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Infidelity, or even the possibility of infidelity, is something that every couple needs to deal with at some point.
Based on survey results, an estimated 22 to 25 percent of men and 11 to 15 percent of women admit to having had extramarital sex although the actual numbers are likely higher. According to the 1994 Janus report on sexual behaviour, 40 percent of divorced men and 44 percent of divorced women reported having had one or more extramarital affairs during their marriages.
There are numerous consequences once the infidelity comes to light. Along with loss of trust, partners admitting extramarital relationships often find their relationships with other family members (including parents and children) to be damaged, and emotional problems such as reduced self-esteem, feelings of betrayal, depression, and anger are also common. Given the damage that can arise, it is hardly surprising that infidelity remains the most frequently cited grounds for divorce.
But couples can also survive infidelity. Couples who attend counseling to cope with one partner having an extramarital affair often discover that relationships can become stronger than ever as both partners learn to put the infidelity behind them. Many spouses dealing the trauma associated with an unfaithful partner can also report posttraumatic growth that allows them to become stronger over time. Factors reported by couples successfully coping with infidelity can include having a good social support network, a strong motivation to stay together, treasuring acts of kindness, and learning to find meaning in their experience. Even in couples who agree to stay together however, the process of reconciliation can be rocky while the broken bonds of trust are carefully mended.
To read more, check out my new Psychology Today post.
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