Monday, December 12, 2011


The subject of Infidelity is one that is close to my heart. It is a painful journey that I have accompanied many couples on. The good news is that it can be resolved and healed. Couples can end up closer then ever before if they have forgiven and truly done the hard work of getting through the trauma of an affair.

Infidelity is probably the signal biggest trauma that can impact the marriage relationship. The betrayal of infidelity - once it is discovered - is heart-shattering to the person who has been betrayed. It is a smashing of the emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual threads that form the bond of marital intimacy. Whether or not the marriage is, at the moment, a happy one, a bond exists between married couples and infidelity shatters that bond. Like an unexpected car crash that totals the car where the drivers and passengers barely survive with their lives - infidelity is a painful experience - requiring lots of healing.

I am indebted to the thinking and writing of Frank Pittman, a psychiatrist who specializes in treating couples where there has been infidelity and author of Private Lies, my own common sense and the roots of all the major religions with the perspective that they bring on this subject. For a marriage and a family, infidelity is never a good thing. In fact it is a tragedy.
In the family therapy world, there are several schools of thought about infidelity - one is that it is a symptom of a bad marriage and both spouses, are, in effect, at fault. I do not buy that school of thought.

There is another school of thought which Frank Pittman espouses and based on my clinical experience I totally agree with. He calls an affair temporary insanity. Blaming the unfaithful spouse is blaming the victim. Again, common sense 101 is that affairs are less probable in a blissfully happy marriage. The person having the affair has lots of choices about how to handle his or her misery. An affair externalizes the misery, creates a bond with a third person and short circuits an possibility of dealing directly with the issues that have led to the affair. It does not solve anything and may in fact end your marriage.

So, if you are having an affair - man or woman up and, as I tell my unfaithful clients, be prepared to say a really big sorry. Part of your sorry will be listening to a really pissed-off spouse and allowing them to vent their hurt and disappointment. In fact that is pretty much the course of therapy - for the unfaithful partner to listen and the pissed off partner to say what they need to say for as long as they need to say it. There comes a time for forgiveness, of course, but forgiveness and cheap grace are not the same. The cheated on spouse has to express their feelings for as long as it takes. After the trauma of the affair has been dealt with - the underlying intimacy issues can be addressed. I always remind my clients, or at least think it, What do you expect? You violated one of the Ten Big Ones. Ask Moses.

Posted by Picasa

No comments:

Post a Comment