I have been in search of a reliable statistic on how many married men and married women cheat on their partners. Google gave me serious research from 2005, which is a long time ago, culturally. I found an article on how women who carry designer handbags deter other women from flirting with their spouses. Really.
I swear that a couple of years ago I found a credible stat that said infidelity happens in 50 percent of committed relationships, but I can’t resurrect that today.
The reason for this is that I realized today that I have seven current clients who are dealing with the aftermath of affairs or one-night stands. Two individuals and five couples.
The “cheating” ranges from inappropriate flirting and kissing to long relationships with a lot of sex.
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy says half of couples who come to counseling are there because of infidelity. So maybe that’s just the reality of my current caseload. What is rather unusual, however, is that in all seven cases the partner that strayed was the woman.
A social worker friend recently asked me who my “favorite” clients are. My answer was couples recovering from infidelity. I know how to help them heal, which is very rewarding. Here is a link to an overview on infidelity.
In my process, I know the person who was betrayed needs to have his questions answered. So I mediate a gentle question-and-answer session. I do not encourage people to share details of the sexual experience — definitely TMI there. The hardest question for a person to answer is “why.” Sometimes there really isn’t a clearcut “why.” It just happened. And that is hard for the partner to accept.
In my experience, most affairs are found out these days by phone records — seeing something on the phone or another device, or going online and looking at the trail of calls and texts. I encourage transparency in the early stages. Contact with the affair partner must cease, and the betrayed person needs to know that by looking at his own partner’s phone.
I also ask the couple not to discuss the affair or betrayal between sessions. This is hard, but it removes some of the tension in the home, and the couple can work on restoring their friendship, which is the foundation of a good marriage.
That’s how I begin. Lots of couples overcome infidelity. Many of them emerge from counseling with stronger relationships. That’s what I like to see.