My spouse cheated on me: The aftermath of an affair

Kruthi, 31, has been feeling like something is off in her marriage for the last few months. She feels like her husband, Sathish, 34, has been more distant lately. He seems to spend more time at work than before and spends all his free time on his phone or watching TV when he is at home. Their sex life has also deteriorated in the past few years and they are rarely physically intimate anymore. Kruthi spends most of her time with the kids and she feels unappreciated by Sathish for all she does for them. She has noticed that Sathish keeps texting a female co-worker constantly. When she asks him about it, he says they have an important deal they are working on together which requires him to keep in touch with her frequently. Kruthi feels suspicious about their relationship but does not know how to address this issue without driving Sathish even further away from her.

Does this sound like a familiar story to you? Unfortunately, infidelity or affairs have become more commonplace than we might expect in marriages or romantic relationships. Finding out about an affair can be a very devastating experience for the partner who is being cheated on. It often triggers them to question the entire foundation of their romantic relationship and wonder whether there was ever any truth in anything their partner said to them. They can experience a wide range of emotions including seething rage or anger, a sense of betrayal, sadness, fear and loneliness. Even after their partner ends the affair, the faithful partner might have lingering feelings of paranoia and distrust that they cannot shake off no matter what promises their partner makes to them about remaining faithful. They might find themselves repeatedly checking their partners’ phones, emails or Facebook accounts. They might call their partners repeatedly during the day to check on their whereabouts and feel suspicious about innocent activities the other person is engaging in. As an affair is a huge breach of trust in any marriage, these feelings are normal and valid, and often pass after a period of time.

The question that often bothers the faithful partner is “Why?” They might ask themselves “What did I do to deserve being cheated on? Is there something wrong with me? Am I inadequate or unlovable?” The answer to that question most often might be that the problem lies not in the partners but in their relationship. An affair can often be a symptom of the problem that already exists in an romantic relationship, such as partners no longer feeling connected to each other, not being able to communicate their needs to each other, or feeling hurt or invalidated by each others’ words or actions and wanting to hurt them back by having an affair. Some people might choose to handle these problems by immersing themselves in work or with their children. Others might resort to having an affair with the misplaced belief that this other relationship will be perfect and not have any of the problems their marriage does. In other words, the affair might provide an escape from the boredom, routine, or unhappiness of their marriages.

If both partners choose to continue their relationship after one has been unfaithful, they have to recognize that the responsibility for fixing the problems in their relationship lies with both of them, not just the one who was unfaithful. This is not to imply that both partners need to share the blame equally. The person who had the affair chose to break their commitment to their relationship in a very fundamental and painful way which could have been avoided if they had tried to resolve their marital issues in other healthier ways.

An affair often forces a couple to recognize that there were glaring problems in their relationship which neither of them had acknowledged or dealt with previously. These problems can be resolved, in most cases, if both partners are committed to doing whatever it takes to strengthen their relationship. This might require the unfaithful partner to make some compromises to help the other partners feel secure in their relationship. For example, the partner who had the affair might agree to give their spouse complete access to all their social media accounts for a short time so that he/she can ensure their partner is being faithful. Sometimes, the partner who was cheated on might ask for all the details of the affair which the other partner might have to provide, no matter how painful they are to recount. The faithful partner might also need to remain open to hearing their partner’s grievances about their relationship, despite feeling bitter and resentful about the affair, so that they can make positive changes in their relationship. There is no set formula for what works for each couple. In general, going to couples counselling can be very helpful in addressing the trauma caused by the affair.

If you or your loved ones have had experiences similar to those described in this article, you can meet a professional counsellor at TalkItOver and talk about it. You can also access a wide range of articles on related issues on the website to help you with your struggles.

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About Sarayu Chandrashekar

Sarayu Chandrashekar is a qualified Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). She has an M.S in Marriage and Family Therapy from Purdue University, USA, an M.S in Psychological Counselling from Montfort College, and a B.A in Psychology from Christ University, Bangalore. She has worked in a de-addiction centre and a family therapy clinic in the US as well as with the Association for the Mentally Challenged, Bangalore in the past. She has also completed a research study for her MFT degree on Indian couples living in the US and their marital satisfaction. She has nearly 1000 hours of counselling experience. She incorporates a combination of systemic family therapies and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) in her work. She has a passion for couple and family therapy and group work.