Practical suggestions for couples on how to cope with infidelity.
The Main Cause of Divorce
Extramarital affairs are considered to be the main cause of divorce in North America. Depending on the research study, the frequency of affairs for men and women ranges from 15-40% for women to 30-47% for men. Various couple and family therapists have indicated that the consequences of extramarital affairs are some of the most difficult issues to deal with in couple therapy. It is our experience though that, when both partners are willing to address the infidelity and restore trust in the relationship, success rate of recovering from an affair is very high in couples therapy.
An affair often damages the relationship at its core, at the level of trust. As a result of an affair one partner invariably gets injured. If the couple wants to salvage their relationship, it is often helpful for the injured partner to go through the process of forgiveness or letting go of hurt feelings and resentment. Even though forgiveness is powerful in overcoming the effects of infidelity, it does not guarantee reconciliation. It sometimes happens that, even after forgiving, partners decide to end their relationship. More often than not, though, the couple decides to stay together and restore the lost trust.
What we focus on
In our work with couples, we do not support affair counselling when one partner is unwilling to end an ongoing affair. We believe that it is counterproductive to the process of rebuilding trust and, from our experience, it does not produce positive results. We ask the couple to end any ongoing communication with the third party in order to invest their time and energy into their relationship.
We focus on two necessary aspects of recovery from an extramarital affair. First, we help the couple process the underlying feelings of hurt, anxiety, shame and guilt that usually accompany the aftermath of an affair. This process helps the couple reconnect and restore genuine affection in the relationship. Second, it is important to process what made the couple vulnerable to an affair in the first place. This includes an in-depth analysis of their relationship dynamics and patterns of communication. From our experience, the whole process takes two to three months, on average.
If you are dealing with the consequences of an extramarital affair, remember that there is hope. With competent professional help couples usually overcome the devastation and work through the affair.