Extra Marital Affairs
Coping with extra marital affairs:
- If you have just discovered that your spouse is having or has had an affair, you are probably feeling devastated, rejected, angry, as well as wondering what went wrong in the marriage. You will ask questions like – “Why, when I did everything that is expected of a good wife or husband” or “I am not to blame – why did the other party have to come into our lives?”
- Although reasonable questions, we also must look deeper than that to understand why affairs happen, why we, the innocent spouse, are the last to know, why they occur when the marriage seems stable and happy.
- First, we must look at the usual reasons why people marry. Few people can give the real reasons for marrying other than saying they are in love. However, they are often meeting parental needs, want to have children, need to escape from home or another situation, or need financial security and so they marry. In marriage much of our time is taken up with providing a home, home management and bringing up children – mutual tasks but our own individual needs still exist.
- These individual needs are related to our own development and take the form of new interests, meeting new people and challenges and experiencing the world in a unique way which was not possible when we were young and constrained by our parents or lack of money.
- These experiences are necessary if we are to continue to grow as individuals. We grow at different paces and times. A wife may be involved with the home and children, a husband with his career. Neither has an easy task and if often happens that couples drift apart, communicating only about their day to day activities. However, the inner urge to grow and develop, remains and dissatisfaction with the marriage starts to emerge.
- There is often a need to re-experience the magic and excitement of the early days, to share with some-one who is interested and cares about us. Someone who will help us to feel better about ourselves – an affair seems the answer.
- Coping with your feelings of hurt, rejection, jealousy and hatred for the third party are difficult. You may feel guilty, you may want to leave home, and you may become moralistic, blame the affair, your spouse and even yourself. You may start to bargain with your spouse, want to hurt them, threaten them, or become violent. All normal responses to the crises.
- However, to turn this experience into one of growth, you both need to discuss the situation and decide whether you want to remain in the marriage. If not, then divorce is one option but if you do – rebuilding your relationship will take time. It is not an easy decision to give up an affair and if it has been a long relationship, there will be a period of mourning – very difficult for both of you. Give yourselves time.
- Do not think you will be able to go back to how things were before the affair. You are different people and need a different kind of relationship. You will have to re-negotiate your marriage. Talk openly and honestly, share your feelings, talk about what you want from each other and how you can get these needs met, how your marriage can work for you as an individual and as a couple.
- Talk about what went wrong in your marriage. Accept responsibility for your part in the breakdown. Try not to criticize, blame and punish. If you want to rebuild your relationship, work towards true forgiveness, towards letting go of your anger, hurt and sadness. It will take time to rebuild the trust, to accept what happened, to heal your wounds but together and with challenging work you will be able to build a marriage that is far more interesting and challenging than before.
But because it is so difficult, you may need to ask for help from a professional counsellor