A couple came into my office for an introductory session. Their story was not new or unusual. They have a 19 month old baby girl, and ever since the baby was born the dynamics in their relationship changed.
Financial difficulties (the husband has been in-between jobs) combined with her focus on the baby and earning a living has left him feeling like the odd one out. They would talk about being intimate, but he would back away because since the baby has been born he hasn’t felt love or wanted by his wife. Things became desperate for him, and he made a drunken mistake and had a one-night stand with a woman while out of town.
She is enraged and hyper-critical of him, and he is deeply ashamed of what he did. The sacred trust between a husband and a wife has been broken, and a marriage involving a small child hangs in the balance. He wants to work it out, and she is a few heartbeats away from walking out for good..This is a couple/family in crisis. As a couples therapist, I seem my role to first help a dyad decide if they want to move forward together. Many times a couple will come to counseling because one of them has already made the decision to leave the relationship. Other times it’s not so clear. There is a lot of hurt, and pain in the above described couple, much of it being expressed as rage in the current moment. The first thing I feel obliged to say to a couple in crisis due to fidelity is to not make any decisions in the heat of the moment. When you are freshly hurt and in turmoil is not the time to decide to end the marriage. Give it at least two months and eight sessions of work before you call it quits. Then, at the very least, you can say that you tried to make it work.
Infidelity is a crisis in a marriage. While this sort of crisis brings a lot of hurt and anxiety, it is also an opportunity for growth and change. In a crisis, the rug has been pulled out from beneath you, and your sense of grounding and security disappears. How you land and the way you adapt to infidelity will determine your future. This is a perfect opportunity to work with a skilled therapist to help you make sense of your feelings and the situation, to grow and heal from what has happened. Many therapists believe that you cannot grow without anxiety, without some form of external change that challenges the status quo. The important thing is that you take advantage of your situation and move to get the help you need to start on your healing journey.