Infidelity is one of the biggest marital problems that cause heartache and devastation in a marriage. It breaks marriages and families apart. When a partner is unfaithful, it can shake the foundation of a marriage and cause intense negative emotions. While infidelity usually ends with the separation of the couple or divorce, if the spouses are committed to healing, the marriage could also survive and become stronger with higher levels of intimacy. While infidelity most certainly involves adultery, it is often more than just that and could be non-sexual as well.
Some of the ways in which infidelity could be non-sexual involve-
Developing a deep emotional attachment with a person from the opposite sex
continuing to have an online dating profile and being active on it
Flirting with other people
Remaining involved with an ex-partner
seeking an emotional connection from someone else
What causes Infidelity?
According to research, emotional disconnection from the spouse is one of the most common causes of infidelity in marriages. According to the American Association of Marriage and Family therapy, around 45% of men and 35% of women engage in an emotional relationship outside their marriage. Feelings of being unloved, unappreciated, ignored, insecure, and so on may also lead to infidelity.
Some of the reasons why some married people engage in extramarital affairs are as follows-
Addiction: Addiction to alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, and so on, are clear risk factors. Alcohol can reduce inhibitions such that a person who normally wouldn't consider having an affair when sober, may cross the boundaries while drunk. Sex and porn addictions also play a big role when it comes to looking for sexual satisfaction from elsewhere when not received from the marriage.
Psychological issues: Personality disorders or narcissistic traits are often associated with a greater likelihood of cheating. An affair may be driven by ego and a sense of entitlement for a person with narcissistic traits. People with these disorders often lack empathy and are self-centered due to which they do not understand the impact that their actions have on their spouse.
Unhappiness in the marriage: People often enter marriages and relationships with the expectation that his/her spouse will fulfil all their needs and “make them happy.” They hold a "perfect" image of their spouse. However, when they begin to see the flaws that their spouse has and that he/ she cannot live up to such high expectations, they start to seek it elsewhere, thus starting a series of unhealthy relationships outside their marriage.
The physical or emotional distance between partners- When one spouse works long hours, travels often for work, is rarely home, and is unable to spend time at home, the other may feel neglected. In other situations, the spouse may be present physically, but emotionally unavailable. Hence, while one tries to connect and keep “the spark alive,” the other has withdrawn from his/ her partner emotionally. This often leads to a partner attempting to find someone who is emotionally and physically present for them.
Overcoming Infidelity in a Marriage
Be honest about how you feel- After taking some time off for yourself and processing the shock and grief, be honest about how you feel about your partner's actions. Be willing to express how you are feeling and hurting. By being as honest as you can and openly sharing the feelings of abandonment, betrayal, fear, worthlessness, and doubt that you are experiencing, you will be able to keep the lines of communication open between you and your spouse.
Request honesty and total transparency from your spouse- As the offended spouse, you may have a lot of questions on your mind as to why, how, and when. Things may seem to be blurry to you. Hence, you can certainly request your spouse to be truthful and honest about the affair. You may ask the questions you want answers to. However, keep in mind the purpose as to why you seek answers. Are you someone who does well with a lot of information or is it just going to hurt you more?
Don't take rash decisions- Before choosing to end the marriage or to go ahead with mending it, it is important for both partners to take space for themselves and take some time off for healing. This may help them in understanding the reasons behind the affair and why it happened. This may shed light on what went wrong in the marriage and the things that were lacking due to which the individual went on to cheat on his/ her spouse.
Confess and take accountability for your actions- It is essential to take responsibility for your actions if you were unfaithful to your partner. Confess the truth and end the extramarital affair. It is important that you cut all sources of communication and interaction with that person so that you can solely focus on healing your marriage. Since trust has been broken, take accountability for each step that you take in order to heal what's been lost between you and your spouse.
Marriage Counselling- Seeking help from a licensed therapist who specializes in marital therapy and has experience in dealing with infidelity could be a great start to your healing journey as a couple. Marriage counseling can help you put the extramarital affair into perspective, identify the issues that might have contributed to the affair, learn how to communicate effectively and meet each other's needs, rebuild and strengthen your relationship, and avoid divorce.
Do not use your partner's infidelity as a weapon- If it is your true goal to move past your partner's infidelity and heal the marriage, you must allow him/ her to move past it as well. Although it may be easy to do so, using their mistakes against them as a weapon will only keep the pain fresh and hurtful, thus disrupting your happiness as well. Hence, it is best to avoid bringing it up in future conversations or conflicts.
Do not seek revenge- It is never a good idea to seek revenge or engage in "revenge sex". While it is natural to initially want to take revenge, seeking retribution would only make both spouses feel worse about the situation and expand the negative emotions that both of them are already dealing with.
Allow your spouse to take as much time as he/ she needs- If you have been unfaithful in your marriage, it is important to understand that your spouse needs to take as much time as he/ she needs to process the news and the pain. However, on your part, you need to make choices and find ways in which you could rebuild trust with your partner. Everyone heals at a different pace but being willing to listen to them and giving them the answers they deserve without showing any negative answers would definitely aid this journey.
Understand what led to the affair- Try to understand what reasons led to the affair. Do you have an addiction (sex, drugs, or alcohol) that resulted in making other poor choices? What was lacking in your marriage that led you to seek it elsewhere? If you are unable to understand the reasons behind your choices, seeking help from a therapist would help you understand and know yourself and your needs better.
Create a plan of action- Make a plan in order to restore trust and reconciliation. It is important to work as a team and to agree on a timetable and process. If you were unfaithful in the marriage, admit the guilt and pursue authentic forgiveness. If your partner was unfaithful, offer forgiveness when you are able to. Communicate how each of you is going to go about healing yourself and how you could work together. Together, seek an understanding of which areas you need to work on as a couple and strive to do so genuinely.
Getting over the infidelity of a spouse has a lot to do with forgiveness. Although it is incredibly painful to get over the intense emotional pain caused by infidelity, it is extremely essential for your own healing. While some mistakes like this are too painful to forgive, causing the marriage to end, forgiveness can be essential for your personal well-being. In many cases, infidelity is something that a couple dedicated to healing can overcome only if both of them are committed to the healing process and rebuilding the broken trust.