Extramarital Affairs: What You Need To Know
I read recently that upwards of 80% of marriages will suffer from the effects of an extramarital affair at some point (although I’ve not verified this research for myself I do know that infidelity and affairs are a major problem facing marriages today).
Believe it or not, studies show that at least 40% of women and 60% of men will cheat on their spouses. If you put those two numbers together, you will find that at least 80% of all married people will at one point or another be involved in an affair. This means that someone close to you is, or soon will be, having an affair.
Though this number seems off the charts, any marriage therapist will say that it mirrors reality fairly closely, especially when you consider that not everyone gets caught cheating — so there are a LOT Of people who get away with it.
Think someone you know might be having an affair? (Use caution going down this path because often times our suspicions are wrong.) Then keep your eyes open for certain tell-tale signs:
When someone is having an affair, you will likely see changes in his/her habits, behavior, focus and productivity. Most of the time, a cheating spouse will seem detached from their partner. You may sense something is out of character but can’t pinpoint what it is.
The best thing to do when you notice any sudden change in character in your spouse and you might suspect an affair is underway, is to discuss your observations with them.
Obviously you need to be sensitive and cautious – and kind. DO NOT ACCUSE them of cheating as this may make them defensive or cause them to start being more discreet.
As you know, most of the time, a cheating spouse will not disclose to their partner that they are cheating. In fact, most people will do whatever it takes to hide the affair until they are caught cheating.
As the “victim”, it’s only natural to feel angry, hurt and embarrassed about the affair. You may also feel as if you failed your cheating spouse in one way or another and thereby triggered the affair.
To complicate it even further, there are different types of affairs.
Types of Affairs:
Here is a list of seven main types of infidelity:
- Affairs that result from a lack of intimacy in marriage.
- Affairs that are a result of past sexual confusion and trauma.
- The boys will be boys mentality.
- Revenge- Some people will have an affair just because their partner had an affair. For example, a victim of infidelity may feel inclined to cheat on his or her spouse just to teach them a lesson.
- Affairs that are a result of rage and anger.
- To affirm personal desirability –In such a case, one spouse may choose to have a short term affair to reaffirm that he or she is still attractive to the opposite sex.
- Affairs that happen when the balance and intimacy in a marriage is upset.
Whether or not the marriage will survive the affair depends on the nature of the affair.
One kind of affair may enable the couple to identify the root problem(s) in their marriage while another may be a death sentence to the marriage.
Similarly, the different kinds of affairs need to be handled differently. While one affair may demand tough love another one may be better off with some patience and understanding.
(Please understand that I’m not advocating infidelity. On the contrary, I’m advocating that couples do whatever it takes to save their marriage.)
An affair can have a major emotional effect on all parties involved. Such effects include sexual fantasies, sleeplessness, decreased productivity and rumination. Although it takes 2-4 years usually to work through these effects, a skilled marriage counselor can accelerate the healing process.
In addition to the above mentioned emotional effects, trust in the marriage may be completely destroyed.
Before the “victim” can learn to trust the cheating husband or wife again, they must learn to trust themselves and their ability to discern the truth.
Keeping a secret isn’t easy and it takes a toll on the cheating spouse both emotionally and physically. These effects also need to be acknowledged and dealt with.
So, what can the Cheating Spouse do to help?
- Vent- During this time, you can expect you and your partner to vent. Sometimes you might even say mean and hurtful things that you shouldn’t be saying. Your partner will most definitely have some pointed things to say because of the pain you’ve put them through. Listen to them – remember that it is important to air these things out while the opportunity lasts.
- Remind yourself and your partner that “this too shall pass.” It helps to hear that the problem won’t last forever.
- Validate and affirm yourself and your partner; let them know that they are okay. You can do this by nodding in acceptance when they talk about their pain and confusion.
- Discuss with your partner whether there is anything you both can identify from the affair that can make it a learning/growing experience for your relationship.
You and your partner may need some space during this trying time. So try to be patient with them as they sort through and express their feelings. Let them stumble their way through it all.
Make an effort to understand your spouse’s wounded feelings and desires. There will be gray areas about how they are feeling and what they want. Validate and affirm them through this healing process.
Be consistent. As mentioned earlier, infidelity in a marriage destroys trust. If you want your partner to trust you again, then listen and speak consistently. If you are going to be unavailable at a particular time, let them know.
Affairs affect the lives of those involved on every level: emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. But you can use the affair as a learning experience and opportunity to strengthen your relationship.
Wounds sometimes leave scars – please understand that I’m not saying the affair won’t leave a scar – but there is a great chance that if you and your spouse put the work into it, your relationship can grow and be stronger than you even imagined. I know it might be hard to believe right now, but see it through. Most couples are glad they did because they found love and happiness once more after working together to heal and recover from the affair.