It’s a sad reality that infidelity is pretty commonplace – one of both spouses admit to either a physical or an emotional affair in some 41 percent of marriages.* Despite it’s high occurrence, when it happens you may still be surprised by your spouse’s infidelity.
Gregory Smith’s marriage lasted just two years. His divorce was triggered by his wife’s infidelity which blindsided Gregory. He says that was the hardest part about dealing with the infidelity. Here’s Gregory:
The most challenging part about being cheated on was the suddenness of it. I had no clue that that’s what was going on. It was sprung upon me one day.
I went from naively thinking that everything was wonderful, and that I had this great marriage, to, literally, the next day everything had changed and my bubble had been burst. I never thought that I was naïve but, apparently, I had been. So just a recognition that things can change in the bat of an eye, that was pretty shocking. I never saw it coming.
The way that I discovered it was sort of a sequence of red flags that kind of popped up. I usually worked about 50 hours a week and she was in an 8:00 – 5:00 type situation with the law enforcement agency that she was working with.
She started coming home later, and she told me she was going out to happy hour with some of the people that she worked with. At first instead of getting home at 5:30 she’d get home at 8:30 or 9 o’clock, and then it was 10:30 or 11 o’clock. It started off like maybe once a week, then over the course of a couple of months, it was two or three times week.
And that’s what made me start questioning things. I’m like, “Hey, what’s up with all the partying?” That’s more or less how it was discovered.
When she told me that she had been having an affair my first reaction was, “Well, you need to get the hell out of here.” And I gave her 15 minutes to get whatever she had, and then to get out of the house basically. Remember, I was in my twenties. Nowadays I would handle it quite a bit different.
Then in the days that followed I thought to myself, “Well, I’ve been working all these hours. Maybe I haven’t been paying enough attention to her. Maybe I didn’t do something that I wasn’t— that I’m not recognizing. Maybe somehow I caused this. Maybe this is my fault somehow.
So she came back to me about three days later, crying and saying she was so sorry, and she didn’t know why it happened, and wanted to have a baby and would I please consider taking her back? At that time I kind of went through the thoughts that I was having about myself and I said, “Sure, you know what? Let’s try and work through it. I’m not sure how it happened, but maybe I’m to blame here, too.”
And so she did come back. And then it was just strange. I was just thinking about getting her back but obviously what was gone was this element of trust and I hadn’t counted on that. It was something I had never doubted before. I’d always trusted her 100%. It never crossed my mind that she would ever cheat on me, so I was just floored that the whole thing happened. Maybe I panicked the whole time just thinking, “Wow, what’s she thinking? What’s she— am I doing the right thing?” I was a train wreck to be honest with you at the time.
And so the next question you might ask is did we go to counseling? And the answer was no, not for that. She had a different problem that we had gone to counseling for before. She had a problem with physical violence where she would get angry and strike me, which is an interesting thing for somebody who works on law enforcement, right?
She could have lost her career if I would have just called the police, but, anyway, I never did. But, anyways, we did not go to counseling, but within a matter of weeks she’d literally wound up re–offending. In other words coming home drunk, and she came home really drunk. When I asked her where she’d been I remember she said, “Well, where do you think I’d been?” And I’m like, “You know what? You’re just done.” And so, yeah, it was very unfortunate. It was very emotional for me at that time.
The Divorce Coach Says
Unless you and your spouse have had explicit discussions about difficulties in your relationship it’s very possible for one partner to be operating under the assumption that the relationship is working. Even with explicit discussions, a partner can be shocked when the discussion reaches a conversation about divorce because they say they didn’t realize it was “that serious.”
In Gregory’s situation, the discovery of infidelity not only brings the trauma of betrayal but also the shock that the relationship is far from what he thought it was. That brings doubts about your ability to trust others and more importantly, trusting yourself.
Should you reconcile or break up after infidelity? For me, it’s not a black and white answer and I would counsel you to take your time making your decision.
The person having the affair had a choice of behaviors and chose to handle the relationship issues by having an affair. The victim is never responsible for that choice. The victim does however have a role in the relationship issues. Uncovering these issues is the key to determining whether it’s possible to recover from the infidelity and if you should both try. If you don’t address these issues then you’re ignoring the real problem and while the marriage may last a while longer, this puts the relationship into the “endurance test” category and who wants that?
* Associated Press, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, research date 1/1/2014 – StatisticBrain.com
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