Statistics show that in more than 1/3 of marriages, one or both spouses admit to cheating, either physically or emotionally. And a person that has cheated before is 350% more likely to cheat again. These numbers might be shocking to you or you might know all too well how true they are because you have had to experience them first-hand. Seeking professional help in the form of marriage counseling is one of the best ways to reduce these statistics in your own relationship and build on the foundation of building your friendship, practicing effective conflict management, and developing shared meaning as recommended by Dr. John Gottman.
Typical Process in the Relationship
At some point in the relationship where one spouse has been unfaithful, there is a period or moment of discovery, when one partner discovers evidence of the infidelity in the form of a digital footprint, bank statements, word of mouth, or an eyewitness account. After the initial shock and anger after the discovery have worn off, the partner typically goes through a time of comprehension and re-evaluation of the impacts and implications on their life as an individual and their shared life with their spouse. Next comes the process of taking action, perhaps (ideally) through seeking counseling for the unfaithful spouse or for the couple together or by deciding to take steps to end the relationship.
Consequences of the Infidelity
Many factors can contribute to the trauma associated with infidelity, such as the duration, nature, and frequency of the affair, whether the couple has children, and how long they have been married, as well as the extent to which the unfaithful spouse lied about it. In most cases, the spouse discovering the infidelity will have to process the Six Dimensions of Relational and Betrayal Trauma as outlined by Marnie Breecker of the LA Center for Relational Healing:
- Shattered Inner World – Feeling that your four core beliefs (the world is benign and a source of pleasure; the world is meaningful, controllable, and just; people are trustworthy and worth relating to; and the self is worthy, lovable, good, and competent) are being threatened.
- Life Crisis – The disparity between belief and reality that develops after the discovery of the infidelity.
- Existential Trauma –Questioning the core beliefs around which they have created meaning and their ability to make sound decisions.
- Emotional Trauma – This involves the patterns of emotional abuse (lying, deceiving, manipulating) used by the unfaithful spouse to keep their secret.
- Sexual Trauma
- Relational Trauma – The damage that has been done to their marriage relationship.
This partner should seek professional help to mentally and emotionally process these Six Dimensions, which could take weeks or months, and it is important that the partner who was caught in infidelity recognize these Six Dimensions as an impact of their unfaithfulness and allow their spouse the time and ability to work through these at their own pace.
Where to Go From Here
Hopefully, both spouses in the marriage want to work together to reconcile and get back on the path of a fruitful and thriving relationship. This is an important and significant first step to reconciliation, because just the simple act of willingness provides a jumpstart to the process. More often than not, having an objective third-party to mediate between the two partners and help guide the conversation with questions and prompts is exactly what is needed, and there are thousands of certified marriage counselors nationwide who have been trained to facilitate healing after infidelity.
If you are in the Los Angeles area, please consider attending the Helping Couples Heal workshop (https://novusmindfullife.com/helping-couples-heal-workshop/).
You may also benefit from listening to these two episodes of The Addicted Mind podcast with guest Marnie Breeker of the Center for Relational Healing: http://theaddictedmind.com/21 and http://theaddictedmind.com/22.
You can also read an extensive description of infidelity in relationships and what to expect in counseling on our website (https://novusmindfullife.com/counseling-for-infidelity/).