Posted by: counselorcarmella | August 16, 2011

Affairs, Part One

Estimates vary but a recent statistic I read indicated that 15% of women and 25% of men are unfaithful during their marriages at least once.  Most  people assume an affair has to be sexual, but emotional cheating can be equally devastating. When an affair  is brought out in the open, anger, shock, and devastation are often the result. Trust is lost and the marriage, which may or may not have been going well  before,  is shaken to its foundation.  


In a country where about 42% of first marriages end in divorce and 67% of second marriages end in divorce,  this is one of the most common marital crises. It is often part of the plot in books and movies (Fatal Attraction, Bridges of Madison County, etc.) and plenty of songs have been written and sung about it.  Most people assume that, if they were ever cheated on, they would get a divorce without a second thought.  The reality of  facing such a  situation  leads many to  realize the choice is not that simple, though.


It seems like  some politician’s affair is  the newest topic of  debate and discussion every week. Here in SC, Governor Sanford’s   visit to Argentina when he was supposedly hiking the Appalachian trial  was all over local and national news several years ago.  He said the woman he visited there was his “soul mate” and he and his wife Jenny eventually divorced. She wrote a book about this experience called “Staying True.”


The reality is that affairs happen every day to all types of people in all types of marriages. It happens to those who  are newly weds and to those who have been married for  decades.  It happens to those who are happy in their marriages and those who aren’t.  It happens in marriages  where there are sexual issues and in marriages where the sex is satisfying.  It happens to working professionals and housewives, those with money and education, and those without.  It happens to marriages with kids and those without kids. One  thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of men cheat when their wives are pregnant or  within the first couple years after a child is born, so my client could be a young woman who  found out her husband had an affair while she was focused on the needs of a young child and busy in the role of mother. Maybe her husband is coming to counseling with her or maybe she has come by herself. 


My client may be a middle aged man who  cheated on his wife and  is afraid she’ll leave him now that she knows.  She’s sent him to counseling  to figure out what made him “do this” to her.  My client could be a man who  has  put his time and energy into providing for his family, working long hours so his wife could stay at home with the kids or work part time.  He has recently learned that she has had an affair  and is consumed with anger and jealousy.  His wife  says she just felt  like she never got any attention or nonsexual affection from him and they never talked.  She wants to stay married, but wants their marriage to be different than it was before.


My client may be someone who is involved in an affair and trying to decide whether to leave their spouse for the lover and/or whether or not they should come clean with their  spouse. My client could be a couple where  an affair happened years ago and recently came out.  The  person cheated on feels a sense of grief that the marriage has not been what they thought it was for so many years and that secrets were kept. No matter how recently or long ago the affair was, the person cheated on feels  stupid for not knowing and feels angry and betrayed.  Meanwhile, the spouse who cheated often wants to “just put this behind us and  move on” as quickly as possible.  The betrayed spouse may have tried to do this and feels they “just can’t let it go.”  In such a situation,  they are both exhausted and frustrated.  These are just a few scenarios.  There are so many others.


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