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With infidelity at such high rates it’d be understandable to feel your relationship was positively abnormal if you remained faithful. Think of the gossip - your ears burning as those in your neighbourhood or at work exclaim, "Can you believe it, they've actually been faithful to each other!" Surveys vary but on average finding over 40% of men and nearly 40% of women have been unfaithful.
These very sad statistics reflect a number of trends of our times. Instant gratification is expected from fast food to quick communications, so if you're not happy at home you may seek that happiness elsewhere. And that "happiness" will be on offer at practically any bar, where people now sleep together barely knowing the other's name. Also traditional values have all but disappeared. Where once social pressure ensured couples worked on issues, now many look for a quick getaway. Or they decide to stay but on their own selfish terms that may include a fling. After all, the reasoning goes it’s their pleasure that's important, isn't it? Figuring if their partner isn't pleasing them or far from perfect their behaviour’s excused.
You don't need me to explain if you've been cheated on how devastating that is, impacting on every aspect of your wellbeing. However what might surprise you is 60% of couples survive the gut-wrenching pain of infidelity. Considering they've shared their lives, maybe had children, gone through career changes - the whole package - this can make sense. Some survive, find greater strength and actually say things improved. Some simply survive. There are key things that can help you successfully stay together if choosing to.
Most important, explore why the affair occurred. For example, we hope as a couple that life's hurdles will bring our strengths together. However research shows that when typical hurdles arise, like the birth of a child, many take each other for granted. And worse, silently feel angry about such stresses and strains, deciding they might be happier sleeping elsewhere.
But there are many types of adultery. There's the ‘Opportunist’ who doesn't necessarily look for opportunities but strays when one’s presented. At a conference an attractive stranger or colleague hands them a fling on a plate and they don’t have the resolve to say No. Or quite the opposite, there's the ‘Serial Adulterer’ who actively looks for a thrill. Bored easily they feel alive when playing away. An interesting type psychologically is those who use an affair for revenge. The ‘Revenge Adulterer’ may do so if their partner’s had an affair. Two wrongs never make a right though. Sometimes their partner’s not had an affair but they feel hard done by them and think, "I’ll show them." Typically they’re poor communicators who can’t discuss unhappiness and express it this way.
Another type is when the unfaithful partner loves their partner but is unhappy/bored by their bedroom routine. They think a sexual liaison won’t interfere with their significant relationship. And affairs are linked to mid-life crises, where panic-stricken, a person explores alternatives to their current relationship.
Here are some considerations if you or your partner’s been unfaithful:
ü It's tempting but don’t make rash decisions. Your gut reaction might be to throw them out or leave yourself but calm down before acting.
ü Through the anger and hurt agree a cooling down period where it’s a good idea to seek emotional support from friends and family.
ü Everyone views infidelity differently. Some would never take an unfaithful lover back. But if you feel there’s a chance of sorting it out then have it a ‘go’. Don't be pressured by friends or family to dump the deceiver. Do what's best for you.
ü When ready, explore what went wrong. The adulterer needs to accept full responsibility for their actions but there may be things you both need to improve to solve your problems.
ü Only ask for the details you can cope with. Sometimes knowing too much makes it harder to heal. This is a very individual thing.
ü Anger, hurt, and guilt are all emotions that won’t disappear over night. Be prepared for them to resurface at unexpected times.
ü If you’re going to move forward you’ll have to stop throwing the affair into every argument. For example, if you disagree over how to spend the weekend don't throw the affair into the mix.
ü If you decide to stay together you’ll need to continually evaluate honestly how you’re both coping. This is a time to be express concerns and fears.
ü After dissecting the affair as far as the person who has been hurt wants to, you'll need to draw a line under such discussions. That means they can’t constantly raise, e.g., what the “other person” was like. The other person must be forgotten at some point.
ü If you want to stay together but can’t seem to move forward see a couples’ counsellor.
Some tips to help prevent an affair:
ü Don’t take each other for granted. Daily make small gestures and give loving comments.
ü Remind yourself why you originally fell in love – and keep remembering that!
ü Your sexual relationship is important so if one of you has lost interest explore why this is. Don’t let it get into a rut. (Obviously in the aftermath of an affair you may not feel like sex.)
ü Make special time for each other. Have proper ‘dates’ even if only once a month.
ü Be aware of temptation. You might think it's fun to flirt at work but it's a slippery slope.
ü Be honest - if you're about to slip, tell your partner and maybe you two can stop an affair.
ü Small surprises go a long way - make them random and meaningful. Spontaneity will keep things fresh.
ü Resist sweeping things under the carpet – face them head on.
Relate Couples Counselling - 0845-130-4016
Published in the Express Newspaper
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