Is it normal to miss your affair partner?
In a word, yes. Here's what to do with those feelings.
Sometimes clients seek my assistance because they’ve had an affair, and it’s over, but they miss their affair partner terribly.
Like, excruciatingly, intensely, I-can’t-think-of-anything-but-them-and-I-can’t-concentrate-on-anything-other-than-my-pain-for-more-than-two-seconds terribly.
And whenever I talk to folks in this situation, my heart goes out to them, because missing someone you love and have been separated from is such a singular experience of pain.
And often, missing an affair partner is a very private experience of pain. Maybe your affair was a secret, and no one but you and your affair partner knew about it… and now that it’s over, no one knows about your grief. If your spouse or primary partner didn’t know about the affair, you may be struggling to hide your grief, in addition to, you know, feeling the pain of the grief itself.
Even if your affair wasn’t a complete secret, you may not have a whole lot of support for dealing with the emotions that come with ending the relationship. Infidelity may be incredibly common, but it’s also stigmatized, so it may be hard to find sympathy from the people you’d love some sympathy from. If your spouse/partner knows about the affair, they may be dismayed by your feelings about ending the affair (on top of being disgruntled about the affair itself), or may be impatient for you to get over it and move on.
Grief like this is sometimes called disenfranchised grief, or grief that society doesn’t acknowledge as legitimate, or AS legitimate of other forms of grief.
Put differently, experiencing disenfranchised grief can be kind of like getting kicked while you’re down. You’re hurting, and there isn’t much comfort to be had from people who might extend their care to you under other circumstances.
So the first point I want to make absolutely clear is that your pain is legitimate! Human life is messy and complex at times. Sometimes people fall in love with people they aren’t “supposed” to love, and those relationships can be incredibly rich and full of meaning and care and significance, even if they were never “supposed” to happen in the first place. And when these relationships end, it can be really, really sad.
It’s important to honor your own sadness and sense of loss. It’s important to honor the love (or lust, or friendship, or whatever your connection included) you shared with your affair partner.
Now, here’s where it starts to get a little more complicated.
Sometimes clients seek my help because they’ve ended an affair and they’re terribly sad and they want to know what their sadness MEANS, and what it means they should DO.
Here’s the deal: sometimes endings are just sad. Sometimes they’re really, really, really, really sad and painful and intense. The loss of a relationship with someone we cared deeply about can feel insanely uncomfortable, and most of us are not very good at dealing with intense discomfort. Most of us have never learned how to tolerate emotional pain, so dealing with it is excruciating and sometimes confusing.
And that’s where the trouble starts. So often, we try to lessen our pain by giving it MEANING. We try to figure out WHY we’re really sad that the affair is over, or what it means that we really miss our affair partner, and what all of these feelings mean we should do.
For example… we may tell ourselves that our sadness is a sign that our affair partner was our one true love, or only soul mate! We may tell ourselves that since we miss our affair partner so much, it’s a sign that we SHOULD be with them! We may tell ourselves we’re never going to experience the same kind of love with our spouse! And when we start to tell ourselves these kinds of things, we usually feel worse – more confused, more sad, more deprived, more persecuted, or whatever.
But what if you could just feel sad, without making that sadness mean anything in particular? What if a spell of sadness and pain was as normal as a rainy season, or a patch of bad weather? Most of us accept bad weather as part of life. We may not love the rain or snow or sleet, but when our least favorite form of weather hits, we recognize it as part of life, and we do what we can to ride it out.
Sometimes the weather isn’t all that sunny. And sometimes our emotional weather system isn’t sunny, either. Sometimes, the most important thing we can do is simply recognize this, and allow our emotional weather systems to run their course.
HOWEVER. Here comes the VERY BIG BUT…
Sometimes people put an end to an affair because they are very stressed out about the situation, they feel guilty about the infidelity and deception, they’re confused about what they want, and ending the affair seems like the only way – or at least, the quickest way – to “solve the problem.”
And to many of my clients, this seems both logical and honorable! Many of my clients have ended their affairs because they want to “do the right thing,” or “stop being selfish.”
And ending the affair does indeed solve a few of their problems: they’re no longer actively cheating and lying, and they feel better about that. But at the same time, they’re longing for their affair partner, they don’t feel certain about the decision they made to end the affair and stay with their spouse, and they don’t know how to move forward.
So even if the affair is technically over, this “resolution” isn’t all that much of a solution.
Let me be clear: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to resolve a complicated situation in your life, and get all of your ducks in a row, and put an ethical dilemma to rest. But making a decision about complex matters under pressure, without giving yourself time to figure out what you really want and permission to do what’s right for you even if it isn’t what other people think you should do, may not lead to great outcomes.
So if you’ve ended your affair and you’re feeling terrible, it’s possible that this is an indication that you made a decision hastily, without taking the time to get really clear about what you wanted, and the reasons for making the choice you did.
Ending a relationship with someone you care about because you believe you “have to” or "should" usually feels awful.
So how do you know whether the particular flavor of awful you’re feeling is simply – “simply” – a natural response to the ending of a relationship that was important to you, OR an indication that you need to do some serious introspection?
Here’s a good starting point: ask yourself WHY you choose to end your affair. Get really clear on what those reasons are. Make a list. Write it down.
If you don’t have a clear set of reasons why you ended the affair, or you don’t like any of your reasons for ending it, that’s a pretty good sign that it’s time to revisit the decision. If you DO have a clear set of reasons for ending the affair, and you feel good about those reasons (even if you don’t necessarily like them), that’s a pretty good sign that it’s time to work on allowing yourself to feel your feelings about the relationship’s end.
Grief hurts, for sure, but it will pass. And you might be surprised by what you find in its wake.
If you need some help making sense of your feelings about the end of an affair, let's talk. Click here to schedule a complimentary, confidential Zoom consultation with me.