Affairs or infidelity is one of the most stressful, harmful, and painful experiences a couple can go through. It is also one of the top reasons a couple may come in for marriage counseling. The pain and damage caused by an affair goes well beyond the initial hurt caused, but leads to many deeper issues. It is incredibly difficult for a couple to survive and affair and many do not make it past. Marriage therapy focuses on recovering after an affair and repairing broken trust, allowing the relationship to rebuild and hopefully become stronger than the one they had.
Challenges Caused by Infidelity:
There are a set of difficulties that surface following an affair. Therapy helps a couple navigate these with the best likelihood of success. Perhaps the most difficult challenge presented is that the spouse who was not involved in the affair has had their trust and beliefs about the relationship ripped out from under them. They may have been unaware that there was cause for unhappiness in their relationship and may question their spouses feelings or motivation. Due to the extreme breech in trust, they may have difficulty accepting their spouses efforts towards change and rebuilding. They may find themselves experiencing symptoms similar to someone who has experiences trauma, such as; disturbing imagery, sudden surges of emotional distress from a triggering memory, sleep problems, anxiety, and ruminating thoughts. In therapy the couple must learn skills to help manage the at times overwhelming emotions that follow in the months, or even years, after an affair. Empathy, validation, and anger management skills are all taught to tackle these challenges.
What Leads to an Affair?
There is no one answer to this question. There are a multitude of reasons one can have an affair; however, there are some life stressors that can put a couple at high-risk for infidelity. Some professions have a higher risk of infidelity because of the stress involved or because of the high drama environment that they are in every day. Major transitions also put couples at risk, such as; relocating, pregnancy, or major changes in work or family structure. Facing these stressors or being in these professions does not guarantee an affair. Other personality traits or tendencies to handle stress by seeking external reassurances are generally present as well. It is often a combination of many factors that lead to the actual affair. It is during these high risk times that therapy can be beneficial as a preventative measure rather than for repairs to damage caused by infidelity.