Many couples struggle with marriage infidelity. It causes deep pain and a whole lot of problems afterward as couples try to rebuild their trust and connection. Contrary to popular belief, most couples do not separate following an affair. However, couples who deal powerfully with an affair, rather than trying to forget about it, do much better in the long run.
Why do people have affairs? The reasons are complicated and varied. According to various experts and research, the following are some of the reasons:
1. Unhappy marriages where one partner feels undervalued, unwanted or lonely.
2. Being around others who endorse/tolerate extramarital affairs (e.g. entertainment culture, promiscuous coworkers).
3. Sharing intimate secrets with a new friend of the opposite sex (i.e. crossing the marital boundary by innocently sharing marriage or personal struggles; intimacy grows over time).
4. When one partner experiences deep emotional pain (after a miscarriage or death of loved one, job loss, bankruptcy, etc) and they feel they can't share their pain (for whatever reason) with their partner.
How can counseling help?
Counseling helps couples in several ways. For the partner who's the victim of the affair, it provides validation and an outlet for expression of hurt and betrayal. For the one who committed the affair, it provides a context for helping them understand their actions and how best to explain and share their feelings. Couples can learn to rebuild trust, to talk about the details, deal with intense emotions, set boundaries on how much to talk about it and learn how to move forward!
In my experience in working with marriage infidelity, couples do better the sooner they deal with it. What couples often experience are feelings of trauma, or reliving the affair over and over. Couples need to know how to deal with the intrusive thoughts, the flare ups of anger and the feelings of hopelessness and despair that often occur.
If you are a couple struggling with dealing with infidelity in your marriage, don't wait too long or pretend it didn't happen.