Survive infidelity, ought to I keep or go?

Dear Beatty,

I recently learned that my husband, Jon, the love of my life for 20 years, is secretly having an affair with his business partner, Suzanne. Susanne is also married. You and I have been close friends for years – at least that’s what I thought. The four of us meet often and travel together. I am devastated. I can hardly get out of bed. One moment I’m in tears – the next I’m feeling angry that I’ve never experienced before. I beat myself up for not recognizing the signs. Although in hindsight there weren’t any obvious signs or warning signs, or at least I didn’t see any. Although our sex lives are no longer what they used to be, Jon and I still have sex every few weeks. I really thought we were happy. Our three children know something is wrong because I am clearly not my usual happy me. I have yet to confront my husband. What should I do? What can I say? What’s the best way to deal with this nightmare? I still love Jon and will do anything to save my marriage.

Sabrina, Southampton

Dear Sabrina,

There’s nothing more devastating than finding out your spouse is having an affair. Your world has understandably been turned upside down. All of your feelings are perfectly normal. Expect an emotional roller coaster ride for some time. It’s not your fault that your husband made a conscious decision to have an affair and betrayed you. You need to confront him ASAP and tell him you know about his affair and find out if he is ready to end it and try to fix your marriage. You deserve to know the truth! It is important that you have someone to speak to as you are trying to manage this crisis. You don’t have to do this yourself. Do you have friends and family that you can trust to support you? If you fail to do this, allow yourself to seek help from a qualified therapist who can not only help you deal with your feelings of betrayal, but also support you in figuring out what is best for you in the future.

Infidelity Statistics in the US

Did you know that in the United States, studies show that between 25 and 60% of Americans cheat on their spouse? Male respondents in the 51-59 age group had the highest infidelity rate at 31%, and 16% of women in their 60s reported infidelity; the highest rate among female respondents. It is estimated that 10% of affairs start online and 40% of online affairs become real affairs. Although cheating was previously viewed primarily as a male activity, the incidence of cheating among women has continued to increase.

As a psychotherapist and sex therapist with over 35 years of clinical experience, I have treated thousands of men and women both individually and in couples therapy and discovered the main reasons people choose to have extramarital affairs.

Reasons why people
Got business

  1. Marital dissatisfaction.
  2. Sexual dissatisfaction.
  3. Desire for variety. I love my spouse, but …
  4. A surprising, unexpected encounter that turns into an affair.
  5. Do i still have it? I need confirmation from someone other than my spouse.
  6. My spouse has a chronic illness and I need emotional and physical intimacy.
  7. Retribution: I want to punish my spouse for having an affair.
  8. Plain and simple – sex chemistry.
  9. Consciously or unconsciously, affairs are a wake-up call that something is wrong with the marriage.

After the affair: should I stay or should I go? It depends

Virtually every couple I see contacts me about infidelity to therapy. Incidentally, more and more women are entering into extramarital affairs than in previous generations. Once the affair is exposed (and it usually is sooner or later), both spouses need to figure out what to do. What will the next steps be? Do we still love each other? Will I ever be able to forgive? Should we get a divorce? Should we try to fix our marriage? Do I want to leave my marriage for my lover?

Whether couples stay together or divorce, many ups and downs await. People can learn to forgive over time. However, you will never forget it!

The couples I work with can often find that their marriages have been in flux for many years. I have encouraged people who hear my Ask Beatty show on the Progressive Radio Network and who see me on TV and attend my lectures to remember to keep their marriages high on their priority lists. The reality, however, is that children, careers, financial worries, coupled with the stresses of everyday life, almost always occupy number one place in people’s lives. And therein lies the deadly mistake couples continue to make. Plants and flowers die if they are not watered and cared for. The same goes for marriage.

Points to think about

  1. Are the couple seriously interested in repairing the marriage? If the answer is yes …
  2. Are the couple willing to work with a competent marriage therapist who can help them fully understand what happened and help them move forward? (Buyers beware: not all therapists are created equal! Do your homework and let someone you trust refer you.)
  3. Healing a broken heart and a broken marriage takes time. Are you ready to partake in a painful process in the hope that your marriage may be better and stronger than ever?
  4. On the other hand, you may find yourself in a situation where you or your spouse may want to get a divorce. If so, you need to find a knowledgeable divorce attorney who can help protect your interests regarding finance, custody, visiting, alimony, child support, and even hidden funds that you may not be aware of.

In over 35 years, the vast majority of the couples who have worked with me have chosen not to get divorced. Rather, they invest their time and energy in trying to revive their marriages. And the good news is that most of them have been successful. In fact, many couples have told me that their marriages were happier and stronger and more sexually and emotionally satisfying after the affair.

Lessons to Learn

  1. Prioritize your marriage.
  2. If you find that your own individual problems – be they emotional, psychological, psychiatric, physical, or sexual – are getting in the way of your life and relationship, give yourself permission to seek help.
  3. A good marriage depends on two emotionally healthy people.
  4. When problems arise, as happens in all marriages, do not bury or deny them and avoid tackling the various problems head on and pretending that they will go away on their own. That is magical thinking!
  5. If you and your spouse are unable to identify, address, and resolve your problems on your own, don’t hesitate to get in touch and seek professional help.

Beatty looks forward to hearing from you and welcomes your questions and comments. You can email her at [email protected].

Beatty Cohan, MSW, LCSW, AASECT is a nationally recognized psychotherapist, sex therapist, author of For Better for Worse Forever: Discover the Path to Lasting Love, columnist, national speaker, national radio and television expert, guest and presenter of the Ask Beatty Show im Progressive Radio Network. She has a private practice in New York City and East Hampton.

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