The increasing cases of infidelity among married couples tend to be degenerating nowadays. It is uncommon to see either of the couple cheating on partner. This act has brought about crisis in homes with its attendant consequences which include, divorce, in-fighting and commotion between partners. Obviously, many couples have separated while others are on the verge of separation due to infidelity. There are also others who inflict long-term injury in their married life as a result of unfaithfulness to their partners. In fact, many homes are currently in disarray owing to infidelity.
Close observers and analysts alike have attributed this canker worm eating deep into the fabrics of many homes to many factors and these commentators and writers tend to have unanimously agreed on these factors. On the other hand however, couples themselves have been observed to trade blames when this menace of infidelity rears its ugly head in the family.
The prevalence of extra-marital affairs among married men and women today is becoming worrisome and is generating concern to every right thinking citizen, giving rise to increasing comments from concerned citizens on the causes and solutions.
In his opinion, a social commentator called Robby Boy once opined that a relationship is a relationship, be it between two women, two men or a man and a woman. He admitted that almost every relationship has the same ups and downs. Robby who spoke out of experience noted that a couple of things needed to be considered when discussing this subject.
According to him, “if you read the statistics of the divorce rates in the hetero community, a large majority of the divorces occur in younger couples. My theory is most of these couples merely rushed into the marriage without really knowing who they are and what they want. In the straight community, there are obviously a guy and a girl in the relationship, and in my opinion is a lot harder to get laid. This anxiousness towards sex leads to infidelity. In the gay community, I feel that sex is really just everywhere. What is unknown for the young gay guy who is just coming out will and can be discovered (sexually speaking) fairly quickly and with ease. I think I am applying the US vs Europe take on sex theory on this.
However, suggestions have continued to emerge on how relationships can survive this ultimate betrayal; thus, in light of Tiger Woods’ recent admission that he cheated on wife Elin Nordegren with multiple women. At last count, Social Work Today asked couples therapists to discuss best practices for social workers who counsel partners after a serious infidelity. But just what is serious infidelity? Mental health professionals suggest that the level of seriousness is determined by examining a variety of factors, including cause, an unfaithful partner’s motives, and the length of an affair.
Because Woods was promiscuous, his situation is more serious in terms of health, says Del Rey Beach, Fla.-based Donna R. Bellafiore, MSW, LCSW, author of Infidelity Reflections From an On-Line Support Group. Woods’ situation involves sexual drive and impulse control, she says, while a one-time affair could stem from myriad factors, including loneliness, unmet needs, an inability to communicate with a partner, falling out of love, infatuation, or the death of a loved one. “Many times people sexualize instead of dealing with internal emotional pain,” says Bellafiore.
Brown wrote that conflict avoidance, in which a couple can’t stand up to each other because they fear conflict; Intimacy avoidance, in which the partners constantly fight; sexual addiction; split self, in which both partners have neglected their own needs to tend to another’s; exit affair, in which one has decided to leave the partnership; and entitlement affair, in which a partner has devoted so much time and energy to success that he or she is out of touch with the emotional self are likely factors responsible for infidelity.
Woods’ affairs, as well as those of politicians Eliot Spitzer and John Edwards and former president Bill Clinton, were the entitlement type, according to Brown, who conducts workshops for mental health professionals and offers infidelity-related consultation to workplaces and telephone therapy with individuals. “They’ve had so much success, they think anything they do will work,” she says. “They see something they want, they think they can have it, and they go after it.”
Like many who turn to affairs, Woods was attempting to fill an inner void, but his actions were also fueled by his narcissism, says Maya Kollman, MA, a certified master trainer in Imago Relationship Therapy. “It could happen to anyone when you’re treated and used that way by the public as some kind of icon,” Kollman says. “There’s an emptiness to a life when people want you for what you represent but have no interest in you as a human being. All these people want to chew on him but don’t really give a damn about him. The way he chose to fill it is not exemplary but is understandable.”
Perhaps serious infidelity can be defined only from the point of view of the partner who perceives the betrayal. “Infidelity is in the eye of the beholder,” says Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW, LCSW, director of The Divorce Busting Centre in Boulder, CO, and Woodstock, IL.
The perception of serious infidelity is idiosyncratic, she says, referring to a wide range of her own clients, including betrayed partners who recovered after multiple affairs and others who could not mend following only one.
All infidelity is serious in that it severely impacts the betrayed partner, adds Brown.
“The hurt person is shattered; they are in excruciating pain,” says Bellafiore. “They may have had a part in the breakdown of the marriage, but they didn’t say that the other person had to handle the situation in that way.”
Interestingly, maintaining a nonjudgmental attitude has been identified by scholars as one of the remedial factor. These school of thought said topping the best practices list among those interviewed are maintaining neutrality with a couple and demonstrating a nonjudgmental attitude toward the partner who strayed. “Examine your own feelings about infidelity,” says Bellafiore. “If you do have certain biases, work through it.” After participating in workshops or undergoing therapy, if you determine that you can’t be unbiased toward the unfaithful partner, refer the couple to another mental health professional. Bellafiore suggests simply telling the couple they would benefit from a counselor who is more experienced with their type of situation.
The report also identified refraining from swaying a couple in either direction as one among the key solution. According to them, all interviewees also stood firm against swaying the couple in either direction—splitting up or remaining together. As Mick Jones sang in the popular 1981 song by punk rockers The Clash, “should I stay or should I go now?” must be determined by the partners without interference from anyone, including a therapist.
Each person is in charge of his or her own destiny, according to Bellafiore. “As long as they’re comfortable with their choices, their eyes are wide open, and they know why they’re making a decision,” she says, even if the decision is deemed unhealthy by others, such as when a wife stays with a husband for financial security because she’s afraid to be alone or believes her children need a father in the household.
Furthermore, the couples should stop talking to and subsequently influenced by family and friends who may have good intentions but can do damage by taking sides and demonising one partner. “If they can’t talk to each other, they need to call you. I encourage them to write a lot or call me,” says Kollman, who runs intensive private or group workshops for couples and has authored several articles, including “Helping Couples Get the Love They Want: Imago Relationship Therapy With Gay and Lesbian Couples.”
Of course, the partners should be encouraged to talk to each other. And each can be taught to access his or her own emotions and share them with the other. “A lot of people who have serious affairs don’t know their emotional self very well,” says Brown. “Social workers must make them learn what a feeling is.”
Partners sharing feelings is more than simply using “I statements” and avoiding “you statements,” notes Brown. It’s about putting feelings into words that a partner can hear and understand—a feat accomplished only when individuals are attuned to their own emotional selves, she says.
Endeavor to quell the betrayed partner’s ruminations. Getting down to gut level and tapping one’s emotions, says Brown, can help the betrayed partner control obsessive thoughts or ruminations about the cheating partner’s actions with a lover. When rumination gets out of hand, Weiner-Davis says she teaches thought-stopping techniques that consciously shift mental images from negative to positive. In addition to conducting workshops for therapists and intensive therapy for couples, Weiner-Davis has created a variety of resources for couples and therapists, including books, kits, CDs, cassettes, and downloadable audio, such as “One Foot Out the Door: Working With Couples on the Brink.”
Avoid secrecy. It’s important that couples be honest, which includes refusing to hide some things from your partner because doing so is tantamount to colluding may bring suspicion.
If an affair hasn’t yet been disclosed, Brown recommends to counselor of coaching the unfaithful partner about how to broach the topic with his or her partner. If you must hold the secret while you determine how to get the unfaithful partner to talk, it should be for no more than a few weeks, Brown cautions.
In addition, Kollman says, to avoid secrets, she generally conducts therapy sessions with the partners together rather than apart. On the occasions when she counsels one partner at a time, she informs each that whatever she is told will be revealed to the other.

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