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Infidelity and Divorce

Discovering that a spouse has been unfaithful delivers an unexpected shock to the system. The feeling of betrayal triggers emotions of anger, sadness and loss of self-worth. An immediate and long-lasting consequence is the destruction of trust. Marriages can and often do survive extra-marital affairs. Surviving infidelity requires time, patience, commitment and, ultimately, a willingness to forgive when forgiveness has been earned.

As the betrayed spouse, once you recover from the shock and anger of discovering an affair, it may be tempting to become withdrawn and blame yourself for your spouse's behavior. Don't pretend you are not hurt or angry. If the marriage may be worth saving, you must take a pro-active role.

If the affair has not ended, your first action must be to demand that your spouse not see the other person again. Don't accept any compromise on this issue. Maintaining a friendship is not acceptable. If the affair involves the workplace, your spouse should make whatever arrangements are necessary to work elsewhere or at times when contact with the other person will be avoided.

Demand answers. Your initial questions will likely include how long the affair continued, when it began, how many times did your spouse meet with a lover, was this the only affair in which your spouse was involved and who knows about the affair. After uncovering the specifics, your questions may focus more on why your spouse felt a need to stray or what your spouse felt was missing in your marriage. Honesty is essential to move forward. Don't settle for answers that appear to be half-truths.

Don't make major life-changing issues too soon. Once your initial rage has subsided and sufficient information has been reliably obtained, some important choices can be made. One will be to decide whether the marriage and your relationship are worth trying to save. Consideration must be given to the effect on children, finances and lifestyle.

If this is not the first affair, the breach of trust may be too severe, and you should accept the marriage is over and seek a divorce. If you determine that the relationship is worth preserving, both you and your partner must commit to expend substantial effort. Don't be afraid or embarrassed to discuss the situation with trusted friends or family. They can provide support and a sounding board to help sort out your thoughts and emotions.

Continue to talk with your spouse about the affair to fully understand the reasons for it, but don't let the topic dominate daily interaction. Talk about how the affair has impacted you. Express feelings such as sadness or abandonment. Limit discussions to 15 or 30 minutes at a time. Walk away if either you or your spouse begin to anger. The goal mustn't be to seek revenge or to blame and punish your spouse. Surviving infidelity requires a mutual objective to address the marital problems which led to the affair. Don't expect or require your spouse to take the blame for everything that may have gone wrong with the marriage but do require accountability for how your spouse behaved as a result of those issues.

Don't let your spouse try to place blame on you. Keep the focus of discussion on your spouse's actions. At the same time, examining your life and actions prior to the time the affair began can provide valuable insight as to what went wrong in the marriage and why. While expecting your spouse to make changes, also ask yourself whether your personal routines, behavior and communications can be altered to provide positive benefits as you work to rebuild the marriage.

Require your spouse to be open and transparent. Request access to e-mail and text accounts. It is reasonable to expect your spouse to allow you access to personal messaging accounts to help restore trust. At least for some time, request your spouse to provide information on locations and activities when away from home.

Work on ways to resolve conflicts without anger. Each spouse must be sensitive of the other's feelings so that discussions can be open and honest. Each should discuss reasons for wanting to stay together. Both parties must demonstrate full commitment to the relationship.

Through this entire process, make the time and effort to take care of yourself. Protect your own mental health by engaging in activities you enjoy. Doing things that make you happy will help to maintain your strength and resolve to get through this crisis whether the goal is to rebuild the relationship or to seek a divorce.

Realize that saving the relationship will take a significant amount of time and effort. Even a one night stand may require years from which to recover. Don't rush to forgiveness. Request patience from your spouse. Pain and anger take time to fade. Trust takes time to rebuild. While progress may seem slow at times, don't give up if you are truly committed to saving the marriage.

At some point you should reduce dwelling on the affair and begin to share activities which will help to reconnect and reignite the feelings that initially brought you together. Ultimately, both parties need to start over again and work to create a new, dynamic relationship. Each spouse should make clear what is desired and expected from each other.

Require forgiveness to be earned but don't withhold it. When you are prepared to let go of your negative feelings and when you feel your spouse is being totally honest and trustworthy only then should you be prepared to forgive even if you may never forget. Without forgiveness, the marriage won't recover. Granting forgiveness is necessary to move on with life.

Affairs occur in all types of marriages and for many reasons. Those engaging in an affair may be selfish or thoughtless but still capable of redemption. Surviving infidelity requires effort. However, research indicates that the majority of couples who experience infidelity in marriage do not divorce. If the marriage has a solid enough foundation to survive, the combined efforts of both spouses may not only result in saving the marriage but also create an even stronger and lasting bond.

If you have any issues concerning a divorce, phone the Law Offices Of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 for consultation.

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