One Cost of Multiple Betrayals and Infidelity: Divorce
Studies universally suggest that somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of people in committed relationships sexually cheat on their spouse or significant other. Of course, in today’s world of chat rooms, webcams, instant messaging, and instant pornography, the concept of cheating is somewhat malleable and easier to deny than in the past, when cheating meant actual live physical contact.
That said, after working with hundreds of betrayed spouses and their ultimately remorseful mates, the answer to the question of what defines infidelity remains as clear to me today as it was when Monica Lewinsky first stored away that stained blue dress. Infidelity is the breaking of trust caused by keeping secrets in an intimate partnership.
In other words, with sexual infidelity, it’s more than the cheating itself or any specific sexual act that causes the deepest pain to a betrayed spouse or partner. It’s the betrayal of relationship trust caused by consistent lying that causes intimacy to crack wide open.
Despite the emotional distancing and painful mistrust caused by marital infidelity, many couples struggling with these issues ultimately remain together, most often with the help of a skillful and supportive therapist or member of the clergy. Unfortunately, togetherness is not always in the cards for spouses and families affected by infidelity, especially those dealing with multiple adulteries and sex addiction.
In fact, approximately 20 percent of married or committed clients seen for the treatment of numerous infidelities and sexual addiction do not remain together in the first year following the trauma of relationship betrayal, even when receiving useful, appropriate therapy. There are common themes among the couples that split after profound infidelity, including:
- The couple is childless
- The couple is not married
- The couple was married or committed for less than three years prior to the discovery of the betrayal
- The couple either did not engage in or did not follow through with individual and couples therapy
- The recent disclosure of infidelity is just one in a long history of such disclosures
- The couple did not know each other well prior to the marriage or commitment
- One of the partners did not disclose his or her past sexual/relationship history to the other, even after their relationship became serious
- The details of the betrayal have become well-known among family, friends, or in the community or workplace
Unlike the hurt and anger experienced by spouses and partners who uncover a singular past affair or a few secret bachelor party lap dances – things that can often be forgiven after assurances the behavior won’t be repeated – the discovery of a longer history of infidelity or sexual addiction naturally creates more profound and lasting feelings of grief, loss, and overwhelming betrayal.
Sexual addiction in particular brings with it a greater sense of emotional violation because of the often extensive history of previously undisclosed lies, betrayals, and secrecy. Even when experienced therapists are extensively involved with people committed to healing, some couples are unable to ever regain the necessary sense of trust and emotional safety required to make it together. This is sad and unfortunate, but there are silver linings.
Those who have lost a primary relationship because of their own adultery tend to become better parents following the loss of their marriage or committed relationship. Most report being more engaged with and actively involved in the parenting of their children – post-therapy, of course.
Furthermore, men and women who have lost a spouse or partner because of their past sexual acting out can utilize the pain of separation to grow beyond their past emotional immaturity, distancing themselves from their past behaviors by not repeating them. Sex addicts in particular learn from the painful mistakes of their past when they remain actively involved in recovery groups focused on keeping them sober in their addiction and helping them grow as people. Thus, they learn the hard way the value of an intimate and trusting partner and they are careful to not make the same mistakes in the future.
Betrayed spouses and partners who choose to end their relationships often find themselves to be stronger people on their own than they had thought they would ever be. With support and guidance they learn over time to be more trusting of their own instincts and emotions. The next time love comes knocking at the door, they tend to be more appropriately cautious before committing to another intimate relationship, especially when they are involved in therapy.
Many become more aware of their tendency to overlook what others might see as obvious potential relationship problems – the kind that can lead to poor partner choice and further betrayals.
Weiss LCSW, R. (2015). One Cost of Multiple Betrayals and Infidelity: Divorce. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 17, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2012/03/one-cost-of-multiple-betrayals-and-infidelity-divorce/