Can our marriage survive after an affair?
Should I trust my partner when there’s flirting, pornography or suspicious texts and emails?
Does his or her close friendship constitute an “emotional affair?” Or am I “just insecure?”
The answers often seem just as difficult as the questions. Infidelity and trust issues are among the most damaging problems in a relationship. And yet, the “experts” often disagree on definitions, theories about causes, and how to deal with the problems. We’re not even sure how many people have affairs. What we do know is that it is possible to restore trust and heal from all forms of infidelity.
You are not alone, and all of this is normal. We know that affairs and other types of infidelity are fairly common. Estimates of unfaithful adults in the United States range from 20% to over 50%. The numbers are generally higher for men by at least 20 percent.
- Each couple defines a betrayal of trust in their own highly individualized manner; there is no universal agreement on what constitutes infidelity or cheating.
- “Emotional affairs” — where there is no sexual relationship — are often as damaging or more damaging to a relationship.
- Many people believe that the use of pornography, internet sex, visiting strip clubs, and massage parlors with “extra services” is infidelity and a breach of trust.
- When infidelity is revealed or discovered, both partners in the relationship tend to suffer emotional pain.
- While the person who was “unfaithful” is fully responsible for his or her behavior, each partner in the relationship bears some responsibility for what went wrong in the relationship.
After infidelity, the process of healing and rebuilding takes time and patience.
The majority of married and unmarried couples do stay together after an affair or breach of trust. There is no right or wrong here; no “one size fits all” approach. The scientific research and our own experience helping many couples after infidelity indicate that there are basic steps in healing and rebuilding the relationship and professional couples therapy is highly recommended.
- Both partners need to hear each other, to listen to each other with empathy and understanding. This process takes time and a great deal of patience and compassion. Most couples will not be able to do this without the help of an experienced and highly trained relationship counselor or therapist.
- Very powerful feelings of anger, hurt, sadness, loss, shame, and even some relief are inevitable, and must be fully expressed and understood.
- At some point a choice needs to be made — to stay or to leave the relationship. It’s very normal for one or both partners to feel conflicted or ambivalent. In order to rebuild a sound relationship, couples therapy is usually necessary — and in order for the therapy to work, a commitment to the process and to each other is necessary.