It’s difficult to find a person whose life has not been impacted by infidelity, whether they know it or not. Most often, affairs are eventually discovered and become a source of a lot of fighting and sadness in a marriage. Not only does the couple wrestle with the betrayal, but family and friends also struggle to understand what happened and how to move forward. It’s easy to blame and point a finger at the offender to try and make sense of it all and move on quickly. Make one person “good” and the other “bad.” After all, if the offender is “bad,” then they just need to behave better or else a person can feel justified in divorcing. In reality, the truth is often much deeper and involved. Explore marriage counseling in this blog post.
While the wish, in the beginning, is often that the affair never came to light, it actually gives the couple an opportunity to renovate and strengthen the marriage. It may be a horrendously painful experience, but an affair is a clear indicator that the relationship is not working well and it can’t continue with one or both feeling frustrated in the marriage.
If you think an affair is about sex, then you would be wrong most of the time. Having walked this path with many couples as a marriage counselor in Orange County, what I usually find is that an affair is a person’s attempt to stay with the partner they already have, but fulfill other unmet passions or an unspoken want. Sex in an affair is often a means for feeling wanted, creating a feeling of intimacy, feeling alive and uninhibited, and restoring a sense of passion in a person that has been suppressed or newly found.
What Infidelity Can Teach
Please be clear that I’m not saying infidelity is justified or excusable. It’s flat out a broken promise to your partner. But, if you can look at infidelity through an investigative lens to understand what has been missing and unspoken in the marriage, then infidelity holds the opportunity to rebuild the relationship into something better that what it ever was.
It only makes sense that as couples go through life, experiences grow and shape them into something beyond who they were when they first said: “I do.” I would hope each is learning and developing clarity about themselves with newfound passions in living. But these changes aren’t the problem. It’s when these new developments don’t find their way into the marriage dialogue, that a person starts to look for others places or people to come to life, sometimes as an affair.
How Marriage Counseling Can Help
You wouldn’t go to a restaurant and expect the server to know what you want without ordering. Or, if your server brought you a terrific hamburger by mistake and you are vegetarian, you’re going to say something. But couples expect their partner to somehow “just know” what they want or need and do it without asking “because they love them.” Or maybe they did ask, but it went nowhere and it was never brought up again. It makes me think of the heartfelt cry in the chorus of Billy Joel’s song, “Honesty.”
Honesty is such a lonely word
Everyone is so untrue
Honesty is hardly ever heard
And mostly what I need from you
But conversations about wants and needs, or areas a person is growing or changing, are more vulnerable than ordering dinner. Couples may be unsure of how to reveal their changing self and interests. Or, maybe a couple has usually agreed on most things and disagreements have not gone so well in the past. Add to this the raw, hurt emotions in the aftermath of an affair being discovered and you can understand why couples struggle on their own to make sense of an affair. This is where a therapist can help with “decoding” the meaning of an affair.
Thankfully, it’s not that hard to find a therapist for marriage counseling in Orange Country. I’ve written some guidelines in an earlier blog about what to look for and it’s particularly important to get the best help you can find to help navigate through the aftermath of an affair. A skilled psychologist is going to have to help steer the emotional reactivity into words and meaning that will help the couple understand one another better again. Only then can couples put words on hidden thoughts and desires and speak honestly with one another in a way that might reignite the marriage and find a way forward together with more trust and closeness than before the affair.