Home > counseling, infidelity, marriage > Recovering from an Affair (Part One)

Recovering from an Affair (Part One)

Infidelity is more common than most people realize. In fact, it is estimated that 60% of men and 40% of women today will have an extramarital affair during their marriage. People who are Christians are just as likely to have an affair as non Christians. In this blog, I will explore the forces that lead to infidelity and what must happen for couples to heal.

Forms of Infidelity

Infidelity takes many forms. Some people have sequential affairs—a series of one-night stands or short affairs. These affairs involve very little emotional investment and may be rationalized as harmless. There is always the danger of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. When such behavior continues for several years and finally is discovered, it is difficult to heal the years of deceit.
Other affairs are discrete events. These also involve minimal emotional investment.
Sometimes affairs last longer and become more serious. These affairs may be quite romantic and sexual. Sometimes they grow into more serious relationships and may last for years.

Why Affairs Happen

Infidelity happens for many reasons. Here are a few of the common explanations (I do not necessarily agree with these reasons, but have heard them before):

1. An affair may be a response to a crisis such as the death of someone important, moving to a new city, a job change, or some other kind of life transition.
2. Sometimes people become bored with their partners and seek sexual or emotional excitement with someone new. The new person seems to supply the excitement that has been missing.
3. Stressful times in the family life cycle lead some to seek escape in an affair. This includes things like taking care of aging parents, raising teenagers, and becoming new parents.
4. People sometimes look for outside relationships because their expectations of marriage have not been satisfied.
5. Some people seek outside relationships when their partners are emotionally unavailable because of illness.
6. Other people begin affairs because they seek more affection than their partner can provide.
7. Other people seek professional or social advancement.

There are also many social reasons why affairs happen: factors that exist in our society that lead many of us to expect a fantasy version of marriage that could never really exist. When marriage doesn’t live up to this expectation, some keep looking for it outside of marriage.

Common Reactions to Infidelity

People who are involved in relationships in which their partner has been unfaithful say they have a wide range of reactions. These are a few of the common ones:
1. A physical reaction, such as feeling like you have been punched in the stomach.
2. Denying that anything is wrong.
3. Blaming yourself (I didn’t pay enough attention to her; I wasn’t sexy enough for him; I let myself get too fat, etc.).
4. Blaming your partner (I can’t believe anything she says)
5. Blaming the relationship (We were too young; We were wrong for each other; We had different values, etc.).
6. Blaming the lover (It’s all his fault; If it weren’t for him); transferring anger from one’s spouse to one’s lover.

Other Consequences of Infidelity

In addition to the emotional impact of infidelity, there may also be other consequences: sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, problems at work, and loss of relationships.

In my next blog I will discuss recovery strategies and steps to prevent an affair in your marriage.

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