Is Infidelity Threatening to Break Up Your Relationship?

“My partner’s had an affair! Do you work with infidelity?” So begins many of the calls received at Couples In Step.

Are you reeling after finding out your partner has been having an affair? Has the shock of the betrayal left you feeling hurt and angry? Do you wonder whether your relationship can be salvaged or if healing after an affair is even possible?

People use words like “violation,” “tsunami,” “devastation,” “nightmare” to describe the impact of infidelity. Security and predictability has been turned upside down.

Perhaps you’ve been googling at all hours of the day and night as you try to make sense of your feelings. Concentration is difficult. You’re in a daze.

Whenever infidelity rocks a relationship, big feelings inevitably follow—big sadness, big anger, and, perhaps for the one who injured (as strange as it sounds), big relief. The breach of trust feels like something that can never be undone, a point of no return. You probably think right now this is something you’ll never be able to get over.

If you’re the injured party, you might be vacillating between emotions. One moment you may hate your partner, but the next you’re clinging to them. You could be enraged one minute and ready to pack up and go, but the next minute you’re in tears and terrified to leave. You may also be consumed with the details of the affair and suspicious that it’s still going on. There may even be times when you feel euphoric. You may have known something was wrong and now you know. That feels validating in a crazy kind of way. A few minutes later you’re numb with shock. This was the last thing you expected!

Recovering from infidelity: couples counselling can help
Infidelity Counselling: help surviving an affair

If you’re the injuring party, you’re also likely to be experiencing a cascade of conflicting emotions—relief, guilt, shame, and an eagerness to move beyond the infidelity. Perhaps you’re blaming yourself or blaming your partner with justifications for why you had an affair in the first place. You may think if they’d been more sexually available, treated you more kindly, or paid you as much attention as they do the kids, none of this would have happened.

When you’re dealing with infidelity, it not only affects you emotionally but also physically. You could be losing sleep, have no appetite, and feel unfocused. Perhaps you’re feeling depressed and blaming yourself, or you’re alternating between hope and despair. Above all, you may be finding it difficult to think about anything else even after the initial shock has worn off.

The good news is, infidelity counselling can help you navigate through your turmoil and find resolution as a couple.

Infidelity Comes in Many Forms, and We All Define it Differently

It is generally believed that anywhere between 20 to 40 percent of relationships have experienced infidelity at least once. Getting consensus on the statistics is challenging, however,  because what constitutes infidelity is often subjective. What one person considers infidelity another person might not. For example, sending a flirty text to someone outside of the relationship may be considered infidelity by one partner but not by the one who sent it.

Since the definition of infidelity is open to interpretation, there can be different versions of it. A sexual affair is what we most commonly associate with infidelity. However, beyond sexual intimacies with another person, there can be emotional infidelity—confiding, sharing, or spending excessive time with someone else but not necessarily having sex. There can also be cyber infidelity—sexting, chat rooms, online pornography, etc. Though cyber infidelity is harder to define, it is often interpreted as betrayal.

Despite the prevalence of infidelity most people assume their partner will be faithful. So the discovery of infidelity is a severe, unexpected breach of commitment and trust. This is what makes recovering from infidelity so hard. The expectation of sexual monogamy is part and parcel of the deep attachment bonds adult partners form with their significant other. Faithfulness helps us feel safe and secure in this world that has many day-to-day challenges.

Breaking the trust of this primal bond presents a profound threat to our deep attachment. When infidelity happens, the bond of safety we depended on in good times and bad is torn apart. And this blows our primitive minds.

As difficult as getting over infidelity can be, it is possible. With the help of a skilled therapist and counselling, you can learn to make sense of the disruption and find clarity and resolution.