Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Coping with Infidelity: Knowledge Gives Power

Surviving an affair starts as soon as a person realizes his/her spouse is having an affair. The pain and confusion, numbness and anger of the realization is compounded by myths and half-truths about infidelity that make overcoming the affair that much more difficult. Initially, overcoming infidelity requires one to challenge their beliefs about extramarital affairs. What are they?

Many believe that if someone has an affair it means that they "fell out of love" with his or her spouse, and instead "fell in love" with the other person. It's almost as if "love" is some magical powerful force to which we fall prey and cannot influence. 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, honestly, what is more emotionally devastating than to feel unloved? Another wrong belief is that the cheating spouse ran into the arms of the other person because the marriage was so awful. Quite often, this means that the sex was awful, or even nonexistent. And so, the cupboard of marriage was bare of sex and/or intimacy and the cheating spouse just "had" to get his/her needs met... somewhere else, of course.

The wounded spouse, in his or her endeavors to deal with the affair, is thus confronted with his or her sexual (in)adequacy - his or her lack of being able to meet the needs of his or her spouse. Additionally, and often without major dialogue, this finds him or her forsaken, alone, and incredibly jealous of the other person (OP) how is now getting all of the action. The 7-year itch. Ever heard of it? It may be an excuse to wonder and wander. To deal with an affair, the wounded spouse is usually blind-sided by the impulsiveness of his or her spouse, and is then left behind at home, dealing with the affair by
desperately attempting to keep his or her world together in the midst of all the chaos.

Finally, there is the rationalization of (in)compatibility. The couple was simply not compatible. Or, the cheating spouse, in a moment of insight, came to the conclusion of their incompatibility and needed to find his/her "soul mate" or someone with whom s/he felt compatible. The wounded spouse is left lamenting the differences he or she might have had with his or her spouse as if those differences contaminated the entire relationship. Coping with infidelity and moving toward healing and recovery is enhanced by breaking down these myths and half-truths, and learning about the complexity, patterns and themes of infidelity and extramarital affairs. Knowledge about infidelity becomes power. Knowledge about infidelity usually brings incredible relief. 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 martyr, 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. Each affair is unique. Each different type of affair serves a unique pur pose to the cheating husband or wife.

Here are the points of knowledge that, once learned, will bring about a tremendous amount of hope and relief.

1. There are different types of infidelity. Through my research, I realized that there were 7 different types of affairs. (My Marriage Made Me Do It, I Can't Say No, I Don't Want to Say No, I Fell Out of Love...and just love being in love, I Want to Get Back at Him/Her, I Need to Prove my Desirability, and I Want to be Close to Someone...but can't stand Intimacy.

2. The motives for the different types of affairs are different. 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.

3. 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 learns of these patterns, the complexity of the affair and the hidden agenda and 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. The wounded spouse is not frozen in time. The wounded spouse is NOT helpless. The wounded spouse is in no way less than the cheating spouse, nor less than the other person. Now, the wounded spouse can actually take a step back, and on some level even appreciate the anguish, the disjointed striving, and the veiled inner indecision of his/her spouse. Now the wounded spouse has the knowledge to deal with infidelity in powerful ways, registering actions and words that disrupt this hugely destructive pattern and give hope for resolution.

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