Only 35% of couples with marital infidelity stay together. Hurt, humiliation, disappointment are very powerful feelings that often lead to blaming and attacking. Depression, anxiety and fear can occur following the betrayal. Trust is gone. There is a deep feeling of loneliness and shame, and concern about the future. Partners often don’t know how to deal with these intense emotions that create havoc in their lives. The very person who used to provide comfort and reassurance is now the very person who is now causing the pain. This situation is not very different from incest where the incestuous parent, who is supposed to provide protection and safety is actually breaking these rules making a child feel unsafe and alone.
Women in general tend to want to see if there is a way of repairing the damage caused by the infidelity. However, they tend to have a very difficult time with trust and with re-engaging in sexual activities with their partners. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to want out of the relationship if it is the woman who was unfaithful. Women are more likely to get depressed in these situations, whereas men are more likely to get angry (Spring.)
Forgiveness is what needs to take place for the relationship to survive in the infidelity. Forgiveness benefits both partners and can take the relationship to a deeper level of intimacy.
However, forgiveness is not an act but a process that requires certain elements to be in place in order to occur. These elements are:
The person who had the oaffair needs to become aware of the full emotional impact of his or her actions on the other partner and feel what the other is feeling. Up until that point he or she might have minimized this impact, assuming that what is not known does not hurt. However, without open communication, the injuring partner won’t be able to achieve a full understanding and own responsibility for his or her actions. Once the two partners develop an honest way of communicating their feelings, they need to give each other all the time required to process the emotional impact of the affair. The length of this process vary from couple to couple, as a lot of specific elements may speed it up or slow it down. This part of the work requires patience, staying with the feelings, even and particularly when they are uncomfortable and, for the injuring partner, being emotionally available to the injured partner.
There needs to be a reasonable expectation that this behavior won’t occur again in the future. I say “reasonable” because none of us has 100% security about what another person will or will not do in the future. However, it is important for the partner who was betrayed to begin to feel safe again in the relationship. And this is possible only if the person who had the affair becomes a changed person, fully aware of the seriousness of his or her actions and willing to do whatever it takes to change. Forgiveness applies only to those actions that occurred in the past, not to those occurring in the present or possibly happening in the future. It is only when the partner who had the extra-marital affair can provide reassurance that he or she is a changed person that the injured partner can start to rebuild trust. The injuring partner needs to feel and express regret and remorse and communicate these feelings appropriately to the injured partner.