Infidelity is one of the primary reasons that couples in the United States seek divorce. Extramarital affairs can threaten the foundation on which a marriage is built. Betraying your spouse can cause severe damage to the relationship or lead to divorce. Marriages can survive infidelity and sometimes the subsequent healing process may even strengthen the relationship, if you both agree to work together in the process of overcoming the pain and betrayal.
Discovering that your spouse has been unfaithful breeds a devastating amount of distrust. By betraying you, he’s eroded the most indispensable element of your relationship—trust. Unfaithfulness obliterates the feelings of faith that are sacred in your marriage. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, spouses who have the utmost trust in their partners suffer from the greatest amount of emotional trauma because they are the most unsuspecting. His infidelity may cause you to not only distrust him, but also to doubt your own judgment.
Grieving the loss of trust in the relationship can manifest itself in the victim in various emotions simultaneously. Michele Weiner-Davis, therapist and director of The Divorce Busting Center says that the devastating emotions that some victims may experience can be similar to those symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Feelings of insignificance, anxiety and depression may be mixed with frustration, anger and self-deprecating behavior. She expresses that sleeplessness and inability to eat, function or concentrate are enduring symptoms that may last long after the infidelity has ended. A victim of an affair may withdrawal from those around her in order to avoid the pain of confronting the reality of the circumstances.
Recovering your marriage after an affair can be extremely challenging when the victim relentlessly recalls the betrayal and demands to know every intimate detail of the circumstances of the infidelity. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, common responses of the faithful partner may include: “obsessively pondering details of the affair; continuously watching for further signs of betrayal; and physiological hyperarousal, flashbacks and intrusive images.” The victim may fixate on discovering the reason for the infidelity and may attempt to change her physical appearance according to what she believes her spouse expects in a partner. Additionally, the innocent spouse can become fixated on knowing the whereabouts of the cheating spouse throughout the day, interrogating him about tardiness, and investigating his phone calls and computer use.
An extramarital affair may lead the faithful partner to seek or regain control in her marriage. She may respond to the circumstances by attempting to retaliate against the cheater so he’s able to experience the suffering he’s caused her. Psychologist and director of the Center for Progressive Development in Washington, DC, Douglas LaBier says that a woman may seek refuge in an affair because she’s been unsuccessful in dealing with the anger she feels towards her husband; instead, she may use infidelity as a way to retaliate against him for ignoring and disregarding her needs.