Infidelity: What If My Partner Has an Affair?

Posted May 30, 2018

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Summary

  • Infidelity, or having an affair, means different things to different people.
  • The loss of trust in a relationship can be devastating.
  • Couples can seek help to rebuild their relationship after infidelity.

Infidelity is “being unfaithful to a spouse or other sexual partner.” Sometimes we call it having an affair or cheating. People have many different ideas about what counts as an affair. Some people think only sexual intercourse counts. Others count both physical and emotional involvement, such as:

  • Flirting
  • Handholding
  • Kissing or hugging
  • Watching pornography
  • Having other emotionally close relationships
  • Looking at or using dating sites or apps

The people in each relationship must decide what is acceptable and what is not. It is like an unwritten contract that says: I promise to be intimate only with you. Any act of infidelity breaks that contract and destroys trust.

How does infidelity hurt relationships?

Trust is the foundation of any good relationship. In friendships, it lets us be ourselves without fearing rejection. It lets us relax and feel safe. An intimate relationship, such as a marriage, is built on that same kind of trust, but stronger. We show more of ourselves in intimate relationships. We share our emotional and physical wants and needs. To feel safe, we need to know our partner is loyal and will work to protect our relationship.

If our partner is intimate with people outside our relationship, that trust is shattered. We lose that feeling of safety and security.

How should I feel if my partner has an affair?

It can be devastating to find your partner has been unfaithful. We build our lives around our relationships.  The broken trust of infidelity is a huge personal loss. Grief is the natural response to loss. As you grieve, you may deny this is happening to you or feel sad and angry. You may also have a lot of questions, such as:

  • Don’t you love me?
  • How could you hurt me like this?
  • Do you love the other person?
  • How long has this been going on?
  • What exactly happened?
  • Was it something I did or did not do?
  • Will I ever be able to trust again?

Does infidelity mean it’s over?

Infidelity does not always mean the relationship is over. Esther Perel is a marriage therapist and the author of The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity. She says there is hope. Partners can sometimes rebuild trust. Perel believes we “have two or three relationships in our adult lives. Some of us with the same person.” We might not be able to go back to the same relationship, but we might be able to build a stronger one.

Friends and family members may say you should stay or leave. But the choice is yours. There is no right or wrong way to act. You may want to rebuild a great relationship or see if a rocky one can improve. Or you may not be able to accept the betrayal and need to leave. Only you can make this choice. Mental health professionals can help you decide what to do.

How can we rebuild?

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy suggests seeking a counselor with experience helping couples after infidelity. One-on-one and couple’s sessions are often used together. Therapy styles and methods vary, but they often follow a pattern that includes three stages.

Stage one

  • Noticing and talking about strong emotions
  • Learning to handle the anger, shame, guilt, or sadness

Stage two

  • Identifying the situation and details
  • Understanding how it could have happened

Stage three

  • Developing empathy
  • Finding forgiveness
  • Becoming couple-centered
  • Sharing responsibility for the relationship

With time and the right help, some people are able to build strong, lasting relationships after infidelity.

Resources

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel. Harper Collins, 2017.

By Beth Landau
Source: "Infidelity," American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, www.aamft.org/Consumer_Updates/Infidelity.aspx; "National Marriage and Divorce Rates 2000-16," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/national_marriage_divorce_rates_00-16.pdf; SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices, https://nrepp.samhsa.gov

Summary

  • Infidelity, or having an affair, means different things to different people.
  • The loss of trust in a relationship can be devastating.
  • Couples can seek help to rebuild their relationship after infidelity.

Infidelity is “being unfaithful to a spouse or other sexual partner.” Sometimes we call it having an affair or cheating. People have many different ideas about what counts as an affair. Some people think only sexual intercourse counts. Others count both physical and emotional involvement, such as:

  • Flirting
  • Handholding
  • Kissing or hugging
  • Watching pornography
  • Having other emotionally close relationships
  • Looking at or using dating sites or apps

The people in each relationship must decide what is acceptable and what is not. It is like an unwritten contract that says: I promise to be intimate only with you. Any act of infidelity breaks that contract and destroys trust.

How does infidelity hurt relationships?

Trust is the foundation of any good relationship. In friendships, it lets us be ourselves without fearing rejection. It lets us relax and feel safe. An intimate relationship, such as a marriage, is built on that same kind of trust, but stronger. We show more of ourselves in intimate relationships. We share our emotional and physical wants and needs. To feel safe, we need to know our partner is loyal and will work to protect our relationship.

If our partner is intimate with people outside our relationship, that trust is shattered. We lose that feeling of safety and security.

How should I feel if my partner has an affair?

It can be devastating to find your partner has been unfaithful. We build our lives around our relationships.  The broken trust of infidelity is a huge personal loss. Grief is the natural response to loss. As you grieve, you may deny this is happening to you or feel sad and angry. You may also have a lot of questions, such as:

  • Don’t you love me?
  • How could you hurt me like this?
  • Do you love the other person?
  • How long has this been going on?
  • What exactly happened?
  • Was it something I did or did not do?
  • Will I ever be able to trust again?

Does infidelity mean it’s over?

Infidelity does not always mean the relationship is over. Esther Perel is a marriage therapist and the author of The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity. She says there is hope. Partners can sometimes rebuild trust. Perel believes we “have two or three relationships in our adult lives. Some of us with the same person.” We might not be able to go back to the same relationship, but we might be able to build a stronger one.

Friends and family members may say you should stay or leave. But the choice is yours. There is no right or wrong way to act. You may want to rebuild a great relationship or see if a rocky one can improve. Or you may not be able to accept the betrayal and need to leave. Only you can make this choice. Mental health professionals can help you decide what to do.

How can we rebuild?

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy suggests seeking a counselor with experience helping couples after infidelity. One-on-one and couple’s sessions are often used together. Therapy styles and methods vary, but they often follow a pattern that includes three stages.

Stage one

  • Noticing and talking about strong emotions
  • Learning to handle the anger, shame, guilt, or sadness

Stage two

  • Identifying the situation and details
  • Understanding how it could have happened

Stage three

  • Developing empathy
  • Finding forgiveness
  • Becoming couple-centered
  • Sharing responsibility for the relationship

With time and the right help, some people are able to build strong, lasting relationships after infidelity.

Resources

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel. Harper Collins, 2017.

By Beth Landau
Source: "Infidelity," American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, www.aamft.org/Consumer_Updates/Infidelity.aspx; "National Marriage and Divorce Rates 2000-16," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/national_marriage_divorce_rates_00-16.pdf; SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices, https://nrepp.samhsa.gov

Summary

  • Infidelity, or having an affair, means different things to different people.
  • The loss of trust in a relationship can be devastating.
  • Couples can seek help to rebuild their relationship after infidelity.

Infidelity is “being unfaithful to a spouse or other sexual partner.” Sometimes we call it having an affair or cheating. People have many different ideas about what counts as an affair. Some people think only sexual intercourse counts. Others count both physical and emotional involvement, such as:

  • Flirting
  • Handholding
  • Kissing or hugging
  • Watching pornography
  • Having other emotionally close relationships
  • Looking at or using dating sites or apps

The people in each relationship must decide what is acceptable and what is not. It is like an unwritten contract that says: I promise to be intimate only with you. Any act of infidelity breaks that contract and destroys trust.

How does infidelity hurt relationships?

Trust is the foundation of any good relationship. In friendships, it lets us be ourselves without fearing rejection. It lets us relax and feel safe. An intimate relationship, such as a marriage, is built on that same kind of trust, but stronger. We show more of ourselves in intimate relationships. We share our emotional and physical wants and needs. To feel safe, we need to know our partner is loyal and will work to protect our relationship.

If our partner is intimate with people outside our relationship, that trust is shattered. We lose that feeling of safety and security.

How should I feel if my partner has an affair?

It can be devastating to find your partner has been unfaithful. We build our lives around our relationships.  The broken trust of infidelity is a huge personal loss. Grief is the natural response to loss. As you grieve, you may deny this is happening to you or feel sad and angry. You may also have a lot of questions, such as:

  • Don’t you love me?
  • How could you hurt me like this?
  • Do you love the other person?
  • How long has this been going on?
  • What exactly happened?
  • Was it something I did or did not do?
  • Will I ever be able to trust again?

Does infidelity mean it’s over?

Infidelity does not always mean the relationship is over. Esther Perel is a marriage therapist and the author of The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity. She says there is hope. Partners can sometimes rebuild trust. Perel believes we “have two or three relationships in our adult lives. Some of us with the same person.” We might not be able to go back to the same relationship, but we might be able to build a stronger one.

Friends and family members may say you should stay or leave. But the choice is yours. There is no right or wrong way to act. You may want to rebuild a great relationship or see if a rocky one can improve. Or you may not be able to accept the betrayal and need to leave. Only you can make this choice. Mental health professionals can help you decide what to do.

How can we rebuild?

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy suggests seeking a counselor with experience helping couples after infidelity. One-on-one and couple’s sessions are often used together. Therapy styles and methods vary, but they often follow a pattern that includes three stages.

Stage one

  • Noticing and talking about strong emotions
  • Learning to handle the anger, shame, guilt, or sadness

Stage two

  • Identifying the situation and details
  • Understanding how it could have happened

Stage three

  • Developing empathy
  • Finding forgiveness
  • Becoming couple-centered
  • Sharing responsibility for the relationship

With time and the right help, some people are able to build strong, lasting relationships after infidelity.

Resources

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel. Harper Collins, 2017.

By Beth Landau
Source: "Infidelity," American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, www.aamft.org/Consumer_Updates/Infidelity.aspx; "National Marriage and Divorce Rates 2000-16," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/national_marriage_divorce_rates_00-16.pdf; SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices, https://nrepp.samhsa.gov

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, assessments, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2018 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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