Infidelity is more common than most people realize. In fact, it is estimated that 60% of men and 40% of women today will have an extramarital affair during their marriage. I decided to learn as much as I could about it so I could help my clients prevent it, or recover from it when it has already happened. In this newsletter, I will explore the forces that lead to infidelity and what must happen for couples to heal.
Forms of Infidelity
Infidelity takes many forms. Some people have sequential affairs—a series of one-night stands or short affairs. These affairs involve very little emotional investment and may be rationalized as harmless. There is always the danger of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. When such behavior continues for several years and finally is discovered, it is difficult to heal the years of deceit.
Other affairs are discrete events. These also involve minimal emotional investment.
Sometimes affairs last longer and become more serious. These affairs may be quite romantic and sexual. Sometimes they grow into more serious relationships and may last for years.
Other Consequences of Infidelity
In addition to the emotional impact of infidelity, there may also be other consequences: sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, problems at work, and loss of relationships.
Even though infidelity has a devastating impact on marriages, many do survive. Let’s look at what it takes for a relationship to recover.
If You Were Unfaithful
If you had the affair and want to save your marriage:
- Stop the affair and tell the truth about it.
- Make the choice to practice fidelity.
- Understand your partner’s need to ask questions and understand what happened.
- Spend plenty of time with your family.
- Find a therapist and explore what has happened in your marriage.
- Expect to reassure your partner of your commitment to the marriage.
- Listen carefully to your partner and accept his or her feelings and thoughts.
- Admit that you were wrong. Write a letter to your partner and admit everything. Let it all out.
- Make amends. Identify what it would take for you to deserve forgiveness. Then, do it.
If Your Partner Was Unfaithful
If your partner had the affair and you want to save your marriage:
- Acknowledge your anger and express it productively.
- Be aware of distorted thoughts that may fuel your anger.
- Watch out for negative beliefs that may make it harder for you to heal your relationship.
- Find a way to explore and express your feelings, such as writing in a journal or working with a professional therapist.
- Explore the advantages and disadvantages of saving your marriage.
- Establish a safe environment where you can learn about what happened.
- When you are ready, create a ritual for letting go of the anger and forgiving.