If you are a couple who is struggling with the aftermath of infidelity, it may be helpful to identify what went wrong in the marriage and to know about the stages of infidelity in order to learn and heal. First of all, it is important for you both to acknowledge and know that the betrayed spouse is never blamed or at fault.
When one spouse chooses to have an affair, they have the sole responsibility for choosing to step outside the marriage. They need to be accountable for their actions, and finger pointing is not helpful. The spouse who had the affair decided to do so for a variety of reasons. If they were not happy in the marriage, they could have addressed this in the marriage. However, there are important stages to explore as it relates to infidelity that most likely relate to both parties. Below are the four stages relating to infidelity as identified by Don-David Lusterman, PhD :
Stage1: Poor Self-Disclosure and Problem-Solving
Many couples who are affected by infidelity may appear to be doing okay on the surface. However, if you dig deeper, you may find that both of you have difficulty sharing how you truly feel and think. As a couple, you probably have difficulty revealing yourselves to each other. You may not discuss problems, feelings and areas of discontent with each other. Pain, anger, frustration, hurt and other unresolved issues were not dealt with and left to linger and burden the marriage. The inability to work through and talk openly about feelings may have lead you both to resentment and unresolved issues that weigh down the marriage and lead to discontentment.
Stage 2: Onset of the Affair
As a means to medicate the unresolved anger, unmet needs or the need to seek power and soothe an ego, one of you decided to reach out to someone outside the marriage who was willing to provide the “fix” of unmet needs .During this stage, the betrayed spouse was not aware that an affair had intruded upon the marriage.
Stage 3: Cold Rage
At this point, you as the betrayed spouse did not have a conscious
awareness of the affair, but you probably sensed that something was not quite right. As a couple, you felt disconnected. One of you, or both of you, may have shut down sexually or less time was spent together. This sense of “things not being right” lead to anger for the betrayed spouse. During this stage, the betrayed spouse confronted the straying spouse, but all inquiries of infidelity were denied. Anger and frustration was constantly increasing within the marriage.
Stage 4: Hot Rage
As a couple, the Hot Rage stage is the ultimate blow up that put the
marriage in a state of crisis. The betrayed spouse, who had been in denial, despite the sense of things being “off” in the marriage, now knows of the affair. This is the stage where it is obvious and the evidence is too overwhelming to deny. The built up, stuffed anger now explodes into a fit of rage. The marriage is in a state of crisis. A crisis is a traumatic event. It is also a time for potential change and hope. One change can be the couple’scapability of working through the betrayal and what went wrong. Another is that the discovery may signal the death of a relationship.
As a couple, you may relate to the above stages. You will also know that when infidelity is discovered in the marriage, there is a tremendous amount of pain, anger and insecurity. Emotions do not need to steer you in a direction or another. Allow yourselves to feel the emotions and give yourselves permission to take some time to decide how you wish to proceed. Infidelity can be the end of a marriage. Infidelity can also serve as a wakeup call as to the state of the marriage.
Ingela Edwards, MS, LPC-Intern, NCC, therapist at Mckinney Counseling and Recovery, specializes in helping individuals and couples heal from sex addiction, infidelity, intimacy anorexia, and intimacy deprivation. McKinney Counseling & Recovery serves the McKinney, Plano, Allen, Frisco, Dallas and Sherman area.
Ingela Edwards, LPC, NCC, SRT, CCPS is an individual and marriage therapist