Ten Things You Need to Know About Affairs

10 things you need to know about affairs

I can’t tell you the number of people who tell themselves early in marriage, “If my spouse ever has an affair, I’m outta here.” And then in happens. Their spouse was unfaithful. That’s when reality sets in. It’s easy to think you will leave if your spouse betrays you, but when confronted with the reality of divorce and dissolving your marriage, the stakes are really high. It’s not that overcoming the devastation of infidelity is easy, it isn’t. But it can be done. In fact, believe it or not, most people decide to stay in their marriages after infidelity. The important thing is to address the issues that might have lead to the infidelity and get the necessary help to recover. Divorce isn’t the solution, particularly when the unfaithful spouse is remorseful and devoted to changing. Here are some things you need to know if you are dealing with the fallout of infidelity in your marriage

1) Betrayal is in the eye of the beholder

Many times people want to know the definition of betrayal. To some, it is about having intercourse and other sexual contact with another person. To others, betrayal is more about one’s spouse feeling emotionally connected to someone else- late conversations of a personal nature with a co-worker, or an on-going, intimate friendship with another person. To others, it is secrecy. This may involve secret email accounts, cell phones, Internet behavior, or an unwillingness to share information about whereabouts, spending habits, or life plans.

The fact is, there is no universal definition of betrayal. When two people are married, they must care about each other’s feelings. They don’t always have to agree, but they must behave in ways that make the relationship feel safe. Therefore, if one person feels threatened or betrayed, his or her spouse must do some soul searching and change in ways to accommodate those feelings. In other words, betrayal is in the eye of the beholder. If you or your partner feel betrayed, you need to change what you’re doing to make the marriage work.

2) Infidelity is not a marital deal breaker

Many people think that affairs signal the end of a marriage. This is simply not true. Although healing from infidelity is a challenging endeavor, most marriages not only survive, but they can actually grow from the experience. This is not to say that affairs are good for marriages, they aren’t. Affairs are very, very destructive because the bond of trust has been broken. But after years of working with couples who have experienced betrayal and affairs, I can vouch for the fact that it is possible to get marriages back on track and rediscover trust, caring, friendship and passion.

3) Most affairs end

It’s important to know that, while affairs can be incredibly sexy, compelling, addictive and renewing, most of them end. That’s because after the thrill wears off, most people recognize that everyone, even the affair partner is a package deal. This means that we all have good points and bad points. When two people are in the throes of infatuation, they are only focusing on what’s good. This is short-lived, generally speaking. That’s because reality sets in and infatuation fades. If the betrayed spouse doesn’t run to a divorce attorney prematurely, it’s entirely possible and even like that an affair will die a natural death.

4) Temporary insanity- the only sane response

Because betrayal is so threatening to marriage and so devastating, many people feel they are losing their minds when they learn that their spouses have been cheating. They can’t eat, sleep, work, think, or function in any substantial way. This causes another layer of concern and self-doubt which often leads to depression and anxiety.

It is important to know that finding out that one’s spouse is cheating can be extremely traumatic. In fact, current research suggests that betrayed spouses exhibit symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. It is a major loss and as with most losses, betrayal is intensely disorienting and distressing.

5) You are not alone

Although when infidelity occurs, the betrayed spouse feels alone and lonely, it is essential to keep in mind that countless people have experienced the same problem and have felt the same way. This offers little consolation when one first learns about his or her spouse’s affair, but over time, it can take the sting out of feeling so out of sorts. It would be wonderful if everyone upheld their marital vows, but the truth is, that doesn’t happen. It should, but it doesn’t. The good news is that there is a great deal of support available because many people have walked in your shoes and can be empathetic to your feelings.

6) It helps to get help

But beyond talking with those who have experienced infidelity in their own marriages, it helps to get professional help. Feelings that surface after the discovery of an affair are often so overwhelming that it is difficult to know what to do to begin to get one’s marriage back on track. A good marriage therapist or a marriage education class can help lead the way. But be certain to seek help that is “marriage-friendly.” Some therapists believe that infidelity destroys the fabric of a relationship which cannot be repaired. These therapists declare marriages dead on arrival. It is essential that you get a good referral if you want your marriage to recover. Read about choosing a good marital therapist.

7) Healing takes time

Although people naturally want to be pain-free as quickly as possible, when it comes to healing from infidelity, it just isn’t going to happen. In fact, if things are “business as usual” too quickly, it probably just means that intense feelings have been swept under the carpet. This will not help in the long run. In order for a marriage to mend, it takes a great deal of hard work to confront all the necessary issues. This takes time- often years- to truly get things back on track. When couples enter my office and they’ve been dealing with the aftermath of infidelity for a year or so and they are still struggling, they think something is wrong with them. When I hear that, I tell them that nothing is wrong with them because the pain is still fresh and the news of infidelity is hot off the press. Yes, even a year after learning about betrayal isn’t a very long time. Healing from infidelity is a slow process for most people.

8 ) Count on ups and downs

One of the most frustrating and confusing aspects to the healing process is the fact that just when people think things have improved and are resolved, there is another major setback. This is not surprising at all. That’s because the path to recovery is not s straight line. It is jagged and beset with many, many ups and downs. I tell people that it is two steps forward and one step back. Unfortunately, when people have a setback, they believe that they have slid back to square one. This is not the case. Every setback is a bit different. And as long as there is a general upward trend, progress is being made. Maintaining patience is difficult, but it is absolutely necessary. Don’t give up when there has been a relapse. Just get back on track.

9) Don’t be quick to tell friends and family

It is important not to be too quick to tell friends and family about the problem of infidelity. If everyone in one’s family is apprised of the infidelity, even if the marriage improves, family members may not support the idea of staying in the marriage. They may pressure the betrayed spouse to leave. So, while emotional support during this rough time is absolutely necessary, it’s important to get professional help or talk to friends or family who will support the marriage and be less judgmental. Those people should have the perspective that no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes and as long as the unfaithful spouse takes responsibility to change, marriages can mend.

10) You won’t forget, but forgiveness is a gift you give yourself

When there has been infidelity, people just don’t forget about it. In fact, they don’t ever forget it. What does happen is that memories of the discovery and the pain tend to fade. The thoughts about betrayal become less frequent and less intense over time. And the good news is that people should NOT forget because we all learn from our experiences, both good and bad.

And although people don’t forget betrayal or affairs, forgiveness is still mandatory, not to let the unfaithful person off the hook, but because holding a grudge shackles people to the past. It is bad for one’s health, both emotionally and physically. There is no intimacy when there are grudges. Life is painful because there is a wall separating people. When betrayed spouses allow themselves to have feelings of forgiveness, life lightens up. It is freeing. Love begins to flow again. Letting go of the past begins to make room for happiness in the present. So, forgiveness isn’t meant for the unfaithful, it is a gift betrayed spouses give themselves.

For help in dealing with infidelity, visit the Divorce Busting homepapge.

Don’t give up.

About mwd27

Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW is an internationally renowned relationship expert, best-selling author, marriage therapist, and professional speaker who specializes in helping people change their lives and improve important relationships. Among the first in her field to courageously speak out about the pitfalls of unnecessary divorce, Michele has been active in spearheading the now popular movement urging couples to make their marriages work and keep their families together. She is the author of seven books including her best-selling books, DIVORCE BUSTING: A Step-by-Step Approach to Making Your Marriage Loving Again, and THE SEX-STARVED MARRIAGE: A Couple's Guide to Boosting Their Marriage Libido. Michele's work has been featured in major newspapers such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, and magazines such as Time, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, Essence, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Woman's Day, Men's Health, New Woman, and McCall's. Michele is a marriage expert on Redbook's advisory board, ClubMom.com and iVillage.com. She has made countless media appearances on shows such as Oprah, 48 Hours, 20/20, The Today Show, CBS This Morning, CBS Evening News, CNN, and Bill O'Reilly. Michele's Keeping Love Alive program aired on PBS stations nationwide. She recently completed a reality based show for the BBC about helping couples save their marriages. Michele maintains that her true expertise in helping couples have great relationships is derived from first-hand experience. She and her husband have been married for more than thirty years.
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  • Anonymous

    Having tried to win an unfaithful wife back before, there is no way I’d try it again.u00a0 It’s simply not worth it.u00a0 nnIf your spouse doesn’t value you enough to be honest and put boundaries in place to keep from having affairs, then she’s not a quality wife.nnIt’s great that folks can accomplish this.u00a0 It almost killed me when I tried it before.u00a0 So I speak from the experience of been there, done that, when I say I’d NEVER do it again.

  • Elenor Snow

    Michele W-D saved my sanity and then my marriage.u00a0 Six or so years ago, my husband “fell in love elsewhere” (obsession really, not love). u00a0 I SO believed him when he said he *had* to divorce me so he could marry her that I was actually trying to help him win her!! {eye roll}u00a0 (And I’m one who always said if my husband cheated, I d’ be gone in a second!)u00a0 But HE was in such agony — bonded to this woman whom even he admitted could NOT suit him — that my heart bled nearly as much for his pain as my own! (I discovered I was capable of a depth of love I had never even imagined!)u00a0 nnMichele’s book(s) and then forum helped me realize that *I* wasn’t crazy, and that there was most assuredly a chance to win him back. By following her wisdom, I was able to wait him out while the chemical storm faded, and he ‘came back to his senses’ — was it easy? No no no!u00a0 Agonizing. nnWas it worthwhile? Oh yes!u00a0 Will I always carry the scars? Oh yes. But we had come so far in healing our marriage; we had repaired so much that we had not been willing to address before.u00a0u00a0 It was SO worth the pain of biting my tongue, of waiting him out as a *friend* and not as the scared, tormented, furious, hurt wife I ALSO was.u00a0 It took a long time and a lot of work to build a new marriage on the ashes of the destroyed one. nnI’m sorry, tbright1965, that yours was not a saveable marriage. I consider myself lucky that mine was.u00a0 I do think it’s worth trying, even if it hurts, even if it doesn’t work in the end.u00a0 nnMy husband died suddenly this past July — I cannot imagine how much worse I would be feeling if we had exited the marriage we both valued in fury and hurt, instead of managing to build a new one that was moving forward toward a happy and loving old age together.u00a0 I will love and miss Michael Ray forever, whether I marry again or not, and I thank Michele W-D from the bottom of my heart for giving my those precious last few years with a loving husband who had turned back toward our marriage because in large part of her work!

  • Anonymous

    I read your articles and i like what I read.  Have you ever had a marriage based on a contract.  Mine was, I got really sick and needed help and a friend.  The only way this friend would help me is if I married him, he had been in love with me since Jr. High.  He is 46 and I 45 now.  Anyways, I never did learn to love him, I tried hard to be a good wife, did everything I could but nothing was ever good enough and he never did anything.  I have paid all the bills, do all the book work for our 4 businesses plus hold down my 8 hr job and do all the house work and chores.   He just does his business comes home and sits in front of tv and computer.  this lasted for 13 yrs.  he had an affair with one of his female workers and I found out and questioned him he lied and said nothing was happening and I believed him for 4 months til it was evident and he finally admitted the truth to me.   I did telll him I was filing for divorce and am currently waiting for it to be over with.  He on the other hand is depressed and has asked me to come back to him several times already.  I feel he only wants me back because their is no one cooking, cleaning or shopping or doing his laundry any more.   so I keep telling him NO.  Am I the cold hearted bitch people think I am or what??  when we were married and I am not over reacting, we never went or did anything together.  I always have had to go too my relatives by myself even at holidays.  Never shopped or nothing together.  I cant figure why else he would want me back…..I on the other hand am scared we are behind in debts and I am scared I am going to loose the house and all in it.  How does one get the courage to stay away and not go back just becasue of worries and problems.  I feel the divorce has given me peace and I can now sit and relax and not feel over whelmed with having to be on my feet from morning til night.   What do you think about a marriage like this and him wanting to get back together and me wanting to stay apart.  Will I ever get out of debt at my age?  Can I see daylight again?  Kmvf

  • Matt Kaymen

    This is a great article. I agree, divorce is not always the only option. But if you do feel the relationship can not be repaired, you need to contact a Family Law attorney immediately. They will be able to sort out the division of property and advise you on how to manage your shared responsibilities while filing.

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