Adultery: Surviving Infidelity

“Last month I came home from a business trip earlier than expected, and walked in on my wife making love with another man,” writes a reader from Montreal, Canada. “I cannot describe the thoughts and feelings that have emerged for me since. I feel hurt and betrayed. I feel angry. I have contemplated suicide. I’ve had murderous impulses toward both my wife and the man she was with.”

“I’m a wreck at work, and I’m not able to concentrate on anything.  I almost got into a car accident on the highway last week, because I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going. My wife has apologized and asked for my forgiveness, but she said her affair with this man had been going on for eight years.  Eight years!  One of the things that really stings is that I’ve had opportunities with other women that I’ve turned down because I didn’t want to hurt our relationship.  How does one go about repairing trust and forgiving?  Is our marriage shot?  How do I quit thinking about this all the time?  Help.”

Infidelity occurs for a variety of reasons.  Typically, for a woman to have an extramarital affair, she has been feeling lonely, isolated and dissatisfied with the intimacy in her relationship.  She is likely craving more communication, and feels unloved.  Although there are exceptions, the rule of thumb still applies most of the time:  for a woman to have an affair, she has been craving more emotional closeness, love, tenderness, affection and understanding.

Men may feel the same way, but men who engage in affairs have also reported feeling happy and satisfied with their marriages.  They may have an affair as a way of proving their manhood, or that they are still attractive, for variety, because they see it as a privilege of being male, or because they establish a friendship with a woman and find it hard to separate close, warm or tender feelings from sexual feelings.  For many men, sexuality is the primary and possibly the only way they have of showing closeness and of being intimate.

Some people, men and women, seek out an affair as a way of distancing their primary relationship, usually because they are uncomfortable with too much closeness.  They are typically fearful of being emotionally suffocated by the other person.  They don’t allow themselves to get too vulnerable to anyone, because they fear being rejected or hurt.

There is an impressive theory to suggest that adultery, much like alcoholism or abusive behavior, is a trans-generational process; that is, you repeat behaviors that you learned in childhood from one or both of your parents.  If you are being unfaithful to a partner you are committed to, whether you are married or not, the chances are good that you are the adult child of an adulterous mother or father yourself.  Sadly, without knowing it, parents teach their children to be unfaithful.  You are therefore likely to unwittingly teach unfaithful behavior to your own children as well.

“Seldom, or perhaps never, does a marriage develop into an individual relationship smoothly and without crises; there is no coming to consciousness without pain.” Carl Jung

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