The shock of finding out your spouse/ partner has had an affair can be profoundly devastating. Your view of your life and the world you live in may be ripped apart. Gone is your fundamental sense of order and justice in the world. Gone too, may be your sense of control over your life, your self-respect, your sense of who you are and your sense of who your partner is. Swept away with your sense of self is your conviction that you and your partner were meant for each other, that no one could make your partner happier, that together you formed a union that could not be shared or severed. The affair marks the passing of two innocent illusions – that your marriage is exceptional, and that you are unique or prized. You can go from feeling a sense of specialness to feeling disposable.
The unfaithful partner is often also going through their own feelings of conflict and loss.
Common comments are, “I wasn’t looking to fall in love with someone else but I did. Now I can’t decide which relationship to give up”, “I know I strayed, but I didn’t mean to hurt you, and I never stopped loving you. Can’t we move on?”, “Going back to my marriage feels like a prison sentence. But I can’t abandon my kids” or “I felt taken for granted and unloved and felt like you would never change”.
No matter how badly the unfaithful partner feels, the effects of infidelity are almost never as shattering, disorienting and profound for you as they are for the person who was deceived. This is because your sense of self has not been assaulted. It’s is very likely, in fact, that the opposite is true- that the experience of having a lover has validated you. Unburdening yourself or your secret should take a huge weight off your mind and offer some temporary relief, but your likely to remain as conflicted as before. You may find yourself trapped in a minefield of choices- paralyzed, unable to stay or leave. As you struggle to bring order to the chaos you may be feeling, you need to remind yourself that your partner is in no frame of mind to appreciate your predicament.
Problems with affairs.
- The innocence of the relationship is destroyed. Now there is a breakdown in trust, communication and intimacy.
- The trust between partners in shattered and it has been replaced with anger and hurt.
- Couples don’t know how to act towards each other, particularly if they are still living together.
- It’s not easy to find a safe place to talk about what is going on since you may not want friends or family to know. Often people feel it would shock others who might judge them. Friends often don’t know what to say, especially if they’ve been close to both of you
- People use irrational thoughts to justify their actions which makes it take longer to heal. Such as “People aren’t meant to be monogamous”, “I have no impulse control”, “Every couple has its secrets”, “I shouldn’t have to sacrifice what I need to make my partner feel secure or happy”, “I never promised to be perfect”, “If I commit myself fully to any one person, I’m bound to get hurt”, “I’m entitled to keep a part of myself hidden and separate from my partner”.
- Often people don’t feel they can confide in others about infidelity. Or that it would shock others who might judge them. Friends often don’t know what to say, especially if they’ve been close to both of you.
- People don’t know what to do or how to treat each other now.
Can a couple survive infidelity? Yes, provided each of you is willing to look honestly at yourself and at your partner and acquire the skills you need to see yourself through this shattering crisis.
Although no one knows the exact percent of those who have been unfaithful, you are not alone and there is help.
Therapy is effective because:
- Because both of you are experiencing different feelings that rule out empathy for the other, and a therapist can work with you to work together despite the anger and hurt.
- It offers a safe place to talk where you can be heard and not worry about judgement from family or friends.
- Therapy does not tell you to stay or leave. It gives you insights, empathy, compassion and facts about what it takes to rebuild a healthy committed and loving relationship. From there, you both decide what is right for you.
- You will get practical insights and tools to help you decide what is best for you.
- It will help you reevaluate your relationship so you will know what improvements are required to restore trust.
- It will look at the concept of monogamy and what this means to you.
- It will help you evaluate what changes are necessary for you to be happy and fulfilled in this relationship in the present and for the future.
Therapy is for those of you who are deeply wounded by an affair but are conflicted enough or courageous enough to admit that you may still want to stay together, confront how you each contributed to the infidelity and work to rebuild trust and intimacy. If you choose to recommit to each other, you may in time come to see the affair not merely as a regrettable trauma but as an alarm, a wake-up call. An affair tests the strength of your relationship. It can be very difficult to heal the pain and rebuild trust when a partner has been unfaithful. Therapy challenges you to challenge the hurt, and to see what you’re capable of producing together.
If you or someone you know is wanting help dealing with infidelity or interested in relationship therapy, call Denise O’Doherty at 713-524-9525.