Some therapists emphasise that the spouse of the partner who had the affair, needs to focus on understanding where this behaviour is coming from to create a better marriage.
Although the majority of what has been published by couple counsellors, sex therapists and those who are perceived by others or themselves as experts, on the topic of Extra Dyadic Sex (EDS) (i.e. sex outside a committed relationship) is acceptable and based on common sense and therefore shared knowledge, some statements, are off the mark or straight out hurtful.
The above statement is one of those unhelpful ones. It assumes that something was wrong in the marriage and that the “symptom” of the ill marriage is EDS. It places the onus on the betrayed partner. Of course, no marriage is perfect, seeking a “solution” outside the marriage has never been a solution. I do not believe that a person choosing to have EDS does it because of a lack of satisfaction in their marriage. Those who do not want to separate from their spouse but engage in EDS might be the selfish and immediate-gratification-seeking-individuals, who have not even considered the consequences to the relationship and the long term hurt done to their partner. The fact that those having affairs do not want a separation or divorce highlights that it is not the push, but the perceived pull that has them choosing an affair. It also shows that they are delusional in their thinking that they can have it all.
Asking for understanding from a betrayed partner is not leading to anything as the behaviour defies all logic. Trying to understand why a spouse starts an affair by looking at the marriage is a dead end. The understanding on how come a partner starts an affair, is starting right there with the partner and their thinking…and it is this partner who must do most all the initial work whether it helps the marriage to heal or not. After this work, which is crucial, and which involves introspection, a couple need to have serious conversations about the consequences for the relationship and how to rebuild.
A good therapist can be invaluable to assist a cheating spouse who has remorse to look deep into themselves.
A claim frequently found on reconciliation websites: The marriage can be a better one after the affair.
This statement assumes that marriages that “heal” after an affair are going to be better or stronger marriages as the problem part has been addressed. Some even go as far as to state that only because the affair happened [sic], the couple realises that the marriage was not healthy or not meeting the needs of one or both partners. The problem with all of this is that the “helpful” therapist is too easily putting aside that affairs are secret. That affairs are “benefiting” the one spouse and that the spouse who engaged in the behaviour used deception and manipulation to keep the secret behaviour going. The one who had the affair placed the physical, sexual and emotional health of their partner at risk. The one who had the affair used couple and family time and resources, as well as work time to interact with an Affair Partner (AP).
Then there are the other losses. Despite wide media coverage and a public that is obsessed with sex and infidelity, no one perceives the role of the betrayed spouse and the betrayer as something sought after. The betrayed spouse is often perceived as a loser and the betrayer as an asshole (or any other more gender inclusive expletive). In fact, most people trying to heal, or work on solutions keep the issues for themselves. Affairs are not something to be proud of. Affairs at work are, in particular in the current time, a huge issue and prone to sexual harassment claims (and rightly so!). Family members, parents and siblings and close friends often know something is going on, but they are not told the entire story. The reasons are obvious, if a couple wants to heal, it is not helpful to have to face the emotional stuff from others, the unwanted advice and the lack of empathy. Parents of the betrayed spouse might lose all respect for their adult child and their partner.
A betrayed spouse who never had a need to hide the truth, might have to do this. Only those who have experienced this, understand the depth of this statement. By keeping secret that your spouse had an affair, you have to keep secret a lot of other things as well. It means becoming less genuine and although it is for the right reasons, it is a loss.
Sure, I heard the stories about partners who did not have a good marriage, but they have a better one now, after the affair. It makes me a bit ill inside as I wonder why an affair was needed for people to start talking. So, are they really telling me when trust is damaged in a relationship, a marriage can be better than before? I feel that a person who lied and deceived in the most horrible ways, is a person capable of this behaviour and it will affect trust levels for the rest of the relationship and beyond.
One could state that the marriage is better after the affair when communication is better, equality established, and dishonesty no longer tolerated. But this is just looking at the observable here and now behaviours. One is not looking at the pain and hurt on which this “better marriage” is build. It takes a lot out of a betrayed partner to stay, to find a place for all the grief and to have hope again for the future. It remains fragile, and falls apart after every perceived lie no matter how insignificant the issue. Of course, the marriage will never be what it could have been as both carry the scars they carefully hide from others. A good therapist recognises all these losses.
All comments very welcome…