Saturday, December 29, 2007

Infidelity: The Hurting Spouse, What Can I Do?

It is common for both spouses to feel a great deal of anxiety and depression, sometimes even suicidal thoughts, after the affair has been uncovered or revealed. The crisis of infidelity shakes even the strongest people and the reactions are like any traumatic event. The hurting spouse moves through feelings of despair, despondence, fear, anger and rage. The initial responses may range from the desire to do anything to save the marriage with a desperate pursuit of their spouse to insistence that their spouse immediately leave the house and plans to file for divorce. The stronger the trust, the greater the surprise and that generally leads to the most intense reactions.

The spouse who has had the affair generally feels a great deal of guilt and remorse, although that may not be what comes out of his or her mouth. Initially the response may be defensive ones that blame the marriage as the reason for the affair. This person, if there has been an emotional connection with the affaire, also may feel some ambivalence about ending that relationship and hurting the other person. There generally is no desire to talk about the specifics of the affair, both to protect their spouse as well as to protect themselves.

Most couples that experience an affair … and both decide that they want to save the marriage, can recover. Many even say that their marriage is stronger and better than it ever was; however, healing from infidelity can take a very long time (one to two years) and a lot of open communication, damage repair and eventual forgiveness. If there has been more than one affair, the reasons for the infidelity are often more complicated and recovery can be more complicated, but not impossible.

The first thing that the couple needs to do is to acknowledge that there has been this crisis, that it is a very painful time and that they must find a way to calm down and make decisions deliberately and in their own best interests, not as a reaction to the traumatic event. This is one of the times where guidance from a competent therapist who has skill and knowledge with recovery from infidelity is a valuable resource. This is one of the areas that John and Sally have worked with extensively and would be glad to help you and spouse as you focus on this problem … and your marriage.

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