Infidelity in Marriage

Tony Fryer, MFT can help counsel families through infidelity in marriage

“Why did you do it? How could you do this to me and the kids? What were you thinking? Do you love me? Can I ever trust you again? Was our relationship a lie?”

I have listened to so many couples coming for marriage advice and relationship counseling after infidelity and the questions are many. No couple is ever the same as another and yet there are some similar situations around the experience of infidelity in marriage. Often we are lead to believe that it is only bad people who have affairs and yet I can say that my experience has been quite the contrary. I think most people can accept that the action of having an affair is bad, as it violates the bonds and contract of marriage.

Marriage is a relationship with huge expectations and when the expectation of fidelity is broken the pain is immense. Many people will decide to divorce and others will move on with the marriage and never really deal with or try to understand the trauma that has occurred. Most of my work has been with couples who want to try to understand what has happened, forgive and see if they can find a way to save their relationship. These are the couples that I am talking about here. They usually come in with very intense emotions and wonder if they can turn things around. Often the person who had the affair is guilt-ridden and wants to leave the whole thing behind and move on. They can be frustrated that their partner is unable to do likewise. The partner is often deeply wounded and angry and unsure whether they can ever again trust their spouse. They doubt every aspect of the relationship and the affair seems to block out or call into question any positive relationship attributes.

As time moves on I find that the vast bulk of couples come to understand their life and relationship differently. I see them leave with a relationship that is more communicative than it has ever been. They don’t forget, nor should they. They learn more about what they want from a relationship. The person who had the affair accepts full responsibility for the terrible choice they made, that could have destroyed the marriage they want. The couple both put more effort into how they relate and develop more openness with their feelings, needs and desires. My experience has been that this couple ends up with a relationship that, ironically, is deeper than it has ever been.

Traumas are never desirable (including an affair) but when they are worked through healthily, can often immensely increase our understanding. It requires both partners being prepared to work hard in couples therapy.

Tony Fryer