According to relationship therapist Dr. Daniel Watter, the biggest obstacle that couples face after one partner has cheated is the destruction of trust that the indiscretion causes.
When one Spouse Strays, Should the Other Stay? Expert advice and tips from Relationship Therapist Dr. Daniel Watter on coping with infidelity
Parsippany, NJ (PRWEB) December 05, 2014
Marriage is supposed to be a permanent situation, based on things like trust and fidelity as well as shared diaper changes and mortgage payments. But what if one partner has an affair — essentially breaking the rules on trust and fidelity in a single act (or worse yet, in many acts)? How can both partners put the episode behind them and keep the marriage intact? And is reconciliation even the right answer?
According to Dr. Daniel Watter, a clinical psychologist and specialist in sexual and relationship problems withMorris Psychological Group, this is one of the toughest situations for anyone to face, whether he or she is the cheater or the cheated-on. “Virtually everyone who gets married does so expecting to be exclusive, both sexually and emotionally, with their spouse,” he says. Research shows that 99 percent of people expect their spouses to be faithful. But expectations don’t necessarily equate with behavior, as evidenced by the statistics on married people who cheat: as many as 40 percent, depending on whose numbers you believe. Obviously, that kind of action can have devastating effects on the non-cheating spouse, Dr. Watter continues, so much so that affairs are blamed for marital separation by 31 percent of men and 45 percent of women. When it comes to divorce, extramarital liaisons are the number-one reason cited.
So can a post-infidelity relationship survive? And should it?
“I think the biggest obstacle that couples face after one partner has cheated isn’t even the sexual indiscretion,” Dr. Watter says. “It’s the betrayal, the destruction of trust that the indiscretion causes.” The cheated-on spouse is often overwhelmed by feelings or hurt, anger, and resentment, while the cheating spouse may feel ashamed and defensive or belligerent. “One person desperately needs to talk about his or her feelings, and the other one can’t bear to think about them. Hardly the climate in which to have a healthy conversation,” Dr. Watter says. Not surprisingly, there are many cases in which one or the other spouse simply can’t reconcile those feelings and the trust can never be repaired. But in others cases, if both partners are willing to put in the work, the trust—and the marriage—can be rebuilt, he says.
Tips for Staying in a Marriage after Infidelity
Here are Dr. Watter’s tips on how to cope with a partner’s infidelity—and what to do with the marriage:
- End it. The first step must be to end the affair, completely and irrevocably. No more contact with the “other woman” (or “man”), no matter what.
- Keep talking. Despite what Grandma might have told you, time doesn’t heal all wounds. Waiting for emotions to cool or situations to settle down is a terrible strategy, Dr. Watter says. “You can’t just ‘move on’ from something like this,” he says. True reconciliation requires effort, from both partners.
- Consider your motives. Staying in a marriage or relationship shouldn’t be a given, Dr. Watter says. “In some cases, the cheating victim will blamer herself or himself for the affair and stay in the relationship out of a sense of guilt or insecurity.” In other cases, he says, spouses decide to stay together because they have children. “But you need to be completely honest with yourself and with your spouse,” he says. “It’s much better to be alone and feel good about yourself than to be in a relationship where you’re miserable.”
- Get help. Statistics show that couples facing an infidelity crisis do much better with professional counseling. “Confronting harsh truths—about ourselves as well as people we love—is never easy,” Dr. Watter says. “A professional can guide you past the anger and recriminations and help you both break through and find your way to a better place, whether it’s together or not.”
Daniel N. Watter, Ed.D. specializes in the treatment of individuals and couples experiencing sexual and/or relationship problems. Morris Psychological Group, P.A. in Parsippany, NJ offers a wide range of therapy and evaluation services to adults, children and adolescents. http://www.morrispsych.com