Adultery is like a hurricane. When it sweeps you up, you and everyone are thrown in many different directions. However, when infidelity is discovered there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of permanent injury.
1. Adultery is not a victimless crime. Many people who fall into the trap of behaving adulterous, convince themselves that should their illicit relationship be discovered, that the only injured parties are oneself and one’s primary partner (husband, wife, or committed partner).
Since a person who commits adultery for self-serving reasons often blames his or her legitimate partner for the cheating, the ‘discovery of the affair,’ in the mind of the adulterer, has no “innocent victims.” The thinking goes that one’s legitimate partner is also at fault (she/he wouldn’t have sex, communicate nicely, spend money responsibly, etc.). The truth is otherwise; the only person to blame for the cheating is the philanderer. Everyone else in the immediate family, as well as extended family members and friends, are all undeservedly hurt.
Ways to reduce this pain and risk: The person who committed adultery should acknowledge that he or she is 100% responsible for his or her behavior and acknowledge that his or her bad behavior has negatively impacted on everyone close to him or her. When the truth is recognized and acknowledged, it is much easier for individuals to process what happened and to move forward.
2. Adultery is NOT a marriage problem that does not involve the children. When parents are in crisis so too their children. When a house burns down, the children along with the adults become homeless. The same is true when infidelity plagues a family. The turmoil, fear, uncertainty, the anger, the tears, the withdrawal, the accusations, the distraction, the fighting affects everyone in the family and in particular children who by nature are very sensitive and dependent upon their parents for emotional and physical stability and safety.
Ways to reduce this pain and risk: When adultery hits a family, the children are also injured. They need to be spoken to in an age-appropriate way. Pretending that nothing has happened or nothing has changed hurts them even more since they then feel guilty thinking something terrible is happening, but they are not able to talk about it. As well, not being able to talk about the affair increases fear for the future and makes processing the event far more difficult.
3. When adultery leads to divorce, everyone takes a hit [Even considering the option of divorce is enough to cause emotional pain that is not forgotten]. A family is like passengers on a boat. If the boat sinks, everyone drowns. Using this analogy of a sinking boat and taking it one step further, adults know how to swim, but often children do not. The same is true with a divorce. Most adults can handle the break up of their marriage or committed relationship and move forward even if it is difficult and painful. Research shows that often this is not the case for children. Children from divorced homes are at increased risk for academic, social, and emotional injury or failure.
Ways to reduce this pain and risk: If the philanderer is remorseful for his or her bad behavior, then the couple can and should heal and stay together — especially if there are children in the family. Find a qualified couples therapist — one that has a specialty in infidelity recovery — and use his or her services to make sure the relationship healing is complete. You would not try to treat yourself if you had a broken bone. So too, when fixing a broken relationship — get professional help.
4. Emotional wounds that do not heal effects everyone. After the affair has ended and the ‘shock and awe’ has died down, most couples do not do the necessary work to heal and recover fully. These couples remain in a state of polarization, mistrust, and guilt. The quality of their relationship never fully recovers. It is like painting over rust. The paint peels easily and never looks right. For a couple that never fully heals from the injuries caused by adultery, there are many triggers that bring back painful memories, emotional volatility, and extreme reactions. This emotional tension that affects couples who have not healed from adultery impacts everyone around them; especially their sensitive children.
Ways to reduce this pain and risk: You should always seek qualified professional help when recovering from infidelity. However, even with this help sometimes it is not possible to fully erase this dramatic experience that has affected you and your partner. You can mitigate the lingering negative effects in the aftermath of adultery when you are mindful of the triggers and open about them; even apologetic when appropriate when extreme emotional reactions occurs.
5. The ‘adultery story’ is always remembered and everyone that knows it is changed forever. Even though the couple may choose to stay together, everyone who knows these two individuals will always treat them differently. Like someone who has committed murder, he or she is always known as “a murderer.” The same goes for the adulterer and his or her victim; they are forever characterized as such by close family and friends. When the news of adultery is first breaking, it is very important to decide who should know and who should not. The choice is yours. Who you tell can evolve into either a positive or negative event as you move forward as a couple.
Ways to reduce this pain and risk: All of life can be divided into two categories: Those things we can change and those things we cannot. How other people think goes into the category of things “you cannot change.” The best strategy is to accept this reality (that the adultery happened) as part of your history and deal with it. If particular individuals are troublesome because of the adultery that has happened in the past, depending on who they are, you can regulate to some extent your closeness or distance from them — and it is appropriate to do so.
When adultery smashes into you and your family, you need to face it head-on. Adultery is a negative event, and there is no other way to describe it. However, there are things you can do to reduce the damage it causes and improve the likelihood of a positive future.
If you or a loved one has been hurt by someone who has cheated (or you are the cheater yourself) go to my specialized surviving infidelity website to get more help and access resources. Click or Tap: Surviving Infidelity