Loss of security – violation of trust
Successful relationships mean that both people feel secure and stable. Their relationship will exhibit physical and emotional security and trust.
When the marriage is deficient in these areas, relationship satisfaction decreases and may make infidelity more likely. Studies show adults in the United States expect sexual monogamy, but up to 20% engage in extramarital affairs for a variety of reasons, including lack of relationship satisfaction.
Infidelity is unfaithfulness that may severely test a relationship and the people involved. An affair leaves a person feeling devastated, alone, confused, and betrayed; and this may even end the relationship.
Impacts of infidelity
Infidelity impacts both parties in the relationship and may also impact children and others. Infidelity may negatively impact physical and mental health for a partner, resulting in their experiencing depression, distress, low self-esteem, and confidence, self-blame, and rage.
People who are cheated on also may engage in high-risk behaviors, including having unprotected sex or sex under the influence of drugs and increased alcohol consumption.
Those who engage in affairs also are affected by infidelity. Sometimes these affairs last for years or decades without their partner knowing. The mental and emotional impact of such cheating in these types of affairs is severe.
Causes of infidelity
Adultery does not always occur due to lack of satisfaction. People may enter an affair because of personal unhappiness, for increased excitement, for a new sexual experience, to seek emotional intimacy, or to end the main relationship.
Levels of infidelity
People have different views of infidelity. Some believe that their partner’s viewing of pornography is cheating or unfaithfulness and may feel inadequate when their partner engages in this behavior.
Many people view sex outside the relationship as infidelity but may not see emotional affairs (attachment to someone else) as cheating.
Cyber affairs committed through sexts and chats online also are considered infidelity by some people. These activities hurt relationships, and an emotional affair may do more harm than a physical affair.
Discussions about such matters when dating help clarify expectations and help avoid future problems in their relationship.
Consequences of no action
Without addressing the problem, more infidelity may occur. Repeated affairs often occur due to sex addiction in which the behavior is a personal problem rather than about the relationship.
Partners must explore pre- and post-affair factors, identifying their feelings and emotions, their own role in the relationship before and after.
Overcoming infidelity requires honesty
When a partner engages in repeated affairs, questions arise including were the issues leading to the first affair addressed, how was the first affair handled, was the offender truly remorseful. Did the person own their actions, and did the other spouse own their own reaction and feelings?
Over time, the relationship can be repaired by the couple themselves or with the assistance of a therapist who can often help make the relationship stronger.
Honest feelings of regret, hurt, guilt, and shame must be expressed. If your partner has had an affair, therapy may help. Partners who choose to engage in the difficult work of rebuilding their relationship after an affair may find therapy useful to rebuild the fractured trust needed for a sound marriage.
*Taken from Good Therapy.org
The Gottman Affair Recovery Method
The pathway for healing from infidelity, using Gottman Method Couples Therapy, could be described as the three As: Atonement, Attunement, and Attachment.
Atonement is about the betrayer acknowledging that they hurt and betrayed their partner, being willing to listen to their partner’s hurt and answer questions about the affair. It’s accountability and transparency.
Because the hurt partner may have symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), such as intrusive thoughts, intense emotional and psychological distress in reaction to trauma triggers, hyper-vigilance, and negative changes in mood, behavior, and thoughts, it is important to keep the process constructive, differentiating negative emotions from criticism and contempt.
This phase is not about “why” but instead a long, slow, painful process of showing remorse and willingness to make amends, so the couple can emerge with new understanding, acceptance, budding forgiveness, and hope (Gottman & Gottman, 2016).
The second phase, Attunement, is about learning to recognize your partner’s bids for connection, their feelings, and needs. Here, partners process their past failed bids for connection and regrettable incidents to see where communication went wrong.
Couples that have affairs often engage in avoiding conflict, so the therapist uses exercises to reverse this avoidance and help them address feelings and needs while validating those feelings and needs.
The purpose is to help deepen conversation, deal with gridlocked problems, and arrive at a compromise. Couples learn to listen, express their needs, expressing fondness and admiration, and create everyday connection.
Phase 3, the Attachment phase, is about regaining trust, commitment, and loyalty.
Here, using Phases 1 & 2, the couple builds toward re-commitment and appreciation, as well as sharing goals and dreams.
The couple is made to understand that subsequent betrayal and untrustworthy behavior will have negative consequences and severe costs, a reasonable response to the sorrow that betrayal creates.
This conversation, with defined and agreed-upon consequences, is an incentive to finalize the healing from the betrayal and to change the patterns that preceded it.
Consequence of the method
The marriage that results from this process will not be the same as the marriage before the affair.
Yes, couples can recover from affairs, but the resulting marriage is a new one.
The wounds of betrayal may never disappear completely; but there is an opportunity for renewed intimacy, hope, commitment, and trust.
Gottman, J., & Gottman, J. (2016) Treating Affairs and Trauma: A Gottman Approach for Therapists on the Treatment of Affairs and Posttraumatic Stress. Seattle, The Gottman Institute