Infidelity is responsible for the failure of countless marriages, but yours does not have to be one of them. Learn how your marriage can recover from the devastating effects of an affair.
It’s safe to say that infidelity is the cause of more emotional pain and heartbreak than most other marital difficulties combined. Family relationships, unruly children, financial difficulties and health problems can stress an otherwise healthy marriage, but infidelity rocks the core of the marriage causing severe damage that is in some cases irreversible.
But infidelity does not necessarily spell the end of the marriage. It’s a universal truth that time heals all wounds, and if both partners are truly committed to saving the marriage, it’s entirely possible to emerge from the darkness with a stronger, more loving partnership than before.
What is Infidelity?
Down through the ages, infidelity has been commonly known as a physical sexual relationship outside of the marriage, but in modern times as our society has evolved the aspect of virtual reality, infidelity has also spread into this virtual world with extramarital sexual relationships that may lack a physical component, but are nonetheless serious breaches of marital trust. These virtual indiscretions can be just as damaging to the fabric of marriage as the traditional extramarital affair.
There are many circumstances that can lead to infidelity including a poor self-image of one or both partners, physical and/or emotional incompatibility, addiction to sex or an unhealthy preoccupation with pornography.
Discovering The Affair
Discovering the affair unleashes a powerful array of emotions that run the gamut from disbelief, grief, anger, guilt and depression. You may experience this entire range of emotions over and over again, one-moment feeling anger and ready for divorce while the next moment feeling an overpowering urge to reconcile. The important thing to focus on at this point is that recovery from infidelity is a long step by step process that can, and often does end well. Along the way it’s important to:
- Take it slow Avoid the urge to uncover all of the details of the affair too soon. Even though your first reaction is to uncover every sordid detail, give yourself time to adjust to the situation.
- Give each other space. The realization that you have been the victim of infidelity is an emotional time bomb. At this point it’s often helpful to take some time to be alone to let overheated emotions subside.
- Seek out support. Voice your emotions with close friends and family, a leader in your church, or a marriage counselor. Objective, non-biased support helps you understand your feelings and put the infidelity into perspective.
Rebuilding a Shattered marriage
Recovery after infidelity is a challenging and complex process. Even so, it’s possible to survive the affair and rebuild an even stronger relationship. Taking the following actions will help to begin the healing process:
- Be accountable. If you were the unfaithful spouse, take responsible for your indiscretions. End the affair immediately, and sever all ties with the other person.
- Be honest. After the shock subsides discuss your situation candidly and sincerely, no matter how difficult reliving the affair may be.
- Acknowledge your mutual goals. It will take time to make sense out of what happened and to decide whether or not your relationship can be salvaged. If you both share the goal of attempting to save the marriage, realize that recovery will not be immediate. It will require an investment of time, energy and emotional commitment.
- Take part in marriage counselling. Participate in counseling from an experienced, licensed marriage therapist who’s trained in marriage recovery and who specializes in matters of infidelity. Marriage counseling can help you uncover and understand the circumstances that lead to the infidelity, and help you learn how to restore and solidify your marriage.
- Restore trust. It’s imperative that you receive your counseling together to re-establish your commitment to the marriage and to prevent secrecy from continuing to undermine your relationship. If you were the unfaithful spouse, you will probably be motivated to sweep your indiscretions under the rug, try to forget what happened and attempt to move forward. But it’s important for you to realize that recovering from infidelity is not an exact science and can only happen on your spouses own schedule.
- Forgive. Infidelity is an intensely emotional and devastating experience. Forgiveness is unlikely to be given quickly or easily, but if you give it a chance, time will heal all wounds.
Not all marriages suffering from infidelity are able to be saved. Sometimes simply too much damage has occurred for a reconciliation to be possible. On the other hand, if both partners are serious about rebuilding the marriage and have the strength of character to see things through to completion, the reward could be a partnership that delivers on the hopes, dreams, and promises made on their wedding day.