Discovering an Affair

Diane McGeachy

Psychologist and Gestalt Psychotherapist
Hobart, Tasmania

The discovery of infidelity is often a deeply traumatic experience. An affair can be physical, purely emotional or both. An emotional affair does not involve sexual intimacy, instead it comprises two people forming a strong emotional intimacy, similar to that of a romantic, committed relationship. In the case of an emotional affair the person often shares more intimately with the other who is not the partner. 

The discovery of infidelity can cause you to question your entire life that you shared with your partner and wonder what was real. You might query if you are somehow to blame and for a period of time your self-esteem may take a big tumble. The pain and betrayal that is felt is usually incomparable to anything felt before. 

Some of the experiences you might have include:

  • Shock 
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Panic attacks 
  • Helplessness 
  • Anger 
  • Rage 
  • Extreme mood fluctuations 
  • Sleep disruption 
  • Reduced capacity at work 
  • Shame 
  • Fear of abandonment 
  • Rumination 
  • Thoughts of suicide 

Whilst grappling with taking in the discovery of an affair it can also be a complicated time attempting to learn if your partner wants to stay in the relationship and make efforts to work through the betrayal. Additionally, as the discoverer you may be trying to decipher whether to exit the relationship or stay and attempt to rebuild. When there are children involved these decisions have another layer of complexity. 

Relationships can recover from infidelity if both parties are committed to investing in the repair and building a new relationship. It is seen as a new relationship as it can never be the same again nor return to what it once was. Many relationships do not recover and do end. 

Factors to consider when attempting to make sense

  • How was the affair revealed. Did your partner tell you or did you discover it?
  • What has your partner expressed about the affair (i.e. deeply sorry, ashamed, stoic, glad, entitled, etc.)?
  • How long did the affair occur?
  • Was it a one-time opportunistic moment? 
  • Did it involve long-term, pre-meditated, consistent deceit?

When you have learned about your partner having an affair a common reaction can be to want to learn every detail possible about the affair. Although we all need to have some information to make sense of context, having too much detailed information can become harmful and detrimental to the discoverer. Though you may believe you need to and want to know it all – some details can be harmful to know and result in vivid visualisation. 

Some who want to work through the affair may believe that they cannot confide in their family or friends as they do not want to turn people against their partner. This might result in attempting to navigate the impacts from the infidelity unsupported which can take an even greater toll on your mental health. 

Where to from here

The shock and trauma caused by the discovery that your partner has been unfaithful can take months and in many cases years to process. You may feel as though you’re going through the daily motions numb or in a daze. It is normal to feel in limbo and also to feel confused and insecure about what the future may hold. 

It is also normal to feel conflicting needs and wants simultaneously. Feeling angry, not wanting anything to do with your partner and at the same time wanting to be held and comforted by them. People around you may have well-meaning advice that might not be helpful for you at this time. It is essential for your emotional health to surround yourself with safe and loving people who can accept you in all of your emotional states and inconsistencies. 

About our Centre

Hobart Counselling Centre’s Relationship & Couples Counselling Clinic provides comprehensive counselling and psychological support services to individuals, couples and families. 

Contacting Our Centre

If you have discovered that your partner is having or has had an affair and would like support from a Psychologist or Counsellor please email, complete the contact form, or telephone (03) 6285 8592.

Due to the high volume of enquiries to the Centre, an email or contact form enquiry will ensure you receive the timeliest response.