Infidelity. In our culture, is often viewed as a severe breakdown within a marriage or relationship, and couldn't possibly happen to you. It happens to “those couples over there” I mean, sure, your marriage has ups and downs, but your partner couldn't, no wouldn't, do that to you. We all live within this bubble of thinking, a bubble that protects us from knowing that anything is possible given the right circumstance.
In 2014, The Journal of Marital and Family Therapy found that 41% of couples sampled, admitted to one or both spouses having had either an emotional or physical affair. What happens when you find out that infidelity did indeed happen to you? That you are actually “That couple over there”?
The initial shock of the betrayal can cause a great degree of emotional variance. In a moment, everything comes to a screeching halt, and you can be left trying to search for something to hang to as the emotional earthquake begins to rattle your world.
Some people experience:
- Debilitating sadness and grief
- A feeling of incredible loss of everything you knew to be true.
- A desire for revenge
You may find yourself asking questions similar to these:
- How did this happen to us? How did we get here?
- What am I going to do? If my marriage ends, can I survive financially?
- What about the children?
- Does my spouse love the person with whom they had their affair? Does my spouse want to leave?
- What else has my spouse lied about? Do I even know him/her?
- Should I leave? Should I stay?
Once the truth is out, and you try to pick up the pieces of your seemingly shattered world and make sense of “How could this happen to me?”, you also come up against society’s judgments placed upon you and your partner. Everyone knows what they would do in this situation, or at least they think they do. “If I were you, I would… (fill in the blank.) The truth is nobody knows how they will respond until they are in this situation themselves. When their marriage, their dreams, their children’s lives are all in limbo.
The fear of exposure and judgment by close friends and family may make you feel isolated during a time when emotional support is needed most. For many couples, marriage/couple's counseling is used as a safe space to talk through all of these rising emotions, questions, and fears. If you are currently experiencing the emotional throws of an extramarital affair, I want you to know that you are not alone. There is hope after an affair!