Saturday, October 16, 2010
INFIDELITY IN MARRIAGE
Every human being wishes to be eternally connected with a person. This connection is established or expected to be fulfilled in a love / marital relationship. Infidelity in the relationship causes severing of this connection and also the hope of it in future. Too often, the numbness and confusion, the pain and anger of uncovering the infidelity is intensified by the myths and half-truths about affairs and inability to share the wound, that makes surviving infidelity that much more draining and difficult - both mentally and emotionally.
Emotions in infidelity mimic that of death of a person, only more difficult to deal with because it is not an actual physical death. The partner is not only mourning the loss of the relationship but also the eternal wish to be connected with a human being. It stirs up deep infantile feelings of insecurity and leaves the person feeling unloved and abandoned.
Compounding the issue, infidelity is often kept under wraps as it is shrouded by societal humiliation, shame, guilt and lowered self worth. The partner goes through various stages such as denial/ disbelief, anger, apathy and then grief. This mourning can last up to a year, or even more. Each occasion/ incident is mourned individually till the person is ready to let go and forgive. Often, during this phase of grieving the wounded person, although aware of the practical approach to deal with the situation, is unable to do so due to intense emotions. Family and friends out of their concern and not wanting them to be in pain provide with logical/ practical solutions and try to cover the wound quickly. This only further complicates the problem and the person further withdraws into his/ her shell. Now, not only he /s he is wounded but is also expected to wear a smile on his/ her face and move on in life. To forgive, and forget. But the wound festers within, causing more damage.
Each affair is unique. Each different type of affair serves a unique purpose to the cheating husband or wife. Here are areas of knowledge that, once studied, generate tremendous relief and hope.
There are different TYPES of INFIDELITY.
I came up with 7 types of affairs in my work with couples over the last 15 years:
1. My Marriage Made Me Do It
2. I Can't Say No
3. I Don't Want to Say No
4. I Fell Out of Love...and just love being in love
5. I Want to Get Back at Him/Her
6. I Need to Prove my Desirability
7. I Want to be Close to Someone...but can't stand Intimacy
The reasons behind the varying types of affairs are distinctive. One may be motivated by compulsion, another by strong personal needs for excitement, another for revenge, another to maintain distance in all relationships, and another to project blame onto someone or something else.
These motives derive not from the marital relationship or the wounded spouse, but from the personal coping patterns of the cheating spouse. Additionally, these characteristics, motives, and patterns were already set well before the marital couple even met. At some level, it was necessary for the cheating spouse to "play out" these patterns. Unsurprisingly, most of this acting out (if not all of it), or at least the motivation behind the acting out, are well outside the consciousness of the cheating wife or husband.
Once the wounded spouse becomes aware of these patterns, the complexity of the infidelity and the motives for the cheating spouse - and other person as well - a flood of relief flows. The more one can make distinctions in a situation, the more refined those distinctions become, the less power that situation has to control the feelings and behavior of a person. Knowledge is power because it comes with options.
Overcoming infidelity requires a lot of space for the hurt and anger to be vented out. It is important that this venting out is listened to without any evaluation. This process along with challenging the beliefs about marriage and extramarital affairs helps the individual to cope with infidelity in an appropriate manner. It is difficult for the near and dear ones to do so because of their emotional attachment and involvement and often requires professional psychotherapeutic help for healing the individual/ s and their relationship. Working on these beliefs will provide the grieving person with clarity of thought and thereby the ability to choose his /her future actions. Knowledge about infidelity and self awareness becomes power with which one can heal oneself.
Look at the following false beliefs for example:
1. LOVE IS MAGICAL & SACRED: Coping with infidelity for the wounded spouse may mean dealing with the seeming fact that s/he is no longer "loved" and in reality that "love," which was so sacred, is given to someone else and one has no control over it/ the ability to regain it. And, honestly, what is more emotionally devastating than to feel unloved?
2. POOR MARRIAGE LEADS TO INFEDILITY: Another common misconception is that someone jumped into the arms of someone else because the marriage was awful. Quite often, this means that the sex was awful, or even nonexistent. The wounded spouse is left lamenting the arguments and the points of differences with his/her spouse as if those differences tainted the marriage or relationship or worse what could they have done to avoid the infidelity.
3. Everybody is unfaithful; it is normal, expectable behavior: Seeking solace in commonality of the problem can bring about temporary relief, but along with it it brings about disillusionment and hopelessness about life in general and relationships in particular.
4. Affairs are good for you; an affair may even revive a dull marriage: Back at the height of the sexual revolution. This is an ineffective way to pacify oneself as jt leads to further damage in a relationship and more so to ones own self esteem.
5. People have affairs because they are oversexed: Affairs are about secrets. The infidelity is not necessarily in the sex, but in the dishonesty.
6. People have affairs because they aren't in love with their marriage partner: On closer examination it routinely turns out that the marriage was fine before the affair happened, and the decision that they were not in love with their marriage partner was an effort to explain and justify the affair. Being in love does not protect people from lust. Infidelity with your loved one is not a very loving thing to do, and it may be downright hostile. If people are experiencing a deficiency in their ability to love their partner, it is not clear how something so hateful as betraying him or her would restore it.
7. TIME WILL HEAL THE WOUNDS: The wounded person is wounded because he/ she was unconsciously attracted to a person with particular traits. If these motives are not uncovered, he / she is likely to fall into a similar trap once again. So in a way they are responsible, albeit unconsciously. If these wounds are not opened, aired and well looked at, they are likely to remain infested and the infection likely to reappear at a later date, and often more damaging. Hence often we find the person saying that my partners often have uncannily similar personalities. Time does not help in protecting oneself in the future. One needs to work not only with ones emotions but also take professional psychotherapeutic help to figure out what about them drew them to such a person.
Such knowledge about infidelity brings great relief, quite often right then and there. Knowledge about infidelity gives options to act, feel and think differently, which gives one a tremendous feeling of personal power. The "wounded spouse" moves beyond playing the victim, and now recognizes that he or she is not at fault for the affair taking place. S/he is not defective. She or he can confront him or her with a basic educated guess as to the end result of that confrontation. There is nothing s/he could have done to avoid infidelity in the spouse. It also brings in awareness about ones own mental makeup protecting the person from future hurts.