While there are many problems that can undermine a marriage none can destroy a relationship with the speed and totality of infidelity. Other crises can be problematic, but infidelity damages the entire framework of the matrimonial commitment. Rebuilding the trust and intimacy necessary for a successful marriage is a long and difficult process.
Divorce isn’t quite an ‘inevitability’ after an affair, but it is very common. Nearly 70% of marriages fail after the discovery of infidelity by one or both partners. While the odds may be against it, there are many couples who will quickly attend a private marriage retreat (Read top 10 retreats on this review site) and emerge from infidelity with a stronger, healthier and happier marriage.
WHAT DOES INFIDELITY MEAN?:
We’re not trying to parse words here–the concept of ‘infidelity’ means different things in different relationships. ‘Emotional intimacy’ may be acceptable in some marriages but viewed as a breach of trust in others. Some couples may consider infidelity to be an extended relationship with romantic overtones but not a ‘one night stand’. A close online relationship with or without sexual content takes the ambiguity of the term into the digital dimension.
The boundaries of marital fidelity will be different in every relationship. That notwithstanding, it is important to understand what specifically about an incident ‘crossed the line’. Without some agreement about what is and isn’t inappropriate in a relationship it’s impossible to work through marital problems of this type.
WHAT CAUSES INFIDELITY?:
Infidelity isn’t necessarily a manifestation of sexual desire. There is a variety of other reasons that precipitate extramarital affairs. In many cases, it is a lack of emotional fulfillment that motivates a married person to seek validation outside the relationship. Affairs can occur for reasons as simple as boredom and a desire for excitement or out of spite or a need for perceived ‘revenge’. They can also occur for much deeper reasons such as low self-esteem, addiction, or depression. Infidelity can also be the result of other unresolved marital issues–it is often a means to ‘end the relationship’ without directly addressing the underlying problem.
On some level, understanding why the infidelity occurred is essential to rebuilding a marriage. The degree of importance depends on the individual relationship and the causality of an extra-marital affair. At the very least, this is important to re-establishing trust and intimacy. At the extreme, the underlying issues that led to an affair must also be resolved to salvage the marriage.
IF YOU OR YOUR SPOUSE HAS HAD AN AFFAIR:
The immediate aftermath of marital infidelity isn’t conducive to clear thinking and well reasoned decision making. The first instinct is often to terminate the marriage immediately, but it’s important to not act out of impulse. Give yourself enough time to process things and consider your options. It’s often a good idea to remove yourself from the situation temporarily. Some ‘space’ is helpful for maintaining perspective, clear thinking, and good judgment. When you’re ready, seeking support from friends, relatives or a marriage therapist is a good idea. Of course, if you’re contemplating doing harm to yourself or others seek professional help immediately.
SAVING YOUR MARRIAGE AND MOVING ON:
Communication and honesty between partners in a relationship is crucial. If you were in the wrong, be accountable. Once the initial shock has subsided try attending a respected, well known marriage intensive retreat (visit this review site for a list of best retreats in U.S.), as well as talk openly about what happened and why. At some point, you and your spouse should ‘take inventory’ of the marriage, and it’s prospects for future viability. Until then, keep an open mind about the ultimate fate of your relationship.
If you and your partner rebuild the marriage, it’s important to understand that it’s a long, tough road. At this point, most couples benefit greatly from working with an experienced marital therapist or marriage counselor. A professional can provide objectivity and perspective along with the training to help resolve problematic issues and suggest ways to strengthen a relationship during the rebuilding process. Going to counseling with your partner is also a good way to demonstrate commitment, honesty, and openness. It is a mutual display that a couple is willing to make the effort necessary to save their marriage.
While there is no set timetable for recovery from an affair or reconciliation of a marriage at some point, it’s necessary to forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting the infidelity or minimizing its significance. It doesn’t even mean that you’re willing or able to stay in a relationship. At some point, however, it’s necessary to move forward in life regardless of what happens with the marriage.