“It is estimated that roughly 30 to 60% of all married individuals (in U.S.) will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage.” ~Wikipedia (compilation of research studies)
Does this statistic alarm you? As a marriage counselor, the frequency of infidelity in marriages no longer surprises me. Instead, I am honored to have a unique vantage point. You have allowed me to observe what helps individuals and couples recover from infidelity.
Have you recently found out your spouse is having an affair? If yes, I imagine you are experiencing many different feelings. You can’t stop thinking about the affair and feel compelled to find out everything you can, even if it’s painful. By now, you are growing weary of holding onto the fear that the affair will happen again.
How do you recover from this news without losing your mind and yourself? Discover what choices you have in front of you, even if you feel like you have no choices. Your choice lies in how you respond and make sense of the affair. In doing so, you will chose what you are going to do as well as what you are not going to do.
What Not To Do When Your Spouse Has An Affair:
I have listened to you and heard what helps and hinders you from recovering from infidelity. Here’s what I think you’d say not to do…
- Don’t let the affair tear down your self-worth. You are not any less lovable or attractive. Someone else’s actions don’t have to reflect how important you are.
- Don’t get stuck on trying to fix your spouse. One of the ways your spouse deals with stress and tension is to turn to more than one person for comfort. Each time you try to fix them, you will be letting them off the hook from fully understanding and learning from this.
- Don’t over-focus on the affair. While it may be all you think about at first, it helps to look at the bigger marriage or family climate. The affair is typically a symptom of underlying marriage patterns or family stress level.
What To Do If Your Spouse Has An Affair:
Now, you know what has hindered others from recovering from an affair, but what about what helps?
- Nourish Yourself: Expect to feel the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Look after yourself, more than looking after others. Find ways to manage worry and practice good self-care.
- Take Opportunity for Learning: Use the news of marriage infidelity as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your marriage. What do you want to change to improve your quality of life? What marriage patterns could be contributing to your marriage being vulnerable to infidelity?
- Allow Spouse’s Growth: Just as you are learning, allow your spouse to do their own self-discovery, even if this makes you anxious. The more you try to figure out your spouse’s part, the more it will stunt their growth.
When experiencing a high level of stress and anxiety, your first reaction may be to put all the blame on one person. While you are not responsible for how your spouse acted out this tension, you are both responsible for creating the marriage environment at the time of the affair starting.
Working on yourself can free you from being consumed with anxiety about the infidelity. It helps you feel more in control and moves you to the present while understanding the past. The affair is turned into an invitation to tend to what needs to grow.
What do you want to grow inside yourself?
Looking for a counselor in your area? There are therapists who are trained to work with individuals on marriage and family issues: Bowen Family Systems or American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy
Photo Credit: “Look at Me” by Ruurmo