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Adultery is on the increase. But can a relationship ever really survive an affair? Marie Claire spoke to expert marital therapist Andrew G Marshall to find out more...
It’s hard to understand how much pain the discovery of an affair can cause unless you’ve experienced it.
‘We believe good things happen to good people and an affair challenges our world view. Suddenly, nothing makes sense. The world feels dangerous. We also see our partners as possessions. It’s terrifying for someone to take them from you,’ says Andrew G Marshall.
The biggest error you can make after discovering an affair is to either forgive your partner too quickly or throw them out straight away.
‘The moment you forgive someone you lose your bargaining power. While if you throw your partner out too quickly you won’t be able to make sense of it all.’
After an affair, you shouldn’t just behave as if everything is normal without sorting out the underlying problems.
‘If you haven’t sorted out the issues and are stuck in this stage [of attempted normality], it will probably happen again.’
Only 20 per cent of affairs are actually about sex.
‘Most affairs are about feeling helpless and neglected. You love your partner and don’t want to leave. The twisted solution often seems to protect your marriage by having an affair. Sexual problems have an emotional route – the vast majority are [actually caused] by communication problems.’
If you’re the one who cheated, honesty is always the best policy.
‘Honesty takes the poison out of a relationship. Nine times out of ten, the partner suspects anyway and telling the truth gives you, for want of a better phrase, “honesty points”, which will be useful in the future.’
But only confess for the sake of the relationship, not to make yourself feel better.
‘You can’t confess and expect to be given an award for your honesty. Your partner may well be devastated.’
Some relationships do survive, but it takes work. And things won’t get better instantly.
‘Once issues in your relationship surface you can deal with them and make progress. But it takes courage and it’s certainly not a quick fix. The process generally takes two years. Most people want it over and done with in two weeks.’
Punishing the guilty party is understandable, but best avoided.
‘It may make them feel so unloved that they look outside the relationship again – if that was the reason they were unfaithful in the first place.’
You won’t know how you’ll feel until you go through it.
‘It’s easy to say you would leave in abstract terms. But in a relationship you may feel differently. If you tell yourself you’re stupid you will feel terrible; however if you decide to learn from the mistakes you both made, you can start to feel hopeful again.’