Monday Mar 13, 2017
We hear it all the time … sitting at dinner with friends, one of you is sharing details of her best friend’s recent discovery that her husband of seven years has been having an affair. The next thing that happens is at least one of you turns to your partner and says, “If you ever do that to me, you’ll be out the door so fast, your head will spin. I would NEVER tolerate that!”
If only it were that simple! The discovery of Infidelity is complicated. Part of you does want to kick him or her to the curb, but another huge part of you is devastated and wants the marriage to work. Now is NOT the time to make any kind of decision other than to seek help. Discovering infidelity does not have to mean the end of your marriage. In fact it could be the first step to a new beginning and forming a much more secure and satisfying relationship. Here are some myths to consider.
Infidelity suggests that you no longer love me or find me desirable
In many cases, partners report being sexually intimate in both relationships. Infidelity is a symptom of something; but that something is not always the partner or spouse. It could be about personal longings and finding a way to satisfy them. Problems arise when one partner is not able to express these longing in their primary relationship.
Sexual infidelity is much worse than emotional infidelity
Actually, this is not the case. Research suggests that for both men and women, emotional infidelity is much more devastating. For men, the realization that their partner has been sexually intimate with another suggests that there must be emotional intimacy. For a woman, the most painful discovery is knowing that her partner has shared intimate details or turned to another person for comfort and understanding.
Men are more likely to be unfaithful than women
The gender gap is closing quickly on this one! There are several reasons for this. In the past, women had less opportunity. Today, more women have careers which leads to more opportunity and the potential for an affair. Further, the Internet presents unlimited opportunity for both men and women. It offers anonymity, privacy, and easy access.
However, the gap still remains between how men and women manage the discovery of infidelity. Men find it much more difficult to deal with a wife’s infidelity. Not to suggest that it’s easy for women, but men tend to require more time to heal. Men perceive wives’ infidelity and relationship to the other person as deeply emotional. The assumption is that if a woman has an affair, there must be love and close connection. This makes it more challenging to rebuild trust. Also society still judges women who are unfaithful more harshly than men.
Having an affair is an easy way to exit the marriage
This couldn’t be further from the truth! When one seeks the love and affection of another, it often complicates and confuses the ability to make a decision to stay in a marriage or leave, especially if there are young children. Also, if one does exit the marriage as a result of an affair, the effects on the family are devastating. Divorce is never easy; but when one partner has betrayed the other, being able to co-parent young children becomes extremely challenging.
I’ll never be able to trust that he or she won’t do this to me again
This is often the initial response to finding out about infidelity. It’s difficult to look at your partner in the same way. Before the discovery, you were convinced this could never happen. Now it’s difficult to believe you even know who this person is. The disconnect is profound.
Trust is built from the inside out. Being able to express the hurt and pain that you feel and see that your partner genuinely hears you and feels your pain is the first step. This usually requires the guidance of a qualified couples therapist who specializes in infidelity issues. Without guidance, it’s sometimes difficult to keep these very painful conversations on track.
Infidelity means I must end of my marriage
Research suggests that this is not the case. As a matter of fact, successful outcomes for those who seek couples therapy for infidelity issues is no different than couples presenting for other issues. The most important element in healing from infidelity is desire and commitment and finding the right therapist and the right treatment approach. Emotionally Focused therapy, is research-based, effective approach to healing after infidelity. Success rates are reported at about 75%. But more importantly, it is an approach that can help you re-create the secure bond you once had.
In a safe and supportive space that is created and maintained by the therapist, you can explore the profound emotional pain you are experiencing and have your partner hear it in an empathetic and compassionate way. This becomes the foundation for developing trust and connection once again.
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.