Many couples get into marriage with a clear and strong red line in regards to infidelity. They say “If my partner ever has an affair, I’m done and I am getting a divorce.” And then it unexpectedly happens to you leaving you to deal with the devastating betrayal and the unavoidable roller coaster of emotions. When confronted with the painful reality, you also must make a decision “Should I stay or should I leave?” You realize that whatever decision you make, the stakes are really high and the red line you saw in your mind is now more gray than red. The following is information you should know when facing infidelity in your marriage.
1) Infidelity does not necessarily end a marriage.
Affairs are an ego booster and can be very powerful and compelling. Yet, despite its negative consequences, infidelity is not necessarily the end of a marriage. Surprising to many, most married couples decide to stay married after infidelity. Although recovering from infidelity is challenging, many marriages not only survive, but in fact grow stronger from the devastating experience. They can get back on track and rebuild trust, friendship and excitement.2) Many cheaters still love their partners.
Men can love their wives and still want to have sex with other women. Many times the cheaters haven’t fallen out of love; but rather have become unsatisfied with the state of their marriages. The infidelity usually takes place when things settle down, normalcy and boredom kick in so that interest and excitement disappear. It also happens during times of crises or transition, such as having a new baby, pressure at work, lack of intimacy, needs are not met, not having sex, etc. As such, affairs may reflect that couples don’t know how to attend to one another or how to work together to meet their challenges but not necessarily that they do not love each other.
2) An emotional roller coaster is the new norm.
The path to any recovery, including after an affair is not a linear, straight line. It is usually a spiral line that encompasses many ups and downs. The roller coaster of emotions is a natural course of the healing process and is very painful and confusing. Just when couples think things have improved and are resolved, there is another major setback to experience. These couples may think that they might never be able to overcome the betrayal and infidelity. Every setback is somewhat different. Yet, like the stock market, the idea is to think long term. As long as there is a general upward trend, progress is being made. Embracing patience is essential especially during times of relapse. So, don’t give up and be hopeful.
3) Infidelity can be traumatic.
Betrayal is shocking and devastating to the recipient to an extreme degree in a way that it overwhelms his/her physical and mental state. The betrayed spouse suffers from distress and anxiety, eating and sleeping problems and negatively impact his/her self esteem and confidence. It is not surprising that the betrayed spouse exhibits symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD).
4) Forgive and you will free yourself.
Similar to a traumatic experience, people don’t forget the infidelity. It is a survival necessity to remember and to avoid the pain associated with the affair. While remembering the betrayal is critical to protect ourselves and learn from its experience, forgiveness is essential to move on with life. Forgiveness is not designed to let the unfaithful person off the hook, or take away his/her responsibility, but it is designed to unshackle people from their past and their misery. When betrayed spouses forgive, it allows love to flow into their lives. They let go of the past and make room for the present, which brings hopefulness and optimism.6) Healing is not easy and takes time.
Pain is unavoidable, yet suffering is optional. The more we resist pain, the more we suffer. This is why we have to have the courage to experience the pain and loss that come with betrayal. Even though we prefer to be pain-free as quickly as possible, healing from infidelity is a chaotic process and takes time. Quick recovery may indicate repression or compartmentalization, which can backfire in some form. It is not uncommon that recovery from an affair and getting back on the marital track may take two years and even longer.
5) Couples counseling is very helpful.
The betrayal is so overwhelming and disorienting that it is difficult to know what to do next. Professional help is very beneficial and can assist us through the challenging process of infidelity toward healing. Infidelity counseling is a helpful way to gain insight, support and build the strength to overcome the affair. It helps individuals have better understanding and wider perspective about the issue of affairs and acquire objective, professional guidance to make more informed decisions.
Regardless of the decision you make, overcoming infidelity is not easy, but can be done. The questions to ask are: What can you learn from it? How is it done? At what cost? If you decide to stay in your marriage after infidelity, the important thing is to address the