Most of us in long term marriages or relationships
feel safe in trusting our partner one hundred percent. We busy ourselves with daily life and the activities that go along with living that life. Rarely do we allow thoughts of infidelity interfere with the safety and security we find in our relationship. That is why so many people are caught off guard and with little idea as how to handle it when it does intrude into our lives.
According to statistics, 65% of married men engage in infidelity by the time they reach the age of 40. Statistics show that 55% of married females will engage in infidelity be the time they reach the age of 40. What is even more important when we think about these figures is that it is unlikely that all the men and women having affairs are married to each other. If half of the women having affairs are married to men not included in that 65% having affairs then at least one partner will have an affair in approximately 80% of all marriages and long-term relationships.
With statistics like these doesn’t it make sense that we might need to put thought into what we would do if we found ourselves dealing with infidelity in our relationship? Not arming ourselves with knowledge and the ability to handle such a problem should it come up is, in my opinion, the reason so many relationships do not survive infidelity. Sometimes it’s not so much about a failed relationship but more about a bad response to a painful situation and a lack of tools to navigate the problem successfully.
I’ve learned in my work with couples that have gone through the crisis of infidelity that the most important aspect of navigating such a crisis is the ability to see the problem from the perspective of the other person. Affairs happen for one of two reasons. Some allow an outsider into their relationship because they have needs that are not being met in the relationship. Others allow an outsider into their relationship because they find the relationship has gone stale and they are looking for excitement elsewhere.
There are probably many reasons that one might become vulnerable and find them selves in an affair. The two above are what I have encountered most often in my work. It is very important to seek an understanding as to why it is happening because once there is understanding, solutions can be found to rectify the problems that infidelity cause.
The best course of action to take is probably the hardest. If you are tempted by someone outside your relationship the best thing you can do for yourself and your partner is to admit that you have found yourself attracted to someone else. It is very important for both partners to try and explore what might have motivated the attraction. This is why I say it is important to be able to see it from the other person’s perspective. There is a lot of pain involved when your partner comes to you and tells you they are attracted to another person. It is very important, at a time like this that you be able to put your pain on the back burner. It’s important that you be able to recognize that you have been given a chance to save the relationship through the honesty of your partner even thought what they have said is painful.
If your partner has found himself or herself unhappy in the relationship, unhappy enough that they have looked outside the relationship in an attempt to fill their needs, then it is your partner’s responsibility to analyze the source of their unhappiness and to handle it. If they have lived in the relationship in a way that kept them from getting what they needed out of it, it is their responsibility to make changes, express to you what changes they need to be made and take ownership of getting their needs met. If you have a spouse who has come to you with such concerns then, if you are emotionally invested in the relationship and the spiritual growth of the relationship then it is your responsibility to put effort into seeing it from your partners perspective.
Solutions to problems that leave a relationship open to infidelity have to be solved with the participation of both partners. If not the relationship will be put at grave risk and not only will the unfaithful spouse have a role in it but also the faithful spouse. If, after an attempt to solve the problem is made and no solution can be found then there may be a choice made to separate or end the relationship. If this happens after a concerted effort by both partners to solve the problems then, more than likely, the separation and end of the relationship will be done in a way that is less stressful on both parties. No one will be left to feel they were not given an opportunity to exert a positive influence over the relationship. Both can leave the relationship knowing they did the best they could and suffer no feelings of powerlessness.
If the unfaithful partner makes the choice to not be honest with his or her partner then the relationship is doomed and what will follow will be complete destruction of any connection between the parties to the relationship.
When this happens the unfaithful partner will be left to deal with their guilt alone. This usually means justifying their behavior by blaming their partner by distortions of what the relationship was like and how unhappy they were in it. To gain the empathy of friends and family the unfaithful partner will resort to soliciting empathy for being the victim of such a horrible relationship, one that was so bad they had no other choice but to find someone outside the relationship to make them happy.
These are protective mechanisms. Used by the unfaithful spouse to cover his or her own guilt. It creates a drama in which one lie leads to another lie, which leads to devastating consequences for the relationship.
Exploring one’s motives, looking internally and not externally for reasons, involving the partner and honest exploration of the real causes for the infidelity and one’s unhappiness and seeking help are all ways of preventing such devastation.
If you are someone who has found themselves involved in an affair or attracted to someone outside the relationship these are good guidelines that will help navigate such a personal crisis. Your unhappiness does not lie within you partner’s behavior alone. If you think it does then it’s time to talk to your partner or seek professional help in identifying what is behind your unhappiness.
An unhappy relationship or marriage can often be composed of two dissatisfied people. Always remember to consider your partners side and put effort into seeing it from their perspective.
If a decision is made to work on the relationship or marriage then it is important that any other relationships or interests must be terminated permanently. No one can be 100% emotionally invested in solving problems when they are not 100% focused on the one relationship.
If, after the work has been done and you both conclude that separation or divorce is the solution then do so with humility, be kind and empathetic with your partner for the pain it causes.
Not all relationships and marriages can be rescued and recover from infidelity. Most can, if both partners do the proper work. If not though, remember that it is your responsibility to make every effort to accommodate the emotional healing of all involved and to help them live as well as possible to reduce any negative impact the infidelity might cause.