Overcoming Obstacles: Infidelity
By Don Paglia
Healing a marriage when there has been infidelity takes teamwork. As a marriage therapist for the past thirty years, I’ve met with countless clients who thought that this would be the end of their marriage.
“Ben” and “Kathy” came in to see me after Kathy found out that Ben had been involved with another woman. It was even more difficult since Kathy knew the woman. She learned that they had been meeting when Kathy thought Ben was working. Through their willingness to fight for their marriage they were able to discover, despite this very low point, new possibilities and reason for hope. They were willing to deal with the damage of shattered trust. Then they entered into constructive remediation around issues that were not the cause of the infidelity, but that led to their marriage being vulnerable to the temptation of infidelity.
Both spouses must commit to getting the marriage back, or possibly getting to where it never was. This calls for courage. The infidelity may flag a boundary issue, difficulty with a new stage of family life (such as children or aging), or possibly indicate more chronic factors within the marriage or within one of the spouses. Marital infidelity is often both a problem as well as a symptom for whatever else may be missing or not working within the marriage. This makes it a difficult presenting problem since both need to be adequately addressed.
Many couples do work through this trauma and are able not only to reestablish their marriage as it once was, but bring it to a newer and healthier place. With sincere efforts from each partner, a commitment to look deeper into oneself and the relationship, plus the assistance of a trained professional, healing often is remarkable.
There are some infidelities, however, that are not of a sexual nature. While these may appear to be less severe than sexual infidelity, they can also cause harm to a marriage, especially if left unchecked.
For example, one partner may have a relationship that mimics an affair in that a third party or entity takes an inordinate amount of one’s time, energy and emotional investment to the detriment of the primary marital relationship. This “third party” may be the custom of sharing daily coffee, or a similar get-together, with a co-worker without the marriage partner’s knowledge.
Another “third party” can be seemingly innocent leisure pursuits or good works. There is a big difference between a hobby that allows a spouse to bring more to the marriage versus extracurricular activities that drain or pull the person away from the marriage. This can include such things as one’s golf game, over-involvement with the children, career, or a volunteer commitment in the civic, political, or church arena. Whenever one spouse is heavily engaged with some third party, then this third party can really be seen as a “mistress.”
Similarly, internet chatting can be either sexual or non-sexual and has the potential to be a dangerous form of unfaithfulness within the marriage. This particular problem can also become an addiction and needs to be addressed, often through the use of an intervention.