How to Survive Infidelity

The question I am most frequently asked by visitors to this web site is "how can I survive my spouse's affair?" After having counseled thousands of couples with hundreds of marital conflicts, I am completely convinced that a spouse's unfaithfulness is the most painful experience that can be inflicted in marriage. Those I've counseled who have

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had the tragic misfortune of having experienced rape, physical abuse, sexual abuse of their children, and infidelity have consistently reported to me that their spouse's unfaithfulness was their very worst experience. To be convinced of the devastating impact of infidelity, you only need to go through it once.

And yet, more than 50% of all spouses are victims of infidelity, which means that one spouse in most marriages will suffer the greatest marital pain possible at some time during their lifetimes. It's no wonder that I receive so many letters from these victims of unfaithfulness.

Coping with Infidelity, Part 1: How Do Affairs Begin? Affairs usually begin with an attraction to someone you know fairly well, someone you spend time with each week -- your friends or co-workers. To illustrate how affairs develop, I post letters from two women, one who is tempted to have an affair with her husband's best friend, and another whose best friend had an affair with her husband.

Coping with Infidelity, Part 2: How Should Affairs End? There are three parts to the way affairs should end. The first part is revealing the affair to one's spouse, the second part is never seeing or communicating with the lover again, and the third part is getting through the symptoms of withdrawal after a permanent separation takes place. I post two letters to illustrate these three parts to how an affair should end.

Coping with Infidelity, Part 3: Restoring the Marital Relationship. Since an affair does not usually end the way it should, with complete separation from the lover, you may not find this column entirely relevant to you. In your case, your spouse's lover may still be a factor, and you will want to know how to restore your marital relationship with your spouse's lover standing in the wings. If you are in that position, I have addressed that topic in two other columns that I review below: "What to Do with an Unfaithful Husband" and "What to Do with an Unfaithful Wife." In short, it's hard enough to restore a martial relationship when a lover is finally out of the picture. But it's impossible when the lover is still hanging around.

Coping with Infidelity, Part 4: Overcoming Resentment. You might think that after a husband and wife rebuild their love for each other after an affair, all would be forgiven. Well, all might be forgiven, but all's not forgotten. In fact, many couples find that the memory of the affair haunts them decades after it happened. I post three letters to illustrate what a problem resentment is for many people, and I explain how to handle it so that it doesn't ruin a successful recovery.

Four Rules to Guide Marital Recovery After an Affair. After the lover is finally gone and you are ready to restore love to your marriage, where should you begin? This column explains the rules I suggest for couples recovering from an affair. Technically, they are the very rules that I recommend in any marriage, because they guarantee mutual love when they are followed.

What to Do with an Unfaithful Husband. Altogether, this column contains five letters and my responses to them, written by women who have recently discovered their husband's unfaithfulness. There is some redundancy in the questions and answers, but if you have suffered from your husband's infidelity, you will want to gain from the experience of as many other people as possible.

What to Do with an Unfaithful Wife. As with the unfaithful husband column, five letters from husbands, and my responses to them, are posted.

Escaping the Jaws of Infidelity: How to Avoid an Affair. There are many of you who are having an affair, but want to know how to get out of it in one piece. And then there are even more of you who want to know how to avoid it in the first place. In this column I post letters from two women who are having affairs and want out of the mess they've created. I also address the issue of avoiding the mess in the first place by protecting your spouse from your unfaithful predisposition. We all have it, you know -- a predisposition to be unfaithful. Given certain conditions, we can all have affairs, destroying the happiness of our spouse, our children, our extended families, our lover, and ourselves. Those conditions should be avoided at all costs, don't you think?

The Lover's Perspective on Infidelity. The spouses of those who have affairs are not the only victims of infidelity. The lovers can also be victims. This column addresses the anguish experienced by women who present the lover's perspective.

How Can I recover My Sexual Desire for My Husband After My Affair? A column somewhat related to the lover's perspective, this column treats the issue of sexual recovery for the one who had the affair, but now wants to restore passion to her marriage.

Infidelity on the Internet. I receive an alarming number of letters each week by those whose spouses have fallen in love with someone on the internet. This form of infidelity is particularly common among those who have become addicted to internet communication. You know who you are. If your spouse wants you to leave the computer and come to bed, and you say, "just a minute," you're one of them.

Can't We Just Forgive and Forget? Infidelity is a devastating experience. And yet, most couples who go though it recover. How do they overcome the horrible memories of an affair after reconciliation? In this column, I explain my controversial position that "just compensation" is more reasonable than forgiveness when it comes to infidelity.

What to Do When You (or Your Spouse) Become Pregnant with a Lover's Child. Infidelity has tragic consequences. Not only does unfaithfulness itself cause untold emotional suffering for a victimized spouse, but affairs create a host of other problems, too. One example of these problems is venereal disease -- when an unfaithful spouse is infected, which is often the case, the disease is usually passed on to the unsuspecting marriage partner. Another example is the topic of this Q&A column -- pregnancy with a lover's child. This column considers the choices these women face, and what I recommend. Their husbands also have hard choices to make, and my advice is for them, too.

Steven W. Harley, M.S. has over 20 years experience personally helping couples with infidelity related issues. He can help you!

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