The therapeutic process in relation to infidelity

The emergence of an external relationship with the couple, which we identify as infidelity, is often associated with an accumulation of reactions and suffering among the different actors present in the conflict.

Nowadays, in our society, there has been a tendency to trivialize the concept of infidelity a bit: nothing hard, everything revolves around “planned obsolescence”, which is light and circumstantial.

However, despite the freedom to continue or not in a relationship, we continued to search for the perfect partner, who will last us forever and who we can trust at all costs. What can be done in therapy in the event of infidelity?

    What we call infidelity

    Although we have traditionally placed the label of infidelity in external relationships that involve sex, what really identifies it is the concept of betrayal, concealment and violation of the agreements provided for in the couple. For example, Hall and Fincham (2006) refer to infidelity as “a sexual, romantic, or emotional relationship that violates exclusive engagement in the relationship”.

    However, for someone to break the engagement we’re talking about, an emotional or psychological separation process must have taken place in advance. The concealment of dissatisfaction or emotional discomfort, which has to do with the person’s own experience of infidelity and which is not necessarily attributable to the relationship.

    Infidelity means lying to the official member and, also and very often, to the third person of the triangle, because the hardest part is giving up “everything”.

    The fear of loneliness, rejection, emptiness… give rise to behavior of denial and consummate lies which confuse the couple and allow them to continue to avoid conflicts.

    When a couple comes to therapy with open conflict over an infidelity issue, it is common to see the unfaithful member pose an unfathomable deterioration or crisis in the relationship as the cause of their behavior. In other words, it justifies its concealment, possibly discovered by the couple recently, and legitimizes it through the suffering inherent in secrecy, incomprehension or progressive detachment.

    However, it is totally inconsistent to place the responsibility for the infidelity on the victim.

      What does infidelity involve

      The implications of infidelity are the following:

      • Unilateral breach of the pact agreed at the time.
      • Conscious and intentional deception.
      • Betrayal of loyalty.
      • Don’t compromise.

      loyalty it has to do with confidence, not sexuality. With commitment, loyalty, perseverance and consistency. And basically with the given word.

      What is high, in reality, is an unequal relationship where the loving person adapts to what the infidel can offer, accepting the lie he launches into and, on the other hand, the official-victim couple cannot decide. . situation (to the detriment of any possible decision, at any time, of the unfaithful couple).

      Consequences of infidelity on people

      These are the different ways that infidelity it psychologically affects the people involved.

      To the ‘infidels’

      The inhibition (both in decision-making and in action) of the unfaithful person leads to the enormous personal dissatisfaction of someone who does not dare to face the conflict or internal insecurity. He will have less and less ability to cope with the different situations that make him feel unhappy.

      We find, in many cases, an evasive person (with an insecure avoidant affection, which Bowlby spoke of, typical of people who disconnect from their negative emotions, don’t acknowledge their anguish, don’t ask for help). He is alienated, he dissociates himself. With the will to keep all the advantages for itself, to keep the system in an unchanged structure … lies, manipulates, misinforms, etc.

      We meet someone who, perhaps, in his flight from the existential void, he seeks infidelity the excitement that allows him not to feel anguish nor the increase in vital depression.

      If you ultimately lose both the official partner and the loving person, you may end up in that depression you have so avoided. And he’s going to fall victim to the variation of a status quo that has brought tremendous emotional benefit.

      To the lover

      The loving person he becomes an accomplice of the lie. Despite the precariousness of his situation, he agrees to hide the established link. Dissociation, cognitive distortion, envy, vanity appear … the lack of empathy with the deceived victim … In addition, we believe in the victimist arguments of the unfaithful person, who blames the official partner for the vital conjugal discomfort.

      In addition, he has no official recognition, lives in the shadows … doomed to loneliness and the inability to live a full relationship. She, too, is a deceived person who is forced into an elusive and asymmetrical relationship.

      There is an emotional distance that causes a lot of pain and the presence of constant doubt in the face of a promise never kept.

      To the “ victim ”

      When the official couple discovers the infidelity, he sees how everything he had secured is swept away at the same time. We find the typical effects of post-traumatic stress, which deeply paralyze the life of the subject: sleep disorders, strong irritability, hypervigilance, nervous reactions, fears …

      The ruminations of the deceived person, on what happened, come to interfere with his daily functioning. The trauma at the moment makes it difficult to trust someone again, and the fear of experiencing life arises.

      Violent behavior can occur against the partner or another person, Or the immediate pursuit of separation, seeking to avoid the suffering resulting from disloyalty. There may also be an obsessive reaction to finding security that the external relationship is over: obsessive questions about what happened and / or aggressive communication. We are crying: anger, anxiety, depression …

      When it is decided to maintain the official relationship

      How to handle the reconstruction

      Despite the anger, the disappointment, the suffering … many couples, victims of infidelity, try to give each other the opportunity to continue together. To do this, undergoing couples therapy can help build a working structure that allows you to consolidate what is still standing. It is argued that it is possible to recover the relationship, unless one of the two members is willing and therefore not going to cooperate, or the damage suffered is so great that the victim cannot support it.

      Of course, regardless of the assistance of a therapist, mediator, qualified professional or personal work … couples have to deal with a number of points from which to begin to emerge from the relationship. collapse.

      First, extramarital affairs are not the result of problems in the couple, but infidelity deteriorates the relationship. We cannot justify disloyalty by the problems present in the relationship. At any point, the person could have raised their partner’s discomfort, asked for help, or separated. In addition, it is not justified that the usual contact with the loving person continues.

      Second, the unfaithful person should know that his partner’s reactions are a consequence of the unfair and deceptive behavior he has maintained with her. The victim’s behavior does not correspond to rare reactions, they are understandable and can extend over time.

      The emotions that the traitor feels stem from the damage done to the bond (this bond is similar to that of children with their parents, a sure basis for discovering the world). Safety has been lost, the betrayed person believes they can no longer expect anything solid relationships: if the person he trusts the most has hurt him … the feeling is that he may be in danger with someone else. The infidel must know that his partner has been traumatized, these are not pathological reactions.

      In addition, it is crucial that the disloyal person counts and narrates (this is not about explaining or justifying what happened). the victim must understand: A coherent story that makes sense, that makes squares. You can’t keep lying, not even in the details or in the facts. Keeping it hidden causes even more harm: the couple cannot heal their suffering.

      Thus, the infidel must tell the real story: what prompted him to get involved in the adventure will prevent other possible adventures. The victim must have strong reasons to believe that this will not happen again, she wants to know the details of the adventure. The more people know about themselves, more will be able to restore confidence through increased credibility. The count understands how he had to hide and the people involved, i.e. the strategies he developed to live the experience in a secret way.

      On another side, the victim will have to prepare to listen to the otherEmotional deactivation is necessary. Understanding your anger will allow you to discourage 1 reactivity that can be dangerous.

      Finally, we must prevent the two from injuring each other, set limits and give guidelines to regulate behavior between them:

      • How long can they spend together.
      • Whether they are going to sleep together and / or are going to have sex.
      • What information will be given to children, original family or friends.

      The betrayed person will have to come to terms with the suffering to prevent a destructive emotional escalation. Being open to emotions, without defending yourself, will allow you to be able to stay on top of what matters.

      Reconciliation process

      Whether they decide to stay together or to break up, forgiveness between the members of the couple is necessary. Forgiveness and apologies can be given separately. The offended person can forgive without the offended person repenting or apologizing. And also to note that repentance and the request for forgiveness does not imply the deliverance of it by the victim.

      If they do end up going their separate ways, it’s important to close the scene before moving on to the next one.: Breaking up to escape the conflict or to get away with the loving person usually does not work (people carry the problems to the next relationship).

      Outraged, pacts must be concluded:

      • Do not hurt yourself anymore: it is necessary to specify the limits of the intolerable (betrayal, lies, insults …)
      • total honesty
      • Emphasize assertiveness, relationship roles and communication.

      The work, in the end, is based on the truth, on resolving ambivalence, repairing the damage, In managing symptoms and building a new relationship. It is the unfaithful person who must repair the links which have been damaged, it is the best placed for that. But it will depend on the following variables to achieve greater speed in improvement and success in rebuilding torque:

      • empathy
      • agreement
      • patience
      • will
      • responsibility
      • commitment

      Strategies for avoiding talking and refusing to answer for the unfaithful person indicate a limited commitment to rebuilding the couple. Failure to recognize the seriousness of what happened shows refusal to take responsibility for the acts committed. Talking is difficult but very necessary, just as it is necessary to move from hostility and prejudice to a cordial environment conducive to communication on the part of the victim.

      Finally, Sternberg suggests that love is based on commitment, passion, and intimacy.

      • Passion will improve with openness to desire and sexual intercourse.
      • The engagement, which is one of the parties most harmed by infidelity, will be remade thanks to the effort the two make to stay together.
      • Intimacy, damaged by secrecy and lying, will tolerate self-disclosure behavior which shows us in all our vulnerability. In other contexts, this manifestation of guilt would be used for the accusation and application of the relevant punishment, but in the context of the couple, a response of acceptance and acknowledgment of sadness and shame will allow sharing. this weakness and increase and open up. to lost privacy.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Hall, JH and Fincham, FD (2006). Dissolution of the relationship after infidelity: the roles of attributions and forgiveness. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 25, 508-522
      • Sternberg, RJ (1986). A triangular theory of love. Psychological review, 93, 2, 119-136.
      • Jauregui Balenciaga, MI (2018). Hidden portraits. Psychology of infidelity. Ed. Red circle.
      • García Figuera. The couple’s recovery after infidelity.

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