How To Cope With The Pain And Anger Of Betrayal
Most marriages rest on a foundation of monogamy. When there’s betrayal, the foundation begins to crumble. Research shows that about half of married men and a quarter of married women stray, and the number is rising for women.
An affair is an illicit amorous relationship or liaison. While every affair is serious, each falls along a continuum based on how much emotion the partner invests in the outside relationship. Understanding the type of betrayal helps to determine if you want to salvage your relationship. The four categories of affairs are serial affairs, flings, romantic love affairs and long-term affairs.
FOUR TYPES OF BETRAYAL
- Serial affairs are brief encounters for sex rather than emotional intimacy. Spouses who indulge in serial affairs are looking for excitement, not commitment. If caught, they apologize, are remorseful and beg for forgiveness, but they often regress to philandering. Why risk a marriage over a meaningless encounter? Some serial lovers suffer from sex addiction. Others are narcissistic. Some have emotional problems that prohibit them from making meaningful connections or sustaining long-term social interactions.
- Flings differ from serial affairs in that they might last for a longer period of time, but still, do not involve a significant emotional commitment.
- The romantic love affair has significant emotional importance to the lovers. The participants often consider ending their marriages to be with their new loves. As the affair continues, it grows more serious. However, it does not always mean the death knell for the marriage.
- A romantic love affair that lasts for years becomes the long-term affair. Religious beliefs, the security of the children, financial dependency or a moral opposition to divorce may cause some spouses to accept the affair and remain in the marriage.
THE NO-SEX AFFAIR
When spouses form a strong attachment outside the marriage, they’re cheating even if they’re not having sex. This kind of emotional infidelity, charged with passion and sexual tension, is destructive and robs your marriage of energy, commitment, and attention. How can you tell the difference between a friendship and an emotional affair?
The web offers opportunities for sexless cheating. Cyberspace lovers share their innermost thoughts and feelings, hide their behavior and even bring each other to sexual climax. Cyber affairs are just as destructive as traditional affairs and can result in the dissolution of marriages.
Some common misconceptions about affairs are that they are focused only on sex or that they are the result of something wrong with the marriage. Although affairs involve sex, it’s not always the motivation for cheating. Even people in wonderful, sexually satisfying marriages have affairs. Some reasons people stray include transitional anxiety, unfulfilled expectations, unrealistic ideas about love and marriage, the need for attention, boredom, an unavailable spouse and the lack of sexual desire. Other reasons might be that a person entered the marriage confused about his or her sexual orientation, or he or she was a high-risk partner from the onset– that is, someone who entered the union with issues about commitment and fidelity.
When people transition from one life stage to another, they are vulnerable to outside attention. Life transitions include the birth of a baby, the loss of a loved one or a change in career. Midlife also brings changes, such as coping with teenagers, the death of a parent and aging.
Although many people expect marriage to fulfill every emotional and sexual need, this expectation may strain a relationship. Maintaining the intensity that marks the beginning of a relationship is difficult. Passion fades with time and the idealized version of your mate gives way to a more realistic view. People often are not ready to accept this natural evolution of a relationship.
LIES AND DECEPTION
Engaging in an affair is a betrayal that leads to more lies and acts of deception as the participant tries to keep the affair a secret. Maintaining the ruse requires great effort, and even if the affair is undiscovered, it takes its toll by creating tension, insecurity, and distance.
Should you confess that you are having an affair? Opinions vary. Some counselors advocate total honesty regardless of the consequences. Others recommend holding back if the confession will cause additional emotional harm or incite a violent reaction. However, revealing betrayal and infidelity can allow you to work constructively on your relationship.
“I’m having an affair” is a devastating sentence. Infidelity is a breach of marriage vows, a sacred commitment based on trust. Betrayed partners feel myriad painful emotions. This revelation shatters a spouse’s self-esteem and faith in his or her partner. Then both parties must decide how to handle this marital crisis.
WHERE DO THE BAD FEELINGS GO?
You are angry and jealous– a normal reaction to betrayal. Acknowledge your anger and then use it as fuel to accomplish your goals. Use calming techniques such as deep yoga-type breathing, meditation or visualization. Focus on governing your thoughts and changing this self-talk.
Express anger and jealousy toward your spouse. Communicating your feelings nondestructively increases your sense of well-being and gives you room to work on your relationship. Once you can be more objective, it’s time to decide if you want to stay together or separate. You may choose to work on your marriage if your spouse is truly repentant and willing to recommit to the relationship, agrees to counsel and promises never to stray in the future. Even if your spouse won’t promise to end the affair, you still can choose to tolerate the infidelity, leave or postpone your decision until you feel you are ready.
BECOME A SURVIVOR
Although it might not feel like it at the time, you can survive infidelity and become a stronger person by exercising some basic coping skills. Develop your belief in a higher power and your own ingenuity. Nurture your ability to endure discomfort, gain objectivity and perspective, and let go of anger, worry, and resentment. Devise a plan for the future and ask for help when you need it. Take control of your thoughts and do whatever you feel is necessary to heal and patch up with your partner.