Everyone has seen movies or read books about the husband who has a mistress or the wife who has a lover
Infidelity – Everyone has seen movies or read books about the husband who has a mistress or the wife who has a lover. But you never think it’s going to happen to you. Unfortunately, infidelity occurs more often than it should. In this chapter, we will help you examine your marriage and give you suggestions on how to deal with infidelity in a relationship.
➤ Identifying the underlying problem
➤ Deciding if your marriage is over
➤ Giving your marriage a second chance ➤ Preventing infidelity
Infidelity as a Symptom
Infidelity is usually a symptom of a troubled marriage. It’s easy to point to the infi- delity and say “That’s the problem.” But most of the time, there is an underlying problem in the relationship. If you or your spouse has turned to someone else, it means that something big is missing from your marriage. And it was probably miss- ing before the affair started.
One of the biggest mistakes couples make after an affair is ignoring it. They try to sweep all of their emotions under the carpet. Most important, they don’t address the issues that are troubling their marriage in the first place.
An affair should not be treated lightly. A simple discussion or argument will not change the qualities in your marriage that need to be changed. You need to work hard and put in the time and energy necessary to repair your marriage.
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Christopher and Brenda had been married for 16 years. They had two children, who were now teenagers. Over the last several years, they had become more distant from each other. They didn’t spend much time talking about each other’s work, and they only went out together about once a month. Each of them spent more and more time with outside friends. Christopher and Brenda were slowly drifting apart. It’s not that they were fighting constantly or were miserable with each other. But they were not making the same efforts to spend time together that they had in the first years of their marriage.
Christopher was spending more and more time with a female colleague at work who was eight years younger than he was. At first, they had a friendship, but over time they realized they were attracted to each other. They started having an affair. At first, Christopher felt very guilty. But then he rationalized that he wasn’t that attracted to Brenda anymore, and Brenda wouldn’t find out anyway.
Over the next six months, Christopher carried on a passionate affair with his co- worker. He had rationalized to himself that it didn’t matter, but it did. He started fighting with Brenda more and became defensive about everything. Brenda knew something was happening, but she didn’t think Christopher would ever have an affair.
One afternoon Christopher called Brenda to tell her he would be working late that evening. Brenda sarcastically said, “If I didn’t know better, I’d think that you were having an affair. You’ve been home late a lot recently.” Christopher mumbled some- thing and hung up. He was convinced Brenda knew.
Christopher’s affair was a loud and clear signal that there was something missing from his marriage. Christopher ended the affair after realizing his colleague would never leave her husband for him. Brenda never knew about it. By ending the affair, Christopher had an opportunity to start repairing his marriage. But he didn’t do anything.
After more than a year, nothing has changed. Christopher and Brenda are still distant from each other. This is sad because the two of them have a long history together, much of it very happy and fulfilling. Their marriage could be strong again, if they would both put in the effort to make it work. Ending an affair will not automatically improve a relationship. It’s only the first step.
Marriage Q & A’s
Q: I think my spouse might be having an affair. What should I do?
A: The most important thing you can do is work on your marriage. Even if your spouse is not having an affair, the fact that you are worried means there are problems in your relationship. Start by identifying issues that are troubling you and working toward resolving them. Also, make sure you are spending fun time with your spouse on a regular basis.
Is It Over?
If you or your spouse has had an affair, it’s very likely that your relationship is in big trouble. The two of you might even be on your way to divorce. An affair is a loud and clear signal that your relationship needs serious reexamining. But, don’t assume your marriage is definitely over. In the majority of cases, it’s possible, with determination and outside help, to salvage your relationship.
Your Spouse Cheated on You
If you found out that your spouse was having an affair, it would probably be one of the worst moments in your life. Some people feel there is no way they could ever for- give their spouse if he or she cheated on them. It’s
certainly justifiable to feel that way. But remember, if you cannot eventually forgive your spouse, you will never be able to repair your relationship.
If your spouse cheated on you, ask yourself the following questions:
- Did you suspect that something was wrong in your marriage?
- Do you have any idea what it is?
- Do you think it could be fixed with time and hard work?
- Is there at least a small chance that you will be able to forgive your spouse?
- If you feel there is no way that you could ever forgive your spouse, do you want to give up on your marriage?
After their spouse has an affair, many people realize or can finally admit their mar- riage needs work. Look at your answers. If you can identify a problem and are willing to go to therapy and work on it, there is an excellent chance your marriage will im- prove greatly. But, you also need one more element—forgiveness. It will take time to forgive your spouse; that’s okay. But the most important thing is that you need to be open to the idea of forgiving your spouse over time. If you feel you can never forgive your spouse, you’re saying that you’re giving up on your marriage.
Marriage Q & A’s
Q: I love my spouse and my lover. Can’t I have a good relationship with both of them?
A: Some people fool themselves into thinking they can have a good marriage and an out- side affair as well. They think they can keep each relationship separate and rationalize that they get different things from each person. There is absolutely no way that you can have a successful marriage while having an affair. You may only see this many years later—when it’s too late to repair the damage you have done.
You Cheated on Your Spouse
If you are cheating on your spouse, you need to end the affair completely. This might seem obvious, but it needs to be said directly. Some people think that once their af- fair is discovered, they might simply need to be more careful! This will only prolong the agony of the situation, both for you and your spouse. You must end your affair completely before you can have a successful relationship with your spouse.
If you cheated on your spouse, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Why did you cheat on your spouse?
2. Do you know what is wrong with your marriage?
3. Do you think that it could be fixed with time and hard work?
4. Are you willing to completely give up the affair?
5. By having an affair, are you saying that you want to give up on your marriage?
Many people have an affair as a way of expressing their frustration in their marriage. Look at your answers. Consider carefully why you had an affair. If you’re willing to go to a therapist and work hard on repairing your marriage, there is an excellent chance you will be able to have a great relationship with your spouse. If you feel like giving up on your marriage and continuing your other relationship, we still strongly encour- age you to seek counseling. The decision to stay with or leave your spouse might be the biggest one you ever make. You owe it to yourself and your spouse to think it through carefully and make the decision for the right reasons.
You and your spouse absolutely must do three things for the two of you to get past the infidelity and continue your marriage:
- ➤ You both need to recognize that your relationship needs work and agree to work on it.
- ➤ The person who is having the affair needs to end it completely.
- ➤ The person whose spouse was unfaithful needs to forgive, over time, and move on.
When someone has an affair, it creates a division in your relationship. Your marriage is now divided into the time before and the time after the affair. You might idealize the time before the affair as a wonderful part of
your marriage. You might remember it as a time in
which you trusted your spouse, you loved each other, and your relationship was good, even if these things were not true. The time after the af- fair, on the other hand, is now tainted. There has been a huge breach of trust and you are living the aftermath of that.
To give your relationship the best chance of sur- vival, you need to consciously and actively do things to redefine your marriage. You cannot sim- ply go back to where you were because you have crossed over a line. Don’t fall back into the exact same patterns you had before. What you need to do is start over.
The hardest thing you will need to do is rebuild trust in your relationship. Whoever was unfaithful, you or your spouse, did major damage to the trust in your marriage. You can start to rebuild trust in your relationship by starting small and being consistent. Always be on time, do what you say you will do, and be honest. There will probably be many setbacks along the way, but keep being trustworthy. It will pay off eventually.
If you cheated on your spouse, it will take time to rebuild the trust that the two of you had. Make sure you do the following regularly and consistently:
- ➤ Never lie to your spouse.
- ➤ Communicate clearly at all times.
- ➤ Accept the fact that your spouse wants to know your schedule in great detail.
- ➤ Talk with your spouse every day from work or if one of you is out of town.
- ➤ Always be on time.
- ➤ Take the time to reassure your spouse if he or she feels insecure.
- ➤ Remember to do one nice thing each day for your spouse.
- ➤ Show your spouse affection on a regular basis.
- ➤ Do one fun activity every week alone with your spouse.
- ➤ Be especially patient with your spouse.
We believe some situations make it mandatory to get outside help, and the crisis of infidelity is one of them. It would be very unusual for a couple to get past infidelity without the assistance of a trained therapist. A therapist is a neutral third party who will help you understand what went wrong in your relationship. Instead of allowing your discussions to dissolve into yelling and screaming sessions, a therapist will con- structively focus you toward solving the problems in your relationship. In Chapter 25, “Help! We Need Somebody,” we will discuss in detail how to find a therapist and what a therapist can do to help you.
Many people are secretly concerned that their spouse will have an affair. There are usually warning signs that your relationship might be in trouble before either of you has an affair. If you are worried, it probably means you are concerned about your re- lationship in general. Instead of spending time worrying about whether your spouse is cheating on you, spend time working on your marriage.
Here are five warning signs that you’re worried your spouse is being unfaithful:
1. You feel your spouse pays too much attention to members of the opposite sex. 2. You feel your spouse spends too much time with members of the opposite sex. 3. You feel your spouse often stares at people of the opposite sex.
4. You feel your spouse is not attracted to you.
5. You worry that your spouse might be having an affair.
Here are five warning signs that even a small part of you is straying from your mar-
- You arrange work meetings specifically to be alone with someone of the oppo- site sex.
- You spend a lot of social time alone with members of the opposite sex.
- You dress up for a specific person besides your spouse.
- You constantly fantasize about someone of the opposite sex besides your spouse.
- You think about having an affair.
How many warning signs do you recognize in yourself? Every single warning sign should demand your attention. A completely healthy marriage would have no warn- ing signs. If you recognize three or more warning signs in yourself, you need to seri- ously reexamine your marriage. Work on your relationship right now before it’s too late!
Marriage Q & A’s
Q: I have some old friends of the opposite sex. How can I include them in my life and not threaten my marriage?
A: Bring your spouse along when you get together with them. This will reinforce to your friends the fact that you are married and also give your spouse an opportunity to get to know people who are important to you. If you don’t like the idea of including your spouse, consider why not. It may mean that you have a romantic interest in a person, even if you have no intention of acting on it. Remember that all of your romantic en- ergy should be channeled into your marriage, not into friends of the opposite sex!
Keeping Infidelity Out of Your Marriage
If your marriage is strong and healthy, you will not need to worry about infidelity intruding in your rela- tionship. Everything that you and your spouse need will be right at home. People are unfaithful when they are not getting their needs met in their marriage. One of the best ways to keep infidelity out of your mar- riage is to make sure you set aside time every week to have fun with your spouse. If the two of you enjoy each other’s company on a regular basis, it’s unlikely that either of you will feel the need to turn elsewhere. Make sure your marriage is the center of your atten- tion and give it the time and energy it deserves. These are the best ways to keep your marriage infidelity-free.
The Least You Need to Know
➤ Infidelity is usually a symptom of a troubled marriage. You need to work hard on your relationship to rebuild it.
➤ If your spouse cheated on you, you need to forgive your spouse before you can work on your marriage. If you cheated on your spouse, you absolutely must end the affair before you can work on your marriage.
➤ If you or your spouse has had an affair, it’s very difficult to work on your rela- tionship without the help of a therapist.
➤ It’s possible to rebuild a marriage after someone has an affair if both of you are willing to work hard at repairing it.
➤ The best way to prevent infidelity is to be aware of problems in your relation- ship and work on them.