Many people enter a marriage with the hopes and dreams of being together forever. However, infidelity in a marriage is more common than most of us care to admit. Infidelity is characterized as a partner or partners breaking a promise to remain faithful during a committed relationship or a marriage. A promise to remain faithful can take many different forms, i.e., verbal affirmation, marital commitment, or an assumption based upon future planning of a life together. As unthinkable and unforeseeable as the notion of breaking such bonds may be, infidelity is common.
Once infidelity is introduced in a marriage, those betrayed are faced with several challenging questions such as: Should I leave or should I stay? Is it possible to rebuild trust? How long has the affair been going on? What does he or she have that I do not have? How could I have missed the signs? Can I ever forgive him/her? Unfortunately, for some people it doesn’t seem to matter how happy they are with their mate or sexually fulfilled they are in their romantic relationship -- they will cheat. Some men and women cannot or will not let a “sexual opportunity” pass them by.
Marriages and other committed relationships can survive infidelity, but it is important to remember that it will not be easy, it will take hard work. Betrayal and infidelity in a marriage can lead to hurt, depressed, confused, and angry feelings. Surprisingly, infidelity does not just happen in “unhappy marriages” but seemingly “happy marriages” as well. Marriages that include emotionally unavailable spouses, poor communication, and lack of validation are more likely than others to result in divorce.
A lot of people seem to be overly concerned with the rate of infidelity among men and women (i.e., who is more likely to cheat, men or women?). However, both men and women cheat for many of the same reasons: sexual boredom, sexual exploration, decrease in emotional connectedness, wanting to feel sexually desired, greedy (wanting one’s cake and eating it too), etc. Men and women also respond to infidelity and betrayal in much the same way, with sadness, self-doubt, anger, and confusion.
It is common to feel anger and sadness when a partner violates our trust, lies to us, or betrays us with another person. However, two wrongs do not make a right. In some cases, it is not appropriate or healthy to fight fire with fire, rather the calming and soothing approach of water is more suitable. Rather than embarking on a tit-for-tat, it may be more appropriate to seek counseling or end the relationship. Seeking an extramarital affair to hurt your partner for his or her infidelity only increases the pain, preventing the processing of feelings. Infidelity does not exist in a vacuum, infidelity has the power to create pain and distress on partners, children, family members, and the friends that love them.
Infidelity does not have to be a deal breaker in a marriage. You can come out on the other side. Couples that can recommit themselves to the relationship or the marriage can actually strengthen the bonds and improve partner communication. Marital counseling can be a useful tool that can be used to help couples identify the underlying issues in their marriage, i.e., what led to the affair. Effective therapy can help couples develop the most appropriate skills and techniques to improve communication, enhance intimacy, and build stronger bonds.