How adultery affects families
Adultery is like a hurricane. When it hits land, you and everyone in its path are blown in many different directions. Similarly, the discovery of an affair affects everyone in your family, but there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of permanent injury.
1. Adultery is not a victimless crime. Many people who have an affair, convince themselves that should their illicit relationship be discovered, that the only other injured person will be their partner.
Since a person who commits adultery often blames their partner for their cheating, the 'discovery of the affair,' in the mind of the adulterer, has no 'innocent victims.' The cheater 'claims' that his or her partner is also at fault because he/he wouldn't have sex, communicate nicely, spent too little or too much money, was irresponsibly, or controlling, etc. The truth is otherwise; only one person is to blame for the cheating, and that is the partner who had the affair. Everyone else in the immediate family, as well as the extended family members and friends, are all undeservedly hurt. Infidelity hurts each member of the family!
Ways to reduce this pain and risk: The person who committed adultery should acknowledge that he or she is 100% responsible for his or her behavior and acknowledge that his or her bad behavior has negatively impacted on everyone close to him or her. When the truth is recognized and acknowledged, it is much easier for individuals to process what happened and to move forward.
2. Adultery is a marriage problem that affects the children. When parents are in crisis, their children are also in a crisis. When a house burns down, the children along with the adults become homeless. The same is true when infidelity plagues a family. Children feel and experience turmoil, fear, uncertainty, and anger. The tears, the withdrawal, the accusations, the distraction, the fighting of the adults affects everyone in the family and in particular children who by nature are very sensitive and dependent upon their parents for emotional and physical stability and safety.
Ways to reduce this pain and risk: When adultery hits a family, since the children are also injured, they need to be spoken to in an age-appropriate way. Pretending that nothing has happened or nothing has changed hurts them even more since they then feel guilty thinking that something terrible is happening, but they are not able to talk about it. As well, not being able to talk about the affair increases their fear about the future and makes processing the event far more difficult. Dealing with infidelity necessitates talking with your children.
3. When adultery leads to divorce, everyone takes a hit. [Even considering the option of divorce is enough to cause emotional pain that is not forgotten]. Think of a family like passengers on a boat. If the boat sinks, everyone drowns. Using this analogy of a sinking boat and taking it one step further, adults typically know how to swim and have more stamina than children who may or may not know how to swim, but lack strength. The same is true with a divorce. Most adults are able to handle the breakup of their marriage or committed relationship and move forward even if it is difficult and painful. Research shows that often this is not the case for children. Children from divorced homes are at increased risk for academic, social, and emotional injury or failure.
Ways to reduce this pain and risk: If the cheater is remorseful for his or her bad behavior, then the couple can and should heal and stay together — especially if there are children in the family. Find a qualified couples therapist — one who has a specialty in infidelity recovery — and use his or her services to make sure the relationship healing is complete. You would not try to treat yourself if you had a broken bone. So too, when fixing a broken relationship — get professional help.
4. Emotional wounds that do not heal effect everyone. After the affair has ended and the 'shock' has died down, most couples do not do the necessary work to heal and recover fully. These couples remain in a state of polarization, mistrust, and guilt. The quality of their relationship never fully recovers. It is like painting over rust. The paint peels easily and never looks right. For a couple who never fully heals from the injuries caused by adultery, there are many triggers that bring back painful memories, emotional volatility, and extreme reactions. This emotional tension that affects couples who have not healed from adultery impacts everyone around them; especially their sensitive children. The injured party have lingering bitterness and needs strategies to deal with the feelings of bitterness in order to survive the infidelity.
Ways to reduce this pain and risk: You should always seek qualified professional help when recovering from infidelity. However, even with this help sometimes it is not possible to fully erase this dramatic experience that has affected you and your partner. You can mitigate the lingering negative effects in the aftermath of adultery when you are mindful of the triggers and open about them; even apologetic when appropriate when extreme emotional reactions occurs.
5. The 'adultery story' is always remembered and everyone that knows it is changed forever. Even though the couple may choose to stay together, everyone who knows these two individuals will always treat them differently. Like someone who has committed murder, he or she is always known as 'a murderer.' The same goes for the adulterer and his or her partner; they are forever stigmatized by close family and friends. When the news of adultery is first breaking, it is very important to decide who should know and who should not know. The choice is yours. Who you tell can evolve into either a positive or negative event as you move forward as a couple.
Ways to reduce this pain and risk: All of life can be divided into two categories: Those things we can change and those things we cannot change. How other people think goes into the category of things 'you cannot change.' The best strategy is to accept the reality (that the adultery happened) as part of your history and deal with it. If particular individuals are troublesome because of the adultery that has happened in the past, depending on who they are, you can regulate, to some extent, the closeness or distance with them — and it is appropriate to do so.
When adultery invades your family, you need to face it head-on. Adultery is a negative event, there is no other way to describe it. However, there are things you can do to reduce the damage it causes and improve the likelihood of a positive future. Read about the first step that needs to be taken in order to survive infidelity.
Purchase my book Surviving Infidelity to get professional advice on how overcome the challenges of surviving infidelity. Available on Amazon.
Most often the assistance of a relationship professional who specializes in infidelity is required to help you survive infidelity. Below are sources where you can find qualified therapists.
The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
The Canadian Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
Surviving Infidelity Recovery Specialist