Overcoming Infidelity (cont.)
"There are many different reasons why someone might have
an affair," says Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW, a marriage and family therapist in
Illinois. "Sometimes it is purely a case of bad judgment -- a person may feel
satisfied with their marriage, but a late night at the office with a co-worker
and a couple of glasses of wine can lead to lack of impulse control. More
commonly, it's a search for an emotional connection -- wanting someone to pay
attention to you, flatter you, be attracted to you."
Whatever the reason for the affair, the effect infidelity has on
a relationship is devastating.
"Nothing rocks a person's sense of self,
trust, and marriage more than infidelity," says Weiner-Davis, author of The
Sex-Starved Marriage. "Infidelity leaves people questioning their sanity, as
well as everything they believe to be true about their spouse, and about the
viability of their marriage. Infidelity is crippling."
People find themselves crying a lot, not being able to
concentrate, being upset, and feeling depressed.
"These are all of the initial emotions that
go with the discovery of the betrayal," Weiner-Davis tells WebMD. "However,
emotions change over time."
When the initial shock of an affair is over, then it is
time for both people in the relationship to examine what role they played in
letting the relationship slide down such a slippery slope:
- "You have to stop the affair, first and foremost,"
says Jamie Turndorf, PhD, a couples therapist in New York. "You can't reinvest
in the marriage if you have one foot out the door."
- Remember that there will be ups and downs after an
affair. "The road to recovery after an affair is jagged, and that is
completely normal," says Weiner-Davis.
"The person who had the affair needs to be willing to
discuss what happened openly if the betrayed spouse wants to do that," says
"The person who had an affair has to be willing to be
accountable for his or her whereabouts, even though he or she thinks that may
be unfair," says Weiner-Davis.
"There needs to be a willingness to make promises and
commitments about the future, that an affair will not happen again," says
The betrayed person should set the timetable for
recovery. "So often the person who cheated is eager to put the past in the
past, but he or she really has to honor the other person's timetable," says
"The person who had the affair should examine the
personal reasons for straying and what needs to change to avoid the temptation
in the future," says Weiner-Davis.
As for moving forward, both people in the relationship should take
responsibility for building a new foundation. "Both people in the
relationship should ask the other what he or she can do to rebuild the
connection and what actions should be avoided because they are breaking it,"
says Turndorf, author of Till Death Do Us Part (Unless I Kill You First). "Even the person who was cheated on
should say to herself, 'What role did I play in driving you away and what can
I do to make you more connected to me in the future?'"
Try marriage therapy or take a marriage education class.
"You really need to find a counselor or therapist who is pro-marriage, and
can help get your relationship back on track," say Weiner-Davis. "Steer
clear of therapists who see infidelity as a marital death sentence -- it