Infidelity is a complex issue that requires a nuanced approach in relationship psychotherapy. Relationship experts have contributed valuable insights into the causes and consequences of infidelity, as well as the potential for healing and growth within a relationship.
The Reasons "Why" Vary
When dealing with infidelity, it's important to consider the many factors involved instead of seeing it as a simple problem with an easy solution. The traditional view suggests that the betrayed partner should leave, and there is often pressure from friends and family to do just that. However, it's important to understand the complex desires, motivations, and dynamics of human relationships. Not every relationship is alike.
For example, there is a big difference between someone who steps out of the relationship because they are avoiding dealing with stress, and someone who gets a thrill out of running multiple narratives in their life.
Understanding the motivations behind infidelity is crucial. It's not only about a lack of love or attraction. Infidelity can stem from various reasons such as wanting validation, searching for parts of oneself that feel lost, escaping or avoiding feeling something, or having unmet needs in the relationship. Exploring these motivations in therapy can help identify the underlying issues that contributed to the infidelity and work on addressing them.
There are three fundamental patterns in how couples reestablish their dynamic following infidelity: they struggle to move past the affair, they persevere and let it go, or they distance themselves from it completely.
In certain relationships, the affair becomes more than just a temporary crisis—it becomes an insidious trap, ensnaring both individuals in an unending cycle of resentment, revenge, and self-pity. These couples endlessly dwell on the same pain, orbiting and revisiting the same grievances, repeatedly blaming each other for their anguish. The reasons behind their decision to remain in the marriage often puzzle as much as their inability to transcend their mutual animosity. The second pattern emerges in couples who choose to remain together due to their deep-rooted commitment to lifelong partnership, family bonds, and stability. They prioritize maintaining connections with their community of mutual friends and acquaintances, or they possess a strong religious affiliation. While these couples are capable of moving beyond the infidelity, they may not fully transcend it. Instead, their marriages return to a relatively peaceful state resembling how things were before the crisis, without undergoing significant transformation in their relationship. However, for certain couples, the affair becomes a transformative experience, serving as a catalyst for renewal and growth. This outcome highlights the potential of therapy in assisting couples to revitalize their marriage by tapping into the resilience and resourcefulness that each partner brings to the table (Perel, E.).
Couples who Stay Together
Couples who decide to stay together after infidelity often embark on a transformative journey. They may work with a therapist to rebuild trust, navigate the intense emotions involved, and develop new strategies for communication and intimacy. This process requires both partners to take responsibility for their actions, to express genuine remorse, and to demonstrate consistent efforts to rebuild trust.
Couples who Split Up
In cases where the betrayal has caused irreparable damage, repeated betrayals have occurred, or the couple is unable to rebuild trust, breaking up may be the most healthy and respectful choice for both individuals involved. It is important to recognize that staying in a relationship where trust cannot be restored may lead to ongoing pain and resentment.
Our clinic specializes in relationship issues, and infidelity is something we work with a lot. The way that a couple responds to infidelity is deeply personal. We are here to support you with whatever feels authentic to you.