Infidelity: Should You Stay or Go?

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Infidelity: Should You Stay or Go?

You and your husband are in a committed relationship—or so you thought. You love your husband and your life together. Your husband’s law practice is thriving. Your three children are all happy and healthy and you’ve recently been chosen to head up a major fundraiser for underprivileged children. Then, by chance, you discover titillating emails your husband has sent to his long-time secretary Jennie, a married mother of two pre-school-aged children. The four of you routinely socialize and you and Jennie frequently share confidences. Your head is spinning. You’re in a state of shock. Your wonderful, secure life is unraveling right before your eyes. What to do? Surviving infidelity may feel impossible.

You call your husband and tell him to come home immediately.  He asks first whether something happened to one of your children. You tell him that the children are fine, but that you are not. He agrees to come home early. The question then becomes, what do you do with your cheating spouse.

Infidelity Statistics in the USA

Did you know that in the United States studies show that between 25%-60% of Americans cheat on their spouses? Male respondents in the 51-59 age group have the highest infidelity rate at 31% and 16% of women in their 60’s reported infidelity, the highest rate among female respondents. Studies estimate that 10% of affairs start online and 40% of online affairs turn into real-life affairs. Although cheating was once considered primarily a male activity, the incidence of women cheating has continued to climb. 

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 have discovered the primary reasons why people choose to engage in extramarital affairs. 

Reasons Why People Have Affairs

  1. Marital Dissatisfaction
  2. Sexual Dissatisfaction 
  3. A Desire for Variety.  (“I love my spouse, but…”)
  4. A Surprise Unanticipated Encounter That Turns into An Affair
  5. Do I Still Have It? A Need for Validation from Someone Other Than My Spouse
  6. My Spouse Has a Chronic Illness and I Need Some Emotional and Physical Intimacy 
  7. Retaliation: I Want to Punish My Spouse for Having an Affair
  8. Plain and Simple: Sexual Chemistry
  9. Consciously or Unconsciously, Affairs Are Wake-Up Calls That Something Is Amiss in the Marriage.

After the Affair: Should I Stay or Should I Go? It Depends…

Virtually every couple I see contacts me for therapy because of infidelity. And by the way, more and more women are engaging in extramarital affairs than in previous generations. Once one spouse discovers the affair (and they usually do, sooner or later), both spouses will 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 mend our marriage? Do I want to leave my marriage for my lover?

Whether couples choose to stay together or to divorce, expect there to be lots of ups and downs. People can learn over time to forgive. However, they will never FORGET!  

The couples that I work with are often able to acknowledge that their marriages have been coasting along for many years. I have encouraged people who listen to my ASK BEATTY SHOW on the Progressive Radio Network and who see me on television and who attend my lectures to remember to keep their marriages at the top of their priority lists. However, the reality is that their children, careers, and financial concerns, coupled with the pressures of day-to-day living, almost always occupy the number one spot in people’s lives. And herein lies the lethal mistake that couples continue to make. 

Plants and flowers will die if they are not watered and tended to. The same goes for a marriage. 

Points to Ponder

  1. Is the couple sincerely interested in mending the marriage?  If the answer is yes…
  2. Is the couple willing to work with a competent marital therapist who can help them to fully understand what happened and aid them in moving forward?  

Buyer Beware: Therapists are not the same. Do your homework and get a referral from someone whom you trust.

  1. Mending a broken heart and a broken marriage takes time. Are you willing to participate in a painful process with the hope that your marriage can potentially be better and stronger than ever before?
  2. On the other hand, you may find yourself in a situation where either you or your spouse wants a divorce. If that is the case, you need to find yourself a competent divorce attorney who will help you to protect your interests in terms of custody, visitation, alimony, child support, and even hidden monies that you may be unaware of. If there’s been deception in the marriage, you don’t know what other surprises you may discover.

Learning what your next steps are in terms of finding the right lawyer, and how to keep your emotions out of the legal negotiation, and how to support your heart, is the work of a divorce coach. Her job is to help you feel anchored as you learn about the process and take steps, step by step.

In over 35 years, the vast majority of couples who have worked with me chose not to divorce. Rather, they put their time and energies into trying to resurrect their marriages. And the good news was that most were 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 Worth Learning

  1. Prioritize your marriage.
  2. If you find that your own individual issues, 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 is dependent on two emotionally healthy individuals.
  4. When problems arise, as they do in all marriages, don’t bury them or deny them and avoid tackling the various issues head-on, pretending that they will disappear on their own. That’s magical thinking!
  5. If you and your spouse are unable to successfully acknowledge, address and RESOLVE  your problems on your own, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for professional help.

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 host of THE ASK BEATTY SHOW on the Progressive Radio Network. She has a private practice in New York City and East Hampton. To date, she is still seeing clients on ZOOM. Check out her website or write her at BeattyCohan.msw@gmail.com 

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