When One Person Is Unfaithful

Can a couple survive an affair?  I get this question a lot as a marriage and family therapist.  I’d like to say yes, but that is not always the case.  And yet, sometimes yes is absolutely the right answer.  Couples can survive an affair; an affair of the heart, an affair of the flesh, and an internet or phone affair.  Not all couples survive.  Sometimes there’s just too much pain to overcome.

But for others, two people sometimes find a way to move closer together.  They don’t ever put things back the way they were.  How can it ever be the way it was after one person finds interest in another outside the relationship?  A couple can’t go back to a place of innocence where true love blossomed and each believed in fidelity for ever and ever.  Something is irrevocably broken.

In many cases when an affair is discovered the person who finds out becomes devastated.  Often the first response is anger and disbelief.  How can this happen?  How can this be?  It’s almost unforgivable.  How could their partner have lied to them?

It’s also possible the person who finds out begins to worry what they might have done to create a situation where the other one left.  They also might wonder how they just didn’t know what was happening.  Often they feel stupid and duped, foolish and embarrassed.

If the other person is remorseful and wants to keep the relationship together he or she probably feels terrible seeing the pain they have caused their partner.  This guilt and shame can cause this mate to spin out of control.

Both are hit with something that feels like an explosion in their house.  They used to rely on things being a certain way.  Now everything is turned upside down and nothing is familiar.  What does a couple do when their world has been rocked with an affair?  Couples counseling can be a good place to start.  First it helps to have an objective individual listen to each person.  Chances are there have been a lot of conversations, and lots of tears and heartfelt apologies and promises.  Even so this is not enough to mend the damage.  That’s why a trained counselor is probably needed.

The first session is usually about figuring out what foot to put in front of the other.  Both people are in such a state of shock and the marriage or relationship has just imploded.  Slowly each person will unload what he or she has been feeling.  This is very helpful as many deep feelings get stirred up in this kind of crisis.  It’s helpful to talk about what one is feeling.  When you are guided by a trained professional you might even feel better.  That’s the first step.

What happens next is up to the individual couple.  Each person will have to decide what they want to do.  What would be right for them?  Sometimes both want to work on mending the relationship or marriage.  Sometimes one doesn’t know if he or she can.  This can also be explored in counseling.

If a couple decides to stay together this type of crisis often makes way for deeper understanding and compassion.  Couples learn to move more openly into their emotions and say a lot of the things they have kept hidden from their mate.  This allows a stronger relationship to emerge.  It’s possible to even heal from deep wounds.  It’s possible to build something better and become even stronger.

Interested in free counseling?  If you are dealing with infidelity in your marriage you may qualify.  Send me an email linda@lindanusbaum.com

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