During a late relaxing night with the family I received a phone call that seemed extremely urgent. The hysterical voice was filled with gloom and I immediately knew that a therapy session would be quickly required. After a series of questions, she disclosed catching her husband having an affair. The excruciating pain appeared so real that I swear I could hear the tears hitting the phone.
Once the session was scheduled for the next morning, the curiosity began; how does the marriage survive? Is it possible for the marriage to survive? Can this pain go away? Will they cheat again?
As a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist, I can say there is hope. Navigating through the process requires intense determination and strength. The truth is that 30% to 60% of all married individuals will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage. When you add in emotional affairs, internet affairs, and internet infidelity it rises to 90%. With guidance, surviving an affair is possible when proper steps of healing are enforced.
The first step with this couple was to naturalize all feelings. Let the couple understand that severe pain is expected and never attempt to sweep the pain under the rug. Honesty is required to target the feelings and shift the couple to the next phase.
The next goal is to develop positive methods to manage the anger. The embarrassment, uncertainty, and pain cause frustrations that trigger anxieties. It’s important that the couple utilize interventions such as marriage mentors, bibliographies, and/or meditation. These interventions help the couple maintain some sort of normalcy throughout this difficult time.
Realization is the third step. Imagining the affair was a dream or indulging in “if only…” statements freeze the couple and enables progress. Talk, talk, talk and listen, listen, listen helps move the couple from realization and out of the freezing moment.
Once the affair begins to settle into your soul, the couple will begin mourning the old marriage and constructing the new marriage. This step may become the most difficult because trust and demonstrating trust becomes tricky. The couple must NOT avoid asking and answering questions but display openness. Transparency and addressing the core issues prior to the affair helps healing and creating a strong foundation to affair proof the marriage in the future.
Lastly, the couple must accept the affair. This does not mean the affair was “OK” but accepting the reality of the affair and understanding the new reality is everlasting. The couple will have more good days than bad and may possibly use their experience to help others.
Overall, surviving an affair can become complicated. If you find yourself displaying anger in negative ways and severely affecting those around you, then a professional maybe necessary.
Charlie Simpson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with the Arkansas Relationship Counseling Center.