The prognosis for survivability of the marriage is different for each. Some affairs are the best thing that happens to a marriage. Others serve a death knell.
As well, different extramarital affairs demand different strategies on the part of the spouse or others.
Some demand toughness and movement. Others demand patience and understanding.
The emotional impact of the discovery of infidelity is usually profound. Days and weeks of sleeplessness, rumination, fantasies (many sexual) and unproductively follow.
It typically takes 2 – 4 years to "work through" the implications.
A good coach or therapist can accelerate and mollify the process. I don't recommend "marriage" counseling, at least initially.
The devastating emotional impact results from a couple powerful dynamics. Trust is shattered – of one's ability to discern the truth.
The most important step is NOT to learn to trust the other person, but to learn to trust one's self.
Another is the power that a secret plays in relationships. THE secret exacts an emotional and sometimes physical toll that needs to be acknowledged and dealt with.
How can you help?
Those in the midst of their affair crisis told me they need this from you:
1. Sometimes I want to vent, get it out without censor. I know sometimes I will say what I shouldn't be saying. It may not be nice, pretty or mild.
Please know that I know better, but I need to get it off my chest.
2. Every so often I want to hear something like, "This too shall pass." Remind me that this is not forever.
3. I want to be validated. I want to know that I am OK. You can best do that by nodding acceptance when I talk about the pain or confusion.
4. I want to hear sometimes, "What are you learning? What are you doing to take care of yourself?" I may need that little jolt that moves me beyond my pain to see the larger picture.
5. I may want space. I may want you to be quiet and patient as I attempt to sort through and express my thoughts and feelings.
Give me some time to stammer, stutter and stumble my way through this.
6. I want someone to point out some new options or different roads that I might take.
But before you do this, make sure I am first heard and validated.
7. When they pop into your mind, recommend books or other resources that you think I might find helpful.
8. I want to hear every so often, "How's it going?" And, I may want this to be more than an informal greeting. Give me time and space to let you know exactly how it IS going.
9. I want you to understand and welcome the ambivalent feelings and desires. I would like you to be fairly comfortable with the gray areas and the contradictions about how I feel and what I may want.
10. I want you to be predictable. I want to be able to count on you to be there, listen and speak consistently or let me know when you are unable to do that. I will honor that.
Extramarital affairs are powerful. Affairs are costly. They affect family, friends, colleagues and employers.
Infidelity is also an opportunity – to redesign one's life and love relationships in ways that create honor, joy and true intimacy.
About the author:
Dr. Robert Huizenga, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Dr. Robert Huizenga, The Infidelity Coach, has helped hundreds of couples over the past two decades heal from the agony of extramarital affairs and survive infidelity. Visit his website at: http://www.break-free-from-the-affair.com