During a couples counseling session, Rebecca, 40, sat on the couch across from Brian, 41, her husband of fifteen years, and spoke about finding out he was unfaithful to her last month.
She put it like this: “I didn’t really see it coming even though we hadn’t had sex in over a year. I thought we were just going through a dry patch. But then I found a receipt from a weekend at a resort on Cape Cod and it was the same weekend he was supposed to be visiting his mom in Boston. I even called his mom and she confirmed that he wasn’t there.”
Brian reflects, “I know I shouldn’t have lied to Rebecca about visiting my mom but she had no right to call her. I reconnected with Kathryn, my girlfriend in college, over social media recently and we decided to meet up. She’s going through a divorce and needed my support and I don’t think that means my marriage is over.”
Infidelity is all too common and when it occurs, it raises many questions. Should you stay? Can trust be rebuilt? It depends on the couple and their willingness to resolve the issues and repair the relationship.
While infidelity can be devastating to a marriage, some specialists believe that it is important to try to resolve the crisis and rebuild trust if possible. According to therapists Rona B. Subotnik, L.M.F.T and Gloria Harris, Ph.D., getting to the root of infidelity is crucial. In their book Surviving Infidelity, they write, “Because extramarital sex still plays a role in the dissolution of many marriages, and because the divorce rate continues to be so high, it is important to know more about it.” Subotnik and Harris’s goal is to keep most marriages together – even after trust has been broken by the wounds of infidelity.
Assessing the Seriousness of the Threat
Knowing the type of affair your spouse is involved in can help you determine the serious of it but does not take away the pain associated with it. Nonetheless, assessing the degree of seriousness and the threats that it poses to your marriage, can help you to make a decision about continuing in the relationship. For instance, flings – which can be a one-night stand or go on for months – are the least serious type of affair and romantic love affairs that last awhile pose the greatest threat to a marriage.
However, if you have survived infidelity, you may decide that divorce is the only option. Even if you suspected that your partner was cheating, knowing is intensely disturbing. In many cases, the decision to terminate a marriage should not be made in haste. Regardless, divorce is typically a painful process for all involved and it’s important to think things through and consider counseling first.In the case of Rebecca and Brian, they were both committed to couples counseling. Fortunately, Brian was able to apologize and make a commitment to Rebecca that he would not betray her again with Kathryn or anyone else. Rebecca still loved Brian and decided that while his fling with Kathryn was extremely hurtful, she was willing to forgive Brian and move forward with counseling since he asked for forgiveness and was willing to atone by promising not to be unfaithful again and work on their marriage.
Further, if your marriage is going to thrive after a sexual infidelity, it’s important to create daily rituals of spending time together, show physical affection, and learn to repair conflicts in a healthy way.
Practicing emotional attunement while spending time together can help you stay connected in spite of your differences. According to Dr. John Gottman, this means “turning toward” one another, showing empathy, and not being defensive even when you feel attacked by your partner.
Be sure to pay close attention to the role you play if you are drifting apart and focus on what you can do to reconnect with your partner rather than resorting to the “blame game” or looking outside of your relationship for emotional, physical, or sexual satisfaction or support.
Follow Terry on Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website. Her new book The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around was published by Sounds True on February 18, 2020.
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