present and available.
Commitment is not something you create by saying words; it is an experience of the heart, and passing flirtations have no power over Big Love. There is a principle in organic gardening that is true of relationships: Pests are less likely to attack plants that are growing in healthy soil. You can administer all kinds of pesticides or organic deterrents, but your best defense against intruders is to nourish the soil from which the plant derives its essential nutrients. Given a healthy foundation, plants develop a natural immune system superior to external additives.
Translated into human relationship, the best way to ensure a committed relationship is to keep feeding your partnership with truth, love, and intimacy. These attributes are not ones that you should expect to get from your partner (although you do): they are investments you make in your relationship.
The quickest route to hell in a relationship is to expect your partner to fill your emptiness, and the most direct way to heaven is to give what you want to receive. You only receive what you give, and you receive it in the giving. So it comes to this: you can thank and bless the third party as your teacher and awakener. Certainly this was not their intention, but it is the gift you choose to make of him or her. The third party pointed out aspects of yourself, your partner, and your relationship that you may never have discovered, or at least not for a long, long time.
Bless and release the third party and get on with the business of building the kind of relationship you truly desire. Use the affair to create a Big Love with your partner that goes far beyond what shaky love offered, or use the affair to deepen loving yourself or create a more meaningful partnership with another at a later time. Everything serves, and an affair is no exception.
Authors Details: Alan Cohen
Alan Cohen is the author of 15 popular inspirational books, including the award-winning A Deep Breath of Life.
The Authors Web Site