Unfaithful Spouse in Marriage Counseling
UNFAITHFUL SPOUSE 11
UnfaithfulSpouse in Marriage Counseling
UnfaithfulSpouse in Marriage Counseling
Marriage,at least in the traditional sense, means a union between man andwoman. All cultures and societies in the world consider it a rite ofpassage. The society pegs a lot of expectations on married couplesand marriage itself. However, in the recent years, the world hasnoticed an increase in the number of failed marriages (Owum-Ajaegbbu,Ajike, Fadolapo, & Ajaegbu, 2015) and one of the causes isinfidelity (Siegel, 2013). Thus, social systems such as mediation byelders and other persons of authority were among the ways to addressthe issue. Today, in the developed countries, most of these socialsupport systems have disappeared and have been replaced with a moreprofessional approach-counseling. Every year, thousands of couplesseek marriage counseling services for various marital issues amongthem a cheating spouse (Siegel, 2013). Thus, marriage counselorsoften have to interact with an unfaithful spouse, and frequently, thegoal is to salvage the marriage or assist the individual address theemotional stress of an impending separation or divorce. Given thissituation and circumstances, it is important to explore the factorsthat cause infidelity as this is the first closure that an unfaithfulspouse seeks and/or has to address after an admission of wrong-doing.It is also critical to investigate the impact of infidelity both onself, immediate family, and the society because, after an admissionof guilt, one has to deal with the repercussions of his or heractions. Lastly, it is crucial to seek the way forward because, aftera cheating incidence, life goes on for both the unfaithful spouse andtheir victims.
FactorsThat Cause Unfaithfulness in Marriages
Thereare as many causes of infidelity as they are complex (Ravhudzulo,2013). The reasons may be emotional, physical, or practical (Siegel,2013). Adultery may also be as a result of personal or circumstantialfactors (Ravhudzulo, 2012). Evidently, it is clear that there aredifferent ways of categorizing the reasons behind cheating. Thus, theissue will be explored in line with the new information that itpresents to the study.
Emotionaldisconnection is one of the leading reasons for unfaithfulness inmarriages (Siegel, 2013). Whitbourne (2012) also states thatemotional factors leads to cheating but describes it as emotionaldissatisfaction. Thus, it is apparent that psychological factorsplay a significant role in motivating a partner to unfaithfulness.However, the terms emotional dissatisfaction or disconnection providea blanket description and void of the exact emotional triggers thatdrive an individual to become unfaithful to their spouse. Thus, wordssuch as loneliness, feeling unappreciated, depression, low intimacy,lack of trust and respect, and feelings of frustrations are some ofthe descriptions that are better indicators of the causes ofinfidelity. These feelings trigger a desire for fulfillment that isoften sought from a person who arouses the desired emotive reactions.
Theneeds theory also helps to understand the motives behind adultery.David McClelland`s Needs Theory recognizes the need for affiliationas a critical motivator of human action. The desire to feel loved andaccepted is important, and its absence in a romantic relationship isbound to lead to cheating. Therefore, cheating spouses often seek toestablish social and romantic relationships outside their marriagesto fulfill their need for affiliation. Also, Maslow`s hierarchy ofneeds does acknowledge that love and belongingness is an importantpsychological factor that motivates human beings to action. Hence, ina marriage, the psychological need to feel loved and belonging isvery strong such that if lacking then an individual is driven to seekthat fulfillment elsewhere.
Physicalfactors are yet another cause of extra-marital affairs. Often, theword physical factor is a polite term used to refer to sexualdissatisfaction, un-fulfillment, or even lack within marriage. Sex ismeans of expressing love. Additionally, it is a symbol of unity orpromise of intimacy such that once infidelity occurs that symbolismis perceived to have been betrayed or broken. As a result, in itsabsence, a partner feels both loneliness and lack of closeness,thereby motivating the person to seek both satisfaction and pleasurefrom a third person (Rokach & Philibert-Lignières, 2015).
Manycouples underestimate the role of sex in marriage. Perhaps, there isinadequate public conversations or education regarding sex.Therefore, both men and women grow up with misunderstandings andmisconceptions regarding sex. Firstly, there is a need to recognizethat sex is a physical need, which if left unfulfilled, then thechances of an extra-marital affair is very high. Secondly, sex forboth men and women has some element of emotional connectivity hence,failing to address one’s partner’s sexual needs has an impact ontheir emotional needs (Slattery, 2009).
Itis undeniable that there is a link between physical factor aka sexualdesire and emotional factors aka psychological factors. Hence, itappears that the failure to meet one’s partner’s physical needswill predispose them to emotional triggers of infidelity. Clearly,the close and straightforward connection cannot be overlooked byanyone seeking to understand the causes of adultery.
Onemay also look at infidelity by examining the specific individualfactors that lead to the act. Siegel (2013) describes such causativefactors as the practical causes of infidelity, and they includeactions and circumstances such as lack or poor communication betweenpartners. Ravhudzulo(2012) considers self-esteem issues, life stages crisis, i.e.,midlife crisis and peer pressure among others as some of the reasonsbehind adultery.
Theabsence of effective communication between partners causes a marriageto break (Owum-Ajaegbbu, Emmanuel, & Lekan Ajaegbu, 2015).Communication is the medium that facilitates the consistency ofinteraction among married couples. It is the ideal way for couples toexpress their love, trust, respect and confidence to each other. Most importantly, communication is the only way to solve problemswithin a marriage. Therefore, a breakdown in communication is boundto expose any marriage to various dangers one of them beingadultery. Communication is also non-verbal therefore, faultynon-verbal communication such as wrong postures may triggerinfidelity.
Self-esteemissues have also been cited as a reason for adultery (Ravhudzulo,2012). The link between self-esteem and infidelity is that the formerinfluences feelings of life satisfaction among couples and that asatisfied partner is less likely to cheat compared to an unsatisfiedone. Regarding life-stages, different phases of life eitherheightens or lessens their risk to infidelity. The link betweenmid-life crisis and infidelity is that the emotional state duringeach phase of life causes an individual to adopt behavior that mayencourage or predispose them to infidelity (Philips, 2011).
Onceagain, it is clear that the practical causes of adultery oftentrigger an emotional response that motivates a person to cheat. Thus,all the explained causes of infidelity share emotional factors as thecore underlying and final trigger that would prompt a person intoengaging in an extra-marital affair. This observation underscores thevalue of counseling in helping an unfaithful spouse address theirmarital issues. Moreover, it confirms that the role of counseling andpsychology in resolving such matters since it is evident that theprimary cause of infidelity is unmet psychological needs.
Duringthe counseling sessions, it is inevitable that there will be aconversation about the perceived effects of their unfaithfulness.During this session, it is expected that the spouse demonstratesinsight on the consequences of his action. Consequently, thecounselor ought to guide the client through the mixed emotions thatthey are likely to experience as they come to terms with the fullimpact of their actions. It is anticipated one of the immediateeffects of cheating that the client will realize is that he/she islikely to be alienated from their partner, and family. According toRokach and Philibert-Lignières (2015), infidelity causes a person tolose the social support that they enjoyed prior the act. The reducedsocial support affects the quality of life of the unfaithful spouseespecially due to the lessened sense of belonging. Furthermore,social support is a form of protective mechanism against lonelinessand social stressors (Rokach and Philibert-Lignières,2015).Therefore it is evident that the unfaithful spouse is likelyto experience more loneliness and high-stress levels.
Additionally,unfaithful spouses are likely to feel guilty and experiencedepression. These emotions hurt a person`s health. Depression forinstance, if left unmanaged may escalate to a full-blown mentaldisorder. On the other hand, guilt may trigger thoughts of suicide.The occurrence of these events in the absence of the adequate socialsupport not only worsens the situation but also poses a real directthreat on the person`s life. Therefore, a counselor plays a crucialrole is helping the client overcome depression and suicidal thoughts.
Theclient also realizes the effects of his actions on their partner. Atthis point, there is an acknowledgment that infidelity has causedfeelings of hurt and betrayal to other spouse and that the brokentrust automatically presents conflicts and threatens the familystructure. Additionally, there is a need to accept that the offendedparty feels hurt and rejected and often it takes a lot of effort tocope with the situation because of the resultant pain,disappointment, and agony.
However,if there are children, they bear the brunt of infidelity the mostbecause of the absence of peace at home. This is perhaps the mostpainful realization. The constant fights and arguments on account ofinfidelity do destroy the home environment and expose children tounmerited stress. Sometimes, children are forced to act aspeace-makers, a role that they are ill-equipped to perform. Moreover,it is an emotionally tasking and unfair responsibility for the youngones.
Evidently,it is undeniable that infidelity has an adverse impact on marriageitself. Throughout the session, the client begins to appreciate howa single act of unfaithfulness could potentially destroy a marriage(Ravhudzulo, 2012). The ending of a marriage almost automaticallyresults in the destruction of relationships with one`s children,family, and friends. Things will never be the same, and relations arebound to change to accommodate a passed reality and a new socialstatus. For some clients, it dawns on them that being a divorcee isa social stigma and one may be stripped of some of the socialresponsibilities accorded to them due to their marital status. Forinstance, the client has to realize that in some religiousinstitutions, divorcees or separated persons cannot hold leadershippositions. Additionally, for traditionally-oriented business persons,one’s inability to maintain a marriage is considered a weaknesssuch that may be extrapolated to mean that one does not have thecapabilities to sustain long-term business ventures. For individualsworking for values-driven organizations, being a divorcee may lead todiscrimination, and often, the unfaithful person may experienceconstant feelings of being judged on account of their adultery.
Itis also important to deal with the effects of divorce as perhaps thegreatest consequence of infidelity especially if it was the primaryreason for the dissolution of the marriage. Divorce hinders socialdevelopment because of the negative impact it has on the society.Sociologists believe that the family is the nucleus of the communityand its destruction affects the quality of life because of theweakened social and emotional support (Vrouvas, n.d). Therefore,divorce hampers with social harmony. Consequently, infidelity alsoindirectly contributes to rising poverty levels in the society. Aftera divorce, it is likely that the family`s income will be slashed intotwo and for a non-working spouse, it means a loss of revenue andsustenance. Therefore, the resultant consequence is a single-parenthousehold whereby a partner may be struggling with the bills andupkeep of children. Unfortunately, separation or divorce also affectsa child’s academic performance. According to Vrouvas (n.d.),children whose parents have divorced experience lagged academicachievement or progress due to the disruption caused by the divorce.In fact, children who have experienced divorce are more likely todrop out of high school compared to their counterparts from stablehomes (Vrouvas, n.d.). Lastly, it is a known reality that there is ahigh possibility that children from broken homes are likely to becomesocial deviants, hence, it is probable that they will be involved incrime and other negative social activities. Although infidelitycannot be blamed as the only cause of divorce and its subsequentnegative consequences, it does not escape one`s reasoning that ifindeed it one of the primary motives for divorce then it is one ofthe top principle cause of the adverse consequences of divorce in thesociety.
Thereare two solemn realities that an unfaithful spouse faces when seekingcounseling- reconciliation or separation/divorce. Therefore, marriagecounselors need to help individuals navigate through the emotionalturmoil to realize the desired outcome of the sessions. Based on theliterature and online information, it may appear that marriagecounseling often takes a religious approach more so a Christianoutlook since most the advice provided have Christian religiousconnotations. However, from a professional non-partisan approachcounseling has to respect a person`s religious orientation althoughit is impossible to deny the need to refer to a higher moral code orexpectation in order to help them realize that the act was wrong.
Distenfield(2013) notes that counseling is a powerful tool that can helpindividuals facing separation or divorce. Nonetheless, the desiredoutcome cannot be changed if the couple wanted separation, divorce,annulment or reconciliation. Therefore, the role of the counselor isto guide the unfaithful spouse to any of the mentioned outcomes. Ininstances where the couple states that reconciliation is the desiredresult then the role of the counselor is to help them identify andresolve the causes of the infidelity and guide them on how toovercome them. During such sessions, the counselor may act as amediator and assist the unfaithful spouse to re-open thecommunication lines with the other partner. In instances where theoutcome is separation, annulment, and divorce, the role of thecounselor is to help the unfaithful spouse to handle the emotionalstress of the process and ensure that their mental wellbeing is notaffected by the process.
Clintonand Tent (2012) offer a slightly different perspective fromDistenfield regarding how to counsel an unfaithful spouse. To beginwith, Clinton and Tent (2012) note that to counsel an unfaithfulspouse, the counselor must request for the full of disclosure ofinformation that led to the affair. Upon obtaining the information,the client will be required to conduct a medical examination to ruleout STD and HIV infection. Armed with such information then counselorbegins the actual counseling by informing the client that they arelikely to experience withdrawal-like emotions as they start to breakoff their affair and focus on re-engaging emotionally with theirpartner. During the process, it is important that the client knowsthat reconciliation will take time and there is no guarantee that thedesired outcome will be realized. Therefore, the critical thingswould be to seek forgiveness, demonstrate a commitment to change bybreaking off all prior relations and begin a new lifestyle thatevidences one`s desire for reconciliation.
Basedon the literature, it appears that there is no unified approach tocounseling an unfaithful spouse, but there is a set of guidingprinciples that are meant to aid the process. Thus, the first step isan admission of guilt and willingness to undergo counseling bearingin mind that there is no guaranteed outcome unless the coupleexpressly states so. Thus, the role of the counselor is that of afacilitator, mediator, and advisor. The counseling process can bequite long and extensive depending on the number of sessions based onthe pre-evaluation of the client`s case. Nonetheless, it is expectedthat the process will involve the unfaithful spouse reflecting on thefactors that drove them to adultery. These factors may be emotional,physical or practical. During the session, the unfaithful spouse alsobegins to appreciate the adverse effects of infidelity on self, thefamily and the society as a whole. It is such realization that willprobably cause them experience emotional distress, and it is thecounselors’ job to ensure that they navigate through this phasesafely. Additionally, as the sessions near to a close, the unfaithfulspouse is expected to begin to comes to terms with the outcome of theprocess which may be reconciliation, separation, annulment ordivorce. Despite the outcome, the role of counseling should not belost that indeed counseling is powerful and it is the ideal way toapproach personal life issues.
Clinton,D., Palmer, B., & Palmer, S. (2012). Quick-referenceguide to counseling on money,
finances& relationships(1st ed.). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.
Distenfield,I., Distenfield, L., & We the People (Project). (2013). Wethe People`s guide to
divorce:A do-it-yourself guide to reaching an agreement with your spouse andgetting a hassle-free divorce.Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.
Philips,S. (2011). Marriageand midlife crisis: A journey of challenge and transition.Retrieved
Ravhudzulo,D. (2010). Nothinglasts forever(1st ed.). Bloomington: Xlibris Corporation.
Rokach,A., & Philibert-Lignières, G. (2015). Intimacy, loneliness &infidelity. Open
Siegel,A. (2013). MyCheating Heart: What causes infidelity.Retrieved from
Slattery,J. (2009). Sexis a physical need:Focuson the family.Retrieved from
Uwom-Ajaegbu,O. O., Emmanuel, O., & Lekan Ajaegbu, C. P. (2015). An empiricalstudy on
thecauses and effects of communication breakdown in marriages. Journalof Sound Islamic Thoughts,1(1),46-51.
Vrouvas,M. (n.d.). Theeffects of divorce on society.Retrieved from
No related posts.