Posted by: counselorcarmella | August 16, 2011

Affairs, Part Two

 

Affairs are not just sexual.  They can be emotional and even virtual.  If lots of time is spent communicating  with  that other person, talking with them about personal things, thinking about them,  lusting after them,  or engaging in flirtation,  these can all be considered affairs. Since the Internet has become such a part of everyday life, it is becoming easier  to find new love interests and  even previous  lovers on line.  This leads to another interesting question of  whether  something virtual is still cheating if sexual conversations are involved  or if there is an emotional attraction but there has never been an in person meeting. I say that it is and many spouses still feel betrayed.  The person who cheated often didn’t set out to have an affair but got caught up in a slippery slope situation that likely could have been prevented.  My client  is someone who usually wants to stay married but is unsure if they can get through this experience as a couple and come out of  it with anything remotely resembling healthy.        

 

One “solution that doesn’t work” is to assume the marriage wasn’t “meant to be” and  to then leave the spouse to be with the new lover.  Fantasy world then becomes reality and such  situations rarely work out in  a healthy way and tremendous damage is done to the  entire family.  If someone cheated with you, you’ll always wonder if they’ll cheat on you. Plus, extended families and kids aren’t exactly going to welcome a paramour with open arms.

 

Another  “wrong solution” is revenge cheating.  This just causes more problems and leads to even less chance the couple can work things out.  It’s not “Do unto others as they did unto you.”  Another  bad idea involves the spouse who has cheated and may believe it is best to keep this fact from their partner.  They’ll say they don’t want to  hurt the spouse and that they’ve learned from their mistake and are also afraid  of what will happen if they   admit to their mistake. This creates a wall between them to some extent, and the person who cheated may live for a long time with awful guilt or fear that their spouse will find out. 

 

If the truth comes out, it is worse if the spouse discovers a present or past affair than if they had confessed before the spouse caught them or found out another way.  The spouse who was cheated on   will always wonder if they ever would have been told the truth or if the affair would have stopped  if they hadn’t found out.  .

 

The spouse who had the affair may also try to avoid telling the details of  what happened to their partner.  This leads to the partner  dwelling on unanswered questions and   feeling that they are not allowed in on  something that so significantly and intimately impacts them.  Full disclosure is generally  essential for healing.  Another thing that may happen is that  the spouse who was cheated on feels afraid to push too hard or demand that the spouse be accountable for their actions, such as  officially cutting off all contact with the other person, or being “checked up on” and so forth.  They wonder if it is their fault somehow and  are so desperate to keep their spouse that they  don’t ask for what they need to feel secure in the marriage. They believe something is  “wrong” with them because they can’t just “let it go.” 

 

Couples often try to sweep  an affair under the rug  and it becomes  something that  causes unspoken hurt and anger for years  until something else happens and one or the other realizes they have to truly  bring it out and deal with it for the  marriage to survive. People worry that  their partner would have another affair and feel helpless to do anything to  prevent it from happening.  At the same time, they are both ashamed to admit that “it happened to us” and therefore don’t seek help.  Or, they  make hasty decisions based on feelings and other people’s influence and  impulsively  divorce before thinking things through.  A lot of  affairs are handled in ways that either make them worse or don’t  truly address the problem in ways that  help the couple move beyond it.

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