Infidelity - The Triangle of Betrayal: Will You still Love me tomorrow? (Part 1)
Since the passage of time, men and women have been having affairs. The reasons are multi-layered and often intertwined, from sexual boredom and frustration with a partner to a person sabotaging relationships based on unresolved issues from the past within another relationship.
The issues generated around infidelity are complex. In some cases a therapist identifies, the internal reasons, such as the effects of pregnancy, child development, menopause, addiction, illness etc. but there are also external causes such as loss of employment, death of a loved one, or financial restraints, that may influence a couple to remain in a partnership, long after the relationship is over and the affairs have begun.
Some have affairs to test the significance and importance of their relationship not only to their partner, but more importantly to themselves. Others have an affair because they’ve decided that their relationship isn’t worth saving, but lack the tenacity to end it, hoping that their partner will. Neither is it uncommon that an affair is encouraged by a partner in order to sustain a long term relationship. The reasons are endless.
‘I knew he was having an affair, but I didn’t confront him, as I thought he’d leave me, and the children, with a mortgage and a stack of unpaid bills’
‘I’m so glad he found out, I couldn’t go on living a lie’
‘I only had the affair, because I felt she was taking me for granted. I love her and I want our relationship to work’
Affairs can be used as a short term ‘emotional’ outlet manifested due to unexpressed resentment towards a partner. For example in Jo Nesbo’s ‘Headhunters’ a wife has an affair in the seventh year of their marriage, due to the growing vexation she feels, towards her husband, who does not want a child. However the situation is resolved because the wife feels ashamed of her sexual encounter and realises the strength of love that she feels for her husband. On an ironic note the husband has a brief affair before her, and is horrified when he hears of his wife’s infidelity. It is almost as if their infidelities ‘cancel each other out’ Their love is renewed, and his wife becomes pregnant as a result. The husband’s fear of becoming a parent wasn’t that he disliked children, but feared his wife would love her child more than him. This may be a piece of fiction, but can be viewed as a case study of a couple who despite their commitment, failed to explore their own insecurities through lack of candour and poor communication.
As intricate as an affair is the healing process can be just as tortuous, impacting on family, friends, health and work. Metaphorically speaking it can be described as a death; the end of a chapter; or a sense of grief which can cultivate a host of emotions ranging from feeling lost and confused to empowered and relieved. Counselling can enable the client to identify the different stages of grief, whether they instigated the affair or not; the objective being to endow them with the necessary capabilities to further insight. These stages will be explored further in my next article.
Arguably, affairs are a catalyst for change, bringing to the forefront, problems within the relationship; reinforcing the idea that the relationship is no longer working, it is time to change things or separate. Whether you have ‘cheated’ on your partner, or they have ‘cheated’ on you, Counselling can help you to re-define who you are, and what you’d hope to achieve, assisting and outlining choices and options towards establishing whether your relationship can be salvaged or if it is best to end the relationship aiming for mediation and acrimony. This is of particular significance where children are involved.
Couples counselling can assist in all these areas but it is important to obtain 1 -1 counselling in a therapeutic, non – judgement, unbiased environment, in order to navigate the individual journey.