Infidelity: A Modern Malady? Posted by: Dr. Matt

How does infidelity enter a marriage?  It’s usually years in the making…

By: Michael Waldrip

Most couples opt for monogamy. And with this decision there is the implicit agreement that the couple will be faithful to each other until death. But experience and statistics show this will probably not be true in many relationships.  The modern couple has expanded opportunities to meet others in ways that did not exist decades ago.  Social media is an avenue to test the waters, and the internet offers boundless possibilities with the click of a mouse. With the demands of work, it is likely that one will spend more time with others than one will spend together with their partner. How can the modern couple navigate these uncertain waters?

Each couple goes through an “Orientation” stage with each other. This stage permits the couple to become comfortable and predictable with one another. There may be potential problems or actual problems in the relationship: finances, sex, communication, intimacy, in-laws and children. But the couple will not address these issues because these issues will upset the relationship applecart. It is easier to sweep issues under the rug than upset the balance the couple has carefully crafted in their relationship together.  Feelings of needs being unmet and frustration can simmer under the surface for years and decades. The couple juggles closeness and distance. Attempts at intimacy tend to fail. Resentment against the other partner builds.  Comfortable distance is the reality shared by the couple. Stagnation prevails.

The Breach

If the couple fails to address these issues, then the possibility of wishing to escape the present relationship for another relationship looks inviting. And if either partner is not careful, boundaries may be crossed.  Physical and emotional intimacy may be shared with another outside the relationship. When this happens and the other partner finds out, the couple is now in the “Disorientation” stage. The infidelity has been exposed and disorientation replaces orientation for the couple. Nothing in the relationship is the same. Trust has been broken. Questions emerge. Is it possible to ever trust this person again? How could you do this? How long has this been going on? Is it over with the other person? Could this happen again? What will this mean for us? How do we tell our children, family and friends?

The Work

The couple is now forced to address new issues. This is the “Reorientation” stage.  Should this relationship end? Can trust be restored? If we stay together, can we build a new and better relationship?

The reorientation stage offers the couple new challenges: the possibility of separation, divorce or perhaps a renewed commitment. The main tasks in the reorientation stage are for the couple to get healing and to have closure and to move forward.

If you or your partner have experienced infidelity and are going through the stage of disorientation, it is usually best not to make any hasty decisions because of the emotions and consequences involved.  Get a professional to help guide you through this time in your relationship.  I may be reached at (504) 255-4205.

Michael Waldrip, PLPC, PLMFT