Dear Barb – Coping with an affair

Dear Barb:

I have been married for five years and I recently discovered that my wife had an affair. I was aware that our marriage was difficult at times, but I was devastated when learning of my wife’s infidelity. She is very sorry and wants to work on our marriage. I know that affairs are very common, but until you experience the pain, you really cannot understand how something like this changes a person. I feel so betrayed, I don’t know if I will ever be able to forgive my wife. I’m so confused and I really don’t know whether I want to save this marriage.

Keith in B.C.

Hi Keith, thanks for writing. I am sorry that you experienced this betrayal. What you are feeling is perfectly normal. Infidelity is far too common in today’s society, but that doesn’t make it any less painful when it happens to you. Everyone that gets married subscribes to the belief that our partners will remain faithful. After all, infidelity happens to other people not us!

Research indicates that 25% of women and 40% of men have extramarital affairs. Many marriages survive infidelity and studies show some even become stronger than before. I know you probably find this hard to believe because of what you are feeling right now. Your emotions are too raw to allow you to see beyond your pain and anger.

It is almost impossible to overcome this type of trauma in a marriage without professional help. Through counseling you will be able to explore the reasons why your wife felt a need to go outside of the marriage. Some of the reasons for extramarital affairs include low self-esteem on the part of the person who had the affair, as well there could be something lacking in the relationship such as affection, intimacy or communication. Also, as you mentioned, affairs are more accepted in today’s society. A person who is attracted to someone today may be more apt to act on that attraction than a person would have been 10 or 15 years ago. For some people, an affair may be a trigger for change or a way to end an unhappy marriage. These are some of the factors you and your wife will be able to investigate in therapy.

The most important position you need to establish early in your counseling is whether you both want to save this marriage. Only you know if you will be able to put this affair behind you and be happy in your marriage. If you do not want to stay together, the counselor will approach your therapy from a different perspective than if you were intending to remain together. The goal of counseling would then be to assist you in letting go of the marriage, as well as the pain and anger you are feeling.

Good luck Keith, I hope things work out for you.

E-mail your questions to advice.voice@ausu.org. Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

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