Despite the pain of sexual betrayal, Chicago psychiatrist Jennifer Knopf says that couples often have second thoughts about divorcing. Sometimes they are thinking of their children. However, even when there are no children to consider, in the article "Adultery: A new Furor Over an Old Sin," Adler quotes Knopf as saying, “People are trying to weather it more now. They know what it’s like to be out there and single.” The message is that the pain of divorce may not be the best resolution to the pain of betrayal. Knopf recommends a month-long cooling off period for her clients before they make any decisions.
Dr. Geret Giles, formerly of Child & Family Psychology in Orem, Utah, cautions against hasty decisions in the wake of discovering an affair. “It is a disorienting and confusing time,” says Giles, “and the issues deserve to be sorted out.” He asserts that professional help is often necessary. “Affairs happen,” says Giles, “and people survive them, whether they stay married or not.”
In his book Turning Points, Dr. Frank Pittman says, “After an act of infidelity, there is guilt and fear, which turns quickly into anger at the spouse and an effort at justification and blame."
According to Pittman, “A marriage does not have to be bad to drive someone into an affair. Some people cannot tolerate the intimacy of a good marriage.” Some people have affairs in order to protect themselves from becoming too dependent on their marriage partner. Pittman goes on to state that most reasons for affairs come from within the individual, not from the marriage. In addition, “While most affairs involve sex, they are not usually about sex.” In order to get through a crisis of infidelity, it is necessary to know why the affair began.
Pittman says, “The sense of emergency can best be relieved by ending the affair, ending the marriage, or reinforcing the commitment to the marriage. Seventy-five percent of affairs end at or before the point of revelation. The most important part of the calming procedure is the affirmation of commitment to the marriage.” Agree to stay together at least until the situation can be explored.
The way to continue successfully after an affair is to strengthen the marriage and learn to live with another fallible human being. Attempt to break up some of the routines and monotonous patterns that have become a part of your marriage. It is possible that you may feel closer than you have in years and more capable of working effectively on your problems.
“Crises of infidelity don’t end quickly,” says Pittman. “There may be years of guilt, doubt, continued rehashing of the crisis, and punishment that sets the stage for future affairs...” Pittman also suggests that affairs are “too confusing to serve as the basis for ending a marriage.” The problem is obviously complex, highly-emotional, and extremely stressful. However, if both husband and wife are committed to moving past the unfortunate episode and saving their marriage, it can be done. Recriminations can end, forgiveness can be granted, trust can return, and love can be strengthened.
Adler, J. “Adultery: A New Furor Over an Old Sin.”
Giles, G., Ph.D. Child & Family Psychology. Personal interview.
Pittman, F. S. III, M.D. Turning Points: Treating Families in Transition and Crisis