Thursday Mar 18, 2021
Because of the Internet and engagement with social media, acts of betrayal are becoming common problems in marriages. In fact, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers suggests that 25 % of the divorces today are a result of some form of online betrayal. In the couples’ therapy that I do in Boca Raton, Florida, I’m often asked, “Can our marriage survive infidelity?” Learning that your partner has been unfaithful can shake you to your core. But it doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship. In fact, it can be an opportunity to create an even better one.
Although your first reaction may be to kick your partner to the curb, this is not the time to make life-changing decisions. This is the time to take a step back, breathe and allow yourself time to feel, think and then decide what you want to do. Here are some suggestions about how to move through the process.
Solicit the help and expertise of a therapist who specializes in working with couples and infidelity. We’ve probably all thought from time to time, “If this ever happened to me, I’d be gone.” It’s not always quite that simple. Until you actually experience infidelity, it’s difficult to know how you will react to it. Feelings run rampant as you move back and forth between anger, sadness and disbelief. Having a professional help you work through your thoughts and feelings can be invaluable to both you and your partner. Even if after time you do decide to divorce, a therapist can help you through the anger and disappointment.
Infidelity rarely occurs in a vacuum. Couples therapy or marriage counseling can help you understand the underlying reasons for why this happened. It’s not about blame or shame, and infidelity is not an acceptable response to an unhappy marriage, but it can become the impetus for a conversation about what needs to be different in your relationship, so that it can be more satisfying.
Learn how to manage your feelings. You are angry and you have a right to be. But it’s important that you express your feelings in a way that your partner can feel your hurt and disappointment, not your anger. There are things you can do to lower your emotional intensity. Take time outs. Journal about what you are feeling. Do things to distract you from feeling so intensely emotional. Exercise, meditation, and yoga can be really soothing. Reaching out to friends and family and also help you maintain a sense of connection and some comfort.
Leave the kids out of it! Whatever you do, DON’T tell the kids that one of you has been unfaithful. Infidelity is a marital or relational issue that should remain between you and your spouse. If there is a lot of friction and tension in the home, then just let the kids know that the two of you are working through some things right now. Make it age appropriate. And no matter what ages your children are — toddlers or adults — don’t use them as a sounding board or for emotional support in dealing with your feelings. They need to be able to continue to love both their parents and they need to be able to form their own opinions without the influence of your hurt and pain. This sometimes is not easy to do, but it is extremely important to do it.
The other person must go. I think most therapists would agree three people in one relationship usually doesn’t work. In order to make your relationship whole again, you must have commitment to the process. The two major dimensions of healing after infidelity are recreating trust and being able to eventually forgive the behavior and move past it. This means that if an on-going relationship with a third person existed, that relationship must end.
The road back from infidelity takes time and patience on the part of both partners. The partner who has been injured requires time to work through the betrayal. The partner who has been the betrayer needs time to make sense of how this could happen. But together, you can move past it and create a much more meaningful, loving relationship.
Dr. Laura Richter is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist who works with individuals, couples, and families. Her specialties include: surviving infidelity, improving communication, beginning again after divorce and effective co-parenting after divorce. She is also a trained mediator, qualified parenting coordinator and collaborative law mental health professional. For more information, please call or text us today at 561-715-6404 to schedule a consultation to see how we can help.