How Common Is Infidelity?
The University of Chicago's national opinion research center. Found that about 15% of women surveyed in 2002 reported they had had sex with someone besides their spouse while married, and 22% of men had. Roughly 2% of women and 4% of men had done so in the past year. These estimates are likely low given the nature of what people were being asked to report.
Why Does It Happen?
Affairs happen for many, many reasons- however they can be grouped into three broad categories.
1. Issues that push people into affairs - so things like problems with the relationship, loneliness, personal insecurities, desire for attention, desire to end the marriage, sexual addictions.
2. Issues that pull people into affairs: increased self-esteem, excitement, feelings of love and romance.
3. Larger societal issues- things like our inability to deal with conflict, or inability to discuss sexual issues honestly, our misperceptions about love versus lust versus marriage.
What Can You Do?
There is no one "right" way to approach the recovery of an affair. However, there are some general guidelines that are very effective. Below is a list a of recommendations provided by the mayo clinic (www.mayoclinic.com):
- End the affair. First, the affair must end. This includes any and all interaction and communication with the lover. True reinvestment in your marriage can't happen without this.
- Be accountable. If you've had an affair, take responsibility for your actions. If you were cheated on, consider the role you may have played in your spouse's unhappiness and reasons for straying.
- Determine your shared goal. Be sure you both agree that you want to mend your marriage. It may take some time to sort out what's happened and to see if your relationship can heal. If you both arrive at the goal of reconciliation, it's important to realize that recovering the marriage will take time, energy and commitment.
- See a marriage counselor. Find a marriage counselor who will help you restore your marriage if that is the mutual goal. Seek help from a counselor who's trained in marital therapy and experienced in dealing with infidelity. Avoid therapists who see an affair as the end of marriage.
- Identify the issues. Infidelity often points to underlying problems in your marriage. Examine your relationship to understand what has contributed to the affair, and what you need to do to prevent it from happening again.
- Restore the trust. Make a serious commitment to rebuilding your marriage. Go to counseling together to help visibly confirm the commitment and to prevent secrecy from continuing to erode your relationship.
- Talk about it. Once the initial shock is over, discuss what happened openly and honestly - no matter how difficult talking or hearing about this may be. Know that you might need the help of a marital therapist to be able to talk constructively about it.
- Give it time. If you were the one cheated on, you can set the timetable for recovery. Often the person who's been unfaithful is anxious to "put all of this behind us" to help cope with his or her guilt. Allow each other enough time to understand and heal.
- Forgive. For many people, this is the hardest part of recovering from an affair. Forgiveness isn't likely to come quickly or easily - it may be a lifelong process. But if you're committed to your partner and your marriage, forgiveness tends to become easier over time.
- Recommit to your future. What you're going through is emotionally devastating. But times like this often make people and marriages stronger than ever before.