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How to Deal with Infidelity

A man and woman on opposite sides of a door, after discovering an infidelity.

Most married couples see infidelity as something that will never affect them and feels like something that only happens to other people. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Around 40% of marriages face issues with infidelity, with the numbers increasing when also considering solely emotional affairs, or online infidelity. So, how do you deal with infidelity? Rebuilding the trust broken by an affair takes time and a commitment to change.

What is the difference between infidelity and adultery?

While infidelity and adultery are commonly used interchangeably, there are some notable differences between the two. Infidelity, or cheating, is the act of being either emotionally or physically unfaithful to a spouse or partner, and breaking a commitment or promise during the act. Adultery is engaging in physical, sexual activity, and may be considered a criminal offense and grounds for divorce in certain places.

Take some time before reacting

Emotions of shock, anger, and grief are common reactions to learning of a spouse’s infidelity – working through these emotions takes time and effort. It is important to give yourself space to collect all your thoughts and feelings. Try rehearsing what you will say to your partner so that you present yourself as assertive rather than aggressive – approaching it with anger will lead to rash decision-making. Practice emotional regulation tools such as mindfulness, self-regulation, and seven-second breathing.

Total separation

Total separation from the other person is the only way to end an affair. It is important for the spouse involved in the affair to be open and honest and tell the other that they are still committed to the marriage. Making a drastic break from a lover can be a very tough task, as they fulfilled some sort of need or desire. Without total separation, healthy marital recovery cna prove to be incredibly challenging.

Accept responsibility

The spouse who committed the infidelity must admit to what happened and take full responsibility. They must be completely transparent, providing answers to any of the other’s questions. This will lead to conversations about what went wrong and what needs to change. However, it is best that the unfaithful spouse avoid giving every specific detail about their infidelity, as this often leads to hurt feelings rather than restoration. Only disclose as many details as are necessary for your spouse to understand what occurred. Trust will not return overnight, but accepting responsibility is a good starting point.

Identify and share needs

Everyone has core emotional needs that bring the highest level of happiness and joy to them when they are met. When they are not being met, feelings of frustration and unhappiness can occur. It is when certain needs are not being met that one spouse may look outside the marriage to have them met rather than communicating their needs to their spouse. Both spouses should relate their needs to each other and work to fulfill them together. One method with proven effectiveness is active listening – a conscious effort to hear the complete message being communicated. Active listening entails validating each other’s feelings as they are communicated and listening to understand rather than to respond. This communication strategy will help them better understand each other’s needs and how to fulfill them.

Allow time for healing

The early days after learning of an affair are often incredibly painful. Finding the road to recovery and healing requires complete commitment from both partners. There is no set amount of time that will fix the marriage, but most couples do survive the affair and come out stronger and more committed to one another. Time alone will not restore the marriage – it takes constant effort from both spouses.

Seek Help

Individual and marital counseling can help your entire family cope with the emotional effects of infidelity. Centerstone counselors can help you restore your marriage, your self-esteem, and your life. Staff members are available anytime at 1-877-HOPE123 (877-467-3123) to connect you with the resources you need to overcome infidelity.

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