Infidelity and Marriage
The discovery of your your spouse’s infidelity can stir up a mixture of powerful feelings from hurt, despair, betrayal, anger, sadness, jealousy, and the list goes on. The discovery of being cheated on (infidelity) creates a crisis in your life, and it can feel almost impossible to see or focus on anything other than your spouse’s infidelity and that your marriage will never be the same. Assuming your spouse wants to the marriage to work and is apologetic, there are some basic steps that you need to take to help you move forward. Forward may mean working through the infidelity / affair, or deciding to leave or you may still be undecided about what your next move is. Often, hurt partners ask, “Why do I need to change? I’m not the one who went outside the marriage and cheated.” The short answer is typically in a relationship there are always two sides to a story. Agreeing to work on yourself and understand what happened in the marriage is not about who is to blame, it’s about acknowledging that there is a larger problem lurking below the surface, and identifying your contribution to what has happened. While you did not make your partner’s choice(s) of taking the step to go outside of the marriage for him/her, you had a role in the buildup. You had a part in certain steps that took place on the way to the emotional and / or sexual affair.
Five Key Questions Regarding Infidelity and Marriage to ask yourself:
Question One- The Big Issue Regarding Infidelity and Marriage: Stay together or move on
Some questions you may want to ask yourself “Do I even want to stay in this marriage?” Assuming your partner make/ s all of the changes you are asking for: “Did he/she just cross a boundary that is a non-negotiable for me? Can I financially afford to walk away right now, or do I need some time to finish school/look for the right job?” “What do I need from myself, others, my spouse, in order to stay in this marriage and work through this betrayal?” For the person considering staying in the marriage: Working through partner’s affair takes time, and can be challenging, which is why you it’s helpful to explore the reasons to work on the marriage, as well as identify the obstacles that concern you. Regardless of the decision you make about your relationship, you will have good days, and you will have bad days. Some days you will feel confident in the decisions you have made regarding marriage and infidelity moving forward and where to go from here, and other days you will be full of self-doubt and possibly regret, even if you have the most apologetic partner who is now doing all of the right things. However, if you are having bad days and regret because your partner isn’t’ taking all of the right steps, you want to reassess your decision to stay in your marriage, and ask yourself “What am I getting out of staying?” Identifying exactly what you want from this point on will give you an end goal to focus on and motivate you to keep doing the hard work. For example, if you decide your goal is to repair the trust and love with your spouse, you need to continue to remind yourself and your partner of what your goal is, as a way to keep you moving forward towards a stronger relationship, rather than stuck in the past. The goal can only work if you and your spouse are both on board. For example, if you are partner begins another affair, but your end goal was to repair you marriage, obviously you partner has not stayed committed to your plan as a couple and as a team. You can’t save your marriage on your own, and you may need to reevaluate your goal and develop a plan that is more feasible and respectful to you. When both individuals in a relationship are working together to restore and repair their marriage, having a focus goal will help you manage the occasional self-doubt, as well as possible negative feedback from opinionated family and friends.
Question Two-Regarding Marriage and Infidelity: Why? Taking Responsibility: What was going on for me when the affair began?
“Was I even happy in the marriage? What was going on for both of that allowed enough space for my partner to start sexually or emotionally connecting to someone else? Did I recognize/feel we were disconnected at this time? Typically, affairs rarely happen out of the blue. There are often multiple red flags. Trying to heal after your spouse has cheated is an opportunity for self-reflection. Clearly you were wronged, at the very least your spouse should have come to you and told you what was happening before engaging in adulterous behaviors, but that didn’t happen. With that being said, if you look beneath the surface, you will often find both people had a role in the disconnect that took place. Every relationship is a two-way street; all of us contribute to the issues and patterns in our relationships in some form. At some point in your relationships, things fell apart. So what better time to reflect on how you contributed to the issues, and take a look back. Prior to the beginning of the affair, were you happy in the relationship? Was your spouse? What did your communication look like? In what way(s) as a couple did you continue to emotionally grow? How did you sex life improve? Your communication skills around kids, finances, family, friends grow? In what way did each of you make the other person a better person? As you explore your marital happiness ask yourself a few more key questions: “Why did I pick someone like my spouse?” “What signs did I ignore?” “Was I aware of the potential beforehand, and simply thought I could changer him/her?” “Do the characteristics of my spouse remind me of anyone else in my life?” Does the way I relate to my spouse remind me of any other relationships that I have had in the past? The more insight you develop, the more you will understand your own role. Developing insight is a critical step towards making change. Insight and developing tools to create change will help you take control of your destiny. In the short term, the most important, question to ask yourself is, how do I want to change NOW? If my spouse continues to cheat, or if my spouse doesn’t do his/her work, how do I want to respond? Additionally, what are my options, and what are realistic expectations based on the different responses that I could give. ?
Question Three Regarding Marriage and Infidelity- Can I ever trust again? Keeping the faith.
Something to keep in mind that occasionally one relationship may be the rare exception, where all of the awareness and insight in the world would not have prevented you from falling in love with a con artist, sociopath, sex addict or someone who is simply really good at hiding their true selves. Some individuals, at least in the short term are so skillful at lying and and letting you see only the positive aspects of themselves that there is simply nothing you could change about your own behaviors to have forseen any of this. Having the rug ripped out from underneath you without warning can devastate your own sense of safety / trust, because you were completely blindsided and there are no useful lessons to learn accept that some people truly are bad people. His decision to have an affair (s) truly had nothing to do with you, and there was no way that you could have protected yourself from this experience. Hopefully, in time and gradually you will begin to believe again that genuine, honest people do exist, and that you deserve an authentic, and good human being as your partner. In this situation your job is to learn how to believe in people again. Occasionally people are simply “unwell” and there is nothing that you could have done to have seen this, or prevent this situation. Don’t let your current situation ruin your future. However, if you find yourself in this situation two or three times, I strongly encourage you to find yourself a therapist because there is something else going on for you that you are clearly unable to see for yourself. Help is available.
Question Four Regarding Marriage and Infidelity: Where can I take control: Taking the control you do have and using it.
Instead of waiting for your partner to start making the necessary changes for healthy living, such as stop having affairs, getting honest, communicating, making amends, take the control that you do have and start using it. Instead of worrying about “if this relationship is going to last” start focusing on what you can do to meet your own needs. Invest time and energy into friendships, focus on your own professional development, focus on taking care of your body, give yourself the emotional space to feel whatever you may be feeling. Invest your emotional energy into yourself. If you wait for your partner to make changes, before you do anything, you may be waiting for a while. If your partner does his/her own work, this is a positive sign. However, if your partner is either not doing the work fast enough for you, if at all, this is also a powerful sign. This may be a signal to you that your partner doesn’t meet your basic needs. If change is what you are waiting for, you have the power to create your own change by exploring your role, your strengths, and your weaknesses. When we change, those around us are forced to respond to our change one way or another. Your changed response to communication, conflict, expression of needs, etc. will no longer enable your partner’s set response. Your change will provide you with new insight, new information, and overall a different result. In the end, if you decide to leave this marriage or stay, you will have taken the time to put yourself in a stronger place. At the end of the day, you are in charge of your own happiness. You have the power to grow yourself.
Question Five Regarding Marriage and Infidelity: What can I do for myself to start the healing process?
You can’t stop your partner from cheating, and you can’t make someone new fall in love with you. What you can do is focus on yourself, and pay attention to your own needs, desires and feelings. Life does not always have to be about someone else. Creating change is most effective when you are the subject of your own energy. Working through the affair with your spouse, or alone requires vulnerability, honesty, and an open-ness to making behavioral as well as emotional changes. Change takes time, strength, and reflection. Healing from an affair is hard work and at times can feel very painful. If you can’t do this work on your own, and or are scared to share with a friend, additional support is out there. Call 267-324-9564 and speak with a therapist at The Center for Growth Inc., / Sex Therapy In Philadelphia. You do not have to go through this alone.