Infidelity comes in many forms and affects the betrayer and the betrayed in many ways. Generally, most people consider engaging in an emotional and/or physically intimate relationship with someone other than with your partner an affair. Emotional affairs are relying on and communicating with a nonfamily member whom you have intimate feelings toward. Often these emotional affairs begin with two people complaining about their unhappiness in their own lives. Physical affairs include physical contact, from kissing to intercourse. Emotional affairs can be as damaging as physical affairs and may also be the gateway to a physical affair. There is research suggesting that women are more affected by emotional affairs, whereas men are more impacted by their partners having physical affairs. In my experience, each type of affair can be equally traumatic and damaging to both genders. These types of affairs also impact gay and lesbian relationships with similar levels of damage. A third and less common type of affair is viewing pornography. Women more often than men perceive that viewing pornography is a form of cheating. There are changing norms with millennials. More and more millennial women are watching pornography and both sexes are lowering their expectations about their partners need to abstain from pornography altogether. It is up to each couple to decide what is betrayal for them. Ultimately betrayal is a violation of trust that results in a traumatic experience for the betrayed, and often for the betrayer but to a lesser extent.
Experiencing infidelity or being cheated on in a committed relationship is devastating and traumatic. With an affair, one’s world is truly turned upside down. One’s immediate reaction is denial and shock as they generate other plausible explanations for finding damning texts, emails, pictures, or voicemails on their partner’s phone or iPad. As the realization sets in, one feels the devastating blow that the person they believed was there unconditionally to protect them and love them has now violated all their trust and their sense of security, has tainted all their memories that occurred during the lifespan of the affair, and has now potentially exposed them to disease. The betrayed becomes fraught with obsession for answers and information about the affair, with unwanted visualizations of their partner in sex acts with the other person, and with a sense that they did not measure up or could not please their partner in comparison to the affair partner. Moreover, the betrayed is often filled with mixed feelings about saving the relationship, running like hell, paying their partner back by having an affair of their own, ruining their spouse’s good name, and calling a divorce attorney.
The betrayer has the potential to respond to the discovery of the affair in a variety of ways. Some people a have an affair to make it easier to leave a relationship in which they have been in great conflict about. These people often continue the affair despite giving the appearance that they are working on things and often bail on their spouse after a few sessions of therapy. The majority respond with their own devastation and immense guilt about their own behavior, never realizing the pain that having an affair would have caused. Some become very open about what they have done and tell all to their partner, whereas most attempt to do damage control trying to save their loved one’s feelings while the betrayer slowly pries away the betrayer’s defenses, discovering more and more painful information. Some betrayers feel justified in their behavior and angry at their partner for not listening to them about and fixing the relationship’s problems. Again, the betrayer’s emotional range is similar to the betrayed but for other reasons. This range covers guilt, defensiveness, depression, anxiety, frustration, and fear. Complicating the matter, can be the sense of loss from the affair relationship depending upon the length and intensity of it. Bottom line, the betrayer is typically unhinged although their sense of pain typically pales in comparison to the betrayed.
If you choose to salvage your relationship or marriage following an affair, seeing a competent professional for couples counseling or marriage therapy is paramount. The early weeks of addressing the affair will greatly impact the future of the relationship. Again, getting the right advice and guidance will be life changing. To begin, both parties will meet jointly with the psychologist, therapist, or marriage counselor and initially discuss psychological backgrounds as well as resolving the current crisis. The initial aim will be ending the affair, maintaining the current routines, and learning to emotionally cope with the devastation of the affair. After two to three months of dealing with the crisis of the affair, the couple then explores what led to the affair and then repairs those interactions. Most couples participate in therapy one to two times a week during the first two to four weeks and then weekly for another month. They then follow up every other week, to monthly for the first year, and then to as needed. Each couple has specific needs, and often the participants are seen individually to work through their own contributing issues that get in the way of their progress.
We are expertly trained to assist you in couples counseling or marriage therapy to recover from your affair or a cheating spouse. Contact our office today at 904-379-8094. We are just over the ditch near the Town Center, five minutes from Ponte Vedra and A1A.
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