Infidelity can shatter even the strongest relationship, leaving behind feelings of betrayal, guilt, and anger. For the one-quarter of married couples who have suffered this breach of loyalty, according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, overcoming those feelings can be extremely difficult.
But with the support of family, friends, a good therapist, and each other, it is possible for a couple to put the cloud of an affair behind them, and in some cases, emerge as a stronger unit.
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For others, an affair is too heavy a weight for a relationship to bear, and parting ways may be the only answer. But before a fighting couple both head for the door, there are steps that can be taken that might help the relationship get on the track to healing. Experts tell WebMD why someone might have an affair, how an affair can be overcome, and how to know when it's time to call it quits.
Cause and Effect
"There are many different reasons why someone might have an affair," says Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW, a marriage and family therapist in Illinois. "Sometimes it is purely a case of bad judgment -- a person may feel satisfied with their marriage, but a late night at the office with a co-worker and a couple of glasses of wine can lead to lack of impulse control. More commonly, it's a search for an emotional connection -- wanting someone to pay attention to you, flatter you, be attracted to you."
Whatever the reason for the affair, the effect infidelity has on a relationship is devastating.
"Nothing rocks a person's sense of self, trust, and marriage more than infidelity," says Weiner-Davis, author of The Sex-Starved Marriage. "Infidelity leaves people questioning their sanity, as well as everything they believe to be true about their spouse, and about the viability of their marriage. Infidelity is crippling."
People find themselves crying a lot, not being able to concentrate, being upset, and feeling depressed.
"These are all of the initial emotions that go with the discovery of the betrayal," Weiner-Davis tells WebMD. "However, emotions change over time."