A client of mine, whom I’ll call “John,” is sitting in my office offering me a laundry list of explanations for why he had an adulterous relationship.
John is well-educated, a successful businessman, and a pillar of his church.
His illicit relationship with Violet, he recalls, began when the two colleagues were away on an extended business trip. John didn’t intend to betray his wife, Sue. But after a few too many drinks late one night, John found himself in Violet’s hotel room, and nature simply took its course.
John confides that his marriage to Sue has been less than satisfying. He comes home from work exhausted, and she complains all the time about her day and the children’s misbehavior. Sue has put on weight and let herself go in other ways as well. His and Sue’s sex life is uninspiring, he says.
“Do you understand why Violet was so tempting?” John asks me.
I understand. But I don’t condone his actions or anyone else’s in a similar circumstance, and I hold him 100% responsible for his breach of trust. Sue should see it that way as well.
John is typical of men or women who betray the commitment implicit in their relationship and then try to offload at least some of the responsibility for their misbehavior on their significant other.
That might play in divorce court. But for couples to have any hope of repairing and rebuilding their relationship in the aftermath of infidelity, the partner who strayed must accept 100% of the responsibility for his or her actions.
That is Step #4 of my 7 Survival Steps for couples wishing to avoid the dissolution of their relationship after it has been ruptured by infidelity.
As I have noted previously in setting forth Steps #1 thorough #3, infidelity need not be the death knell of a relationship. [You can view all of my prior Psych Central articles on infidelity and other topics here: https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/author/abe-kass/]
To rebound from infidelity, and actually stand a good chance to move forward together as a caring, dedicated, and respectful couple, John and Sue must strictly adhere to each of the 7 Survival Steps. These are actions that I have found effective in restoring trust and affection in couples, based on many years of relationship counseling.
John, Sue and Violet, of course, are fictional characters who I use to illustrate the 7 Survival Steps. John and Sue represent a composite of many men and women who I’ve helped over the years. If the roles were reversed, and it was John who was betrayed and Sue who strayed, my advice would be the exact same.
To move forward, John must accept and acknowledge that there is never a justification for infidelity. The responsibility for the affair rests 100% with him. Ninety-nine percent is not enough, regardless of the circumstances.
If there were problems in John and Sue’s relationship before his affair, John had many ways to address them legitimately, including seeking professional couples therapy.
For John to tell Sue, which is the natural instinct of many people who betray their partners, that she must “share the blame” with him, is only pouring salt on a wound that he alone inflicted. Worse, Sue might come to believe she bears some responsibility, which can only leave her wondering what will happen if she repeats her triggering behavior in the future. Will John betray her again?
That is no basis on which to move forward.
For this couple to truly begin to heal, Sue must know without any doubt, and John must reinforce her belief in words and deeds, that no matter what Sue does in the months and years to come, he will never again wander.
Are you or a family member struggling to cope in the aftermath of infidelity? I offer other helpful articles at SurvivingInfidelity.info.