Infidelity is more common than divorce in a marriage or partnership. As we know, the divorce rate is no way past 50 percent, and in some states 65 percent.
Infidelity in a marriage, when it is discovered or revealed, is one of the most painful experiences that one can imagine. To think of the one person in your life that you have given yourself to and committed to spend your life with has betrayed those vows and your trust and engaged in a relationship with someone outside of the marriage. For most people that have been cheated on that I speak to it is not the sex that hurts as much; it is the shared intimacy or the actual falling in love with another person.
More often than not, affairs occur for one of three reasons:
● There is a problem in the marriage that has not been addressed or dealt with.
● The party that has cheated has a hole inside of him/her that has not been addressed and the initial excitement of the affair makes him/her feel more whole. This is a temporary fix, however, and sooner or later the “hole” emerges again and the cheater is unhappy in the affair.
● You are involved with someone who cannot remain faithful for a variety of psychological reasons. Either they are narcissistic and need constant adoration, which one cannot get in a long-term marriage or partnership, s/he is a sex addict – which is more common than you may believe, or your partner has some other commitment issue that has never been dealt with in psychotherapy or in any other type of counseling.
Depending on whether or not the affair was the result of the last two issues cited, the person that has been cheated on has to decide whether s/he wants the marriage to continue. If the betrayed party does want the marriage to work, the cheater must commit to individual therapy on at least a once weekly basis and couples therapy on a once weekly basis for the relationship to even have a chance.
If the affair occurred as a result of the first issue cited, both parties must take a look at what they have been giving or not giving to the marriage and agree to marital counseling. More often than not, the issues in a marriage that allow for one partner to go outside the marriage are either due to the withholding of sex, communication problems, or a combination of both.
Often when there are communication problems, one party begins to withdraw emotionally and physically from the other. The marriage starts to feel very stale and lonely for both parties. If there are children, often the focus of the marriage becomes the children, not keeping the marriage alive. Marriage is hard work and takes two people who are committed to talking, being intimate, making time for one another, being emotionally generous with one another, and always trying to talk out problems as they arise. You can never shove a hurt feeling or problem under the bed and expect a marriage to survive.
Now to the more messy stuff! Before one agrees to move forward with the cheater, you must have an absolute commitment from your spouse or partner that they affair is over. Trust is going to take a significant period of time and a great deal of openness on both parts to re-establish. So, before you even attempt counseling or going forward with the marriage, you want to be sure that the affair is completely over. When I say this, I mean over: no phone calls, no emails, no one last meeting, no texting.
Betrayal is such a deep and profound hurt. It often feels as if someone took a knife to your heart. For the person cheated on, the cheater must understand this. For some time, the one cheated on will either internally or verbally question the cheater about the person s/he has an affair with. What did s/he look like? Where did you meet? What did you like about him/her? What was the sex like? Were you in love with him/her? Do you or did you love that person more than me? Did you two go out to restaurants? Hotels? Did you ever go away with the person? And a thousand other possible questions.
It is critical that the cheater be as honest as possible and responds to the questions, no matter how difficult or painful they are. If it becomes too difficult, you explain to the betrayed party that discussing these issues alone is too hard. You ask your spouse to write down all questions and discuss them in your couple’s therapy. If the cheater shuts down or get annoyed, it will be almost impossible to repair the relationship.