Infidelity can be devastating to a committed relationship, but does it necessarily mean the end?
According to an IPSOS poll, about one in ten Canadians who are married or living with a common-law partner admit to having had an affair. That number went up to 17 percent when people were asked if their partner has ever had an affair. Infidelity rips some marriages apart, but in other cases both partners are committed to healing and doing the work that leads to greater intimacy.
Why do people have affairs?
There are many factors that can lead to infidelity in marriages and long-term relationships. One common cause is lack of sexual satisfaction. One partner may feel that physical intimacy and affection are lacking in the relationship, and may look for those things with someone else. Often sexual dissatisfaction isn’t just about sex. A lack of physical intimacy can lead to feelings of loneliness and inadequacy in the partner who feels neglected.
Sometimes a loss of affection and feeling for their partner can cause people to have affairs. More commonly, however, there is an underlying issue that drives couples apart. Fear of intimacy or commitment, for example, can make people choose infidelity in order to avoid confronting those fears with the person they love. In other cases, someone may be seeking change or variety, or they may be looking for that thrill of early love that has faded in a long relationship. People may feel lonely and neglected by a spouse who spends long hours at work or travels frequently.
Should you try to save your marriage?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. If you and your partner still care about one another and are willing to work towards healing and repair, there’s a good chance your relationship can be saved. However, if the relationship is marked by disrespect or indifference, it may be time to walk away. Both you and your partner have to be honest about whether you are prepared to put in the work to repair the relationship.
Avoid making snap decisions
It would be easy to walk away from a marriage in the heat of anger or rejection, but this isn’t a good time to make big decisions. If your partner has cheated on you, you may be overwhelmed by hurt. Communicate your feelings to your spouse and let them know what you need in that moment, for instance, confirmation that they have ended the affair and will have no further contact with the other person.
Take time for yourself
The shock of discovering that your partner has been unfaithful can be profound. You may find that you need time to yourself to process your emotions and decide whether you want to continue the relationship. Confiding in close friends or trusted family members may be helpful in sorting out how you feel about the infidelity and about your spouse.
If you have had an affair, make sure you give your partner all the space they need to process their feelings. When they do wish to talk, take responsibility for your actions and avoid blaming anyone else. You must be willing to show ongoing remorse, regardless of the state of the marriage before the affair.
Talk about what went wrong and why the affair occurred
It takes time and effort to determine what was happening in the marriage that made it vulnerable to an affair. This is not about people blaming each other for their shortcomings as a partner, but rather about identifying what led a couple to feel disconnected from each other and why one partner turned to someone else for comfort and connection.
Rebuilding trust will take time. The process usually starts with the unfaithful partner expressing remorse and being transparent about the affair. The betrayed partner may want details about the affair including how it started, where it took place and what kind of feelings were involved. (It is not usually helpful to provide specific details of sexual activity.) They may also need their partner to be fully transparent about their current activities, including where they are going and with whom as well as access to phone messages and bank accounts.
Find ways to maintain open communication
If you have had an affair, you will need to show your partner that you are committed to maintaining open and honest communication in the relationship going forward. Take time to talk to your partner about your feelings, your hopes and problems. Listen carefully when your partner shares their feelings. If you have both moved past the initial shock of the affair and decided you want to work on the relationship, this may be the time to discuss your shared vision for the future. Figure out what your shared goals are and talk about how you may accomplish those goals.
Don’t expect your partner to forgive your infidelity quickly. It can take a long time to recover from betrayal by the person closest to you. You may want to move past this as soon as possible, but accept that it will take time for your partner to trust you again.
If your partner has been unfaithful, don’t push yourself to get over it before you are ready. Again, rebuilding trust and moving towards forgiveness will take time. Trying to rush the process will not help. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself the time you need to move ahead in the relationship.
Seek the help of a trained therapist
If you are dealing with infidelity in your committed relationship, there is help and support available. At Tod Scott & Associates, we have experienced counsellors who can offer individual and couples therapy to help you deal with the trauma of infidelity and rebuild a more satisfying and resilient relationship. To read more about our couples therapy, please visit our couples therapy page.
This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute therapeutic advice.