Infidelity puts a serious strain on a relationship. It can leave the cheated partner with a sense of betrayal and confusion. Unfortunately, some relationships will not survive. However, with two committed partners, it is possible to save the relationship. You can try doing this on your own, but you may require the help of an experienced therapist. If the relationship can be saved, the work you do can often make your bond even stronger.
Strangely, affairs are not always about just sex. A UK survey found that men and women provide similar reasons for their infidelity and neither gender prioritizes sex. The top reasons given by women were lack of emotional intimacy, lack of communication, fatigue and negative history with sex or sexual abuse. Men responded similarly and noted lack of communication, stress, sexual dysfunction and lack of emotional intimacy as their top contributing factors.
Just as the reasons that led to the infidelity are varied, so are the different types of extra-relational affairs..
1- Object affair: This is the neglect of a relationship that leads to a reshuffling in the person’s priorities in relation to their primary relationship. This may include work, a hobby, an actual object or any other outside interest and may reach a point of near-obsession.
2- Sexual affair: One partner may have sex outside the relationship. This is often only physical without any emotional attachment. Men have a harder time forgiving a sexual affair than women do. Women may be more likely to forgive an affair when emotions are not involved.
3- Cyber affair: This is infidelity committed through sexts and chats. This may remain strictly online and never reach a point of physical intimacy. This may also include indulging in pornography. Some people consider that act itself to be a form of infidelity.
4- Emotional affair: This occurs when the cheating partner forms an emotional attachment to someone outside of their primary relationship. The partner involved in the emotional affair may discuss relationship problems with the other person only and neglect to do this with their partner. Sex is not always part of an emotional affair.
If both partners are committed to doing the work to mend their connection, therapy may be vital. Here are 4 prerequisites for making sure that you both get maximum benefits out of your therapy:
1- Stop the cheating first.
There are many things that need to happen before you can move on as a couple. The most important is that the cheating has to stop. You can not build trust and move forward if the cheating partner still has contact with the person they cheated with.
2- Realize that things will never be the same.
Couples often get stuck, because they desire their relationship to be “just like before”. Once trust is broken it is not possible to go back to a time before the infidelity occured. Both partners need to accept that they are building a brand new relationship and that what was will never be again.
3- Be open and communicate.
This means talking about everything. Communication needs to be open and honest. If one partner refuses to make the commitment to discuss everything, the relationship will never last.
4- Be ready to start over together.
The couple has to be ready to make changes in an effort to find healthier ways of doing things. The cheater must take responsibility for their own actions. It is just as important for the other partner to be open to doing things differently going forward. This will mean doing whatever it takes to create a solid relationship.
The process of couples therapy is different in each situation but here’s what you can expect:
1– Each person gets to air their grievances and express how they’ve been hurt by the other in a safe environment with a therapist present. The therapist will make sure each of you understands and hears each other.
2– Once each of you has acknowledged the hurts, you can then move on to exploring what went wrong. You’ll discuss each partner’s opinion on what happened and give them equal weight.
3– When the events and facts are fairly well understood, you can then start looking deeper to understand what emotional and psychological dynamics were at play that led to the affair.
4– Finally, you’ll start the process of learning new ways to relate that are healthier, and that foster a sense of connection and intimacy.
Regardless of whether your marriage continues or if it ends in divorce, there is hope available to you. Depending on where you are and whether you are willing to consider a continued relationship will determine whether or not couples therapy is your right choice. If you both feel that couples therapy is right for you, we can help. Please call (510) 497-4174 to schedule a session with one of our rigorously trained therapists.