Adultery occurs when a husband or wife is unfaithful to a spouse. Coping with adultery can be extraordinarily painful. Yet adultery is not uncommon and happens even in marriages that seemed happy. You may have thought your relationship was rock solid, only to find that it's been shattered for a long time. Or you may have sensed something was going wrong with the relationship, but been unable to do anything about it. You may find yourself unable to believe adultery could really happen to you. When you discover that your marriage has been soured by adultery, you may be devastated. You may think the relationship will never recover and that you will never get over the pain and feeling of betrayal. Here are some coping strategies for minimising the pain and moving on.
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Avoid denial. Resist the temptation to deny that adultery has happened in your marriage. Accepting that it happened is the first step to coping with adultery.
Avoid imagining the worst. You may be tempted to obsess on what happened and why it happened, to wonder whether it was your fault, to imagine exactly what your spouse and the other person did together, to wonder how the other person compares to you. Your imagination is your worst enemy. Tell your spouse your fears if your imagination is upsetting you.
Get full disclosure. Discuss with your spouse openly your need to know what happened so that you know the worst and don't let your imagination run away with you. Talking openly and honestly with your spouse gets all the issues out on the table and is an important step toward regaining trust.
Decide if this is the end of the relationship. Adultery does not always have to mean the failure of a relationship, but rather can be looked at as a wound to the relationship, or a key turning point. It depends on the individual situation.
Reaffirm your commitment to each other, if at all possible. Take your marriage vows seriously and decide to make this marriage work, if you can. When your relationship has been cleaved so badly, in order to heal, it is necessary to remember your vows and recommit to each other.
Avoid reminding your spouse of the adultery and making repeated accusations. Giving guilt trips only inhibits healing for both of you, for it reopens the wounds. It also can make you bitter and unhappy.
Recognise that both of you are in pain. Chances are, your spouse is coping with guilt, shame, regret, confusion, and a sense of failure. You are coping with this crisis together and should support each other, not be each other's enemy.
Get counselling for any lingering issues of trust, communication, or insecurity.
Coping With Adultery
Tips and warnings
- Although you might feel ashamed because you believe the adultery was a sign that you failed in your marriage, this is not necessarily true. Marriage only fails if both people stop committing to each other. Though adultery may be a sign of a lack of commitment, that commitment may not be dead, just injured, and recovery may be possible.
- When adultery is accompanied by other symptoms that your marriage is a bad or harmful one, this may be a sign that you are at the end of the relationship.