There first needs to be goodwill, and a willingness to want to gain trust on both sides of the aisle. What is goodwill? Goodwill has been defined as friendly, helpful, or cooperative feelings or attitudes towards another. Can you tell if you have goodwill towards your spouse?
It can be defined by these three questions.
1. Do you still care about the welfare of your mate or partner?
2. Do you still care, even if you’re no longer in love with someone?
3. Do you want the best for your mate, even if this relationship is over?
The answers to those questions will help you decide if you have goodwill for your partner and if you can jointly start to repair your relationship. If goodwill is present, honesty and truth will be part of your discussion.
This type of communication between partners where both parties are honest and transparent is absolutely necessary. For example, acknowledging the story that brought them to this place, telling the truth and taking responsibility for your own part in this situation.
Why do some people cheat? Or hide their secret lives? Let’s us count the many ways: grief, excitement, boredom, change of life issues, validation you are still sexy or handsome. There is also often a tiny cracks in the relationship where the partners stop listening and responding to each other in positive and caring ways. That is not to say the person that had the person who had the affair is blameless. In fact, just the opposite, they shoulder that blame alone. But their partner also played some role in creating the rift between them.
Here is a typical scenario: “David (not a real person) wanted another life beyond what he had, so the waitress at the local diner was cute, perky, and always had a smile on her face. It started with a wink, leaving a big tip after his meal, chit-chat about the weather, politics, and, the next thing he knew they were at the local motel until the wee hours of the morning. The waitress’s mother took care of her kids, (a second job), and he told his wife he needed to work late on that big project that he had told her about several days ago. Things progressed for a few weeks, and then the 16-year-old son was taking his driving test, and he turned the corner and there was the waitress and his dad in a big hug outside the motel.
Now the son is perplexed, and he has questions, does he tell his mom? Does he honk their car to say hi? Does he text his girlfriend to ask for support? “So now, not only is the man, David and the woman involved, so is David’s teenage son. This type of family situation is often called Triangulation. Triangulation occurs when a 3rd party, in this case the son, is pulled into a conflict or stressful situation. This type of behavior can easily break up a family, cause mistrust, and having a family secret like this can cause depression and anxiety.
Can this family be saved?
Is their goodwill between the man and his wife? Both parties are able to openly and honesty talk about the why of the affair, the boredom in the relationship, the lack of feeling good about one’s self and the decision that lead to the straying. Then this couple has hope. Many couples can’t handle this frank discussion without becoming overly emotional or angry and they need to enlist the services of a trained therapists. Sometimes we can’t see our part in the conflict especially if that person is not the one who cheated. Therapy can help sort out truthful communication, acknowledge the hurt, shame and guilt.
If there is not the basic relationship of goodwill, lasting change in the therapy room will not happen. The breakdown in the relationship happened even further when the wife says, “that’s it, I’ve suspected your cheating for years! Pack up, get your bags, you’re out of here, NOW!”
LGBTQI population is not immune to cheating or having a secret life.
One partner, “Gale” (not a real person) was middle aged and felt she was no longer “cute, perky, and outgoing”. She was married to her wife for 20 years. She was young, looked up to her, flirty, and willing. They had a fling for a few months and ended it. Gale wanted to tell her wife, she felt guilty and ashamed. One night she told her wife Linda about the “fling.” Linda wanted to hear nothing of it and she had “nothing to understand.” Linda’s way to cope was to “Forget about all this and move on.” Gale on the other hand wanted to go to therapy to understand what had happened to her during their 20 years of marriage. She wanted to understand how this young woman was so easy to have a fling with. Linda wanted to forget, “what was done was done.”
Statistics say in general, more men are more likely to cheat than women. Of those reported cheating behaviors, 21% of men and 13% of women (in a General Social Survey, 2016) reported cheating on their spouse, wife, husband, or engaged friend.
Debbie had a secret life which started in teen years. No one knew, and she kept it well hidden, until her husband went into her closet and found the box of memorabilia. He confronted her, and the cat was out of the bag. Now he feels he can’t trust her.
How to regain trust and create good will between the partners?
First, feelings are natural. Stress reactions like shock, agitation, fear, pain, depression, and confusion are all normal. You might feel as if you’re on an emotional roller coaster.
Good self-care is a must, and Revenge is not the answer. There must be a prior history of goodwill and the parties must be willing to move past the behaviors and start to rebuild.
Conversation about boundaries must occur and the 3rd person must be ejected from the couple. If that 3rd person makes, contact immediately that must be shared with the partner and together the couple decide how to respond.
The couple must also agree after a while to move on and to stop punishing each other years later. I know a couple once that talked about the affair like it was yesterday, but it was twenty-five years ago. Trust needs to be reestablished slowly and steadily.
The person that had the affair must also make a written apology that includes they understand the feelings, betrayal and trust that was lost when they choose to stray. Honesty and openness must be part of the apology.
Lastly, consider a good family therapist or Couples’ therapist to assist both partners in this fact finding, sharing, and loving adventure to wholeness. Therapists are trained and experienced in helping couples understand betrayal of trust and honesty. Therapists often uncover a past breach of trust that is still lingering in the marriage today. Therapists are also trained to look at other symptoms that can have a negative effect on the marriage.
If you have experienced an affair and need assistance to rebuild your relationship, we are here to help.
My passion is working with children, teens, adults and couples, who want to build meaning in their lives. Building trust, intimacy, and companionship are most important to me as a therapist.
My relationship in counseling began about 35 years ago in working with families in church settings,in schools, and addiction treatment centers.. I became licensed in 1995, and have found this is the profession I thrive in, and wish for my clients the richness and relationships they are seeking from therapy.
I have also worked in,psychiatric hospitals, and children's centers, and believe my career has been embellished through each and every client I have had the privilege of working with.
I also enjoy being a Clinical Supervisor, and have had the honor of mentoring over 495 Interns/Associates since 1997. I received my Master's Degree from Phillips Graduate Institute, I am a member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) and enjoy the membership of three local chapters of CAMFT.
I look forward to working with you in the future at CCS.