By Preeti Kopikar
Can a marriage survive infidelity? What work must the couple do to heal the wounds and restore the wholeness of the marital bond?
Shweta and Ashish were married for 14 relatively happy years. Shweta was therefore completely unprepared when Ashish confessed to her a few days after his 40th birthday that he was ‘seeing’ someone. As her world fell apart in slow motion, Shweta wondered how Ashish could have rocked a peaceful home for a meaningless affair. She dismissed it as a midlife crisis at first, but as she introspected, she discovered cracks in the marriage she had not discerned earlier. The couple eventually sought out a counsellor to put their marriage back on track. The counsellor made them aware of how each had contributed to the failure of the relationship and also helped them recognise the value of a steady and healthy marriage. After a small ceremony of forgiveness and acceptance, they were able to put their past behind and inject new life in their marriage.
It is far more challenging to cultivate a healthy marriage today than at any time in the past. The opportunities for mixing and mingling with the opposite sex is unprecedented now that women are forging into every area of human endeavour. Titillating material on the internet, TV and other channels of mass media, also tantalise the imagination with forbidden pleasures. Furthermore, the challenges of everyday life, with its intense competitiveness and resultant stress, is taking its own toll on intimate relationships, increasing the temptation to stray. Add to this the collapse of the conventional values and traditional taboos that held back rampant libidos and we have a potent mix for disaster.
|“Marriages are made in heaven and so are lightning and thunder” goes the saying|
Explaining the phenomenon, Dr. Dayal Mirchandani, a psychiatrist and counsellor, says, “The monotony of a family life can slowly sap a marriage of its romance. Any kind of unfulfilled desire can drive the spouse to seek love elsewhere.”
The instant gratification of an extramarital escapade adds zest to their lives and distracts them from working on their dull and long-standing marriage. The freshness of the new experience becomes appealing enough for them to take the risk.
The price of infidelity
Infidelity is probably one of the most destructive blows a marriage can endure. When the key wedding vow to be faithful is flouted, the cheated partner experiences deep feelings of rejection, betrayal and hurt. Even if marriages survive the wound, they are rarely whole again, unless both partners courageously decide to work on the marriage and on themselves.
In an internet article, writer Kathy Harrison says, “If I were to lay my heart out on a table for you to see, it would be covered with deep scars. This would be the result of the land mines that exploded as I’ve walked through the territory called adultery. Adultery is the ultimate disrespect for your wife and children. When that line was crossed, it told me that I had no value and neither did our four children. The trust I had given my husband for 26 years was shattered.”
Shushma’s husband put her down at every opportunity, a sport he indulged in almost from the beginning of their marriage. In retaliation, she had an extra-marital affair.
|The monotony of a family life can slowly sap a marriage of its romance. Any kind of unfulfi lled desire can drive the spouse to seek love elsewhere|
The marriage was never the same after that. Her husband never let her forget that she had cheated on him and blamed every last thing that went wrong even upto her burning the dishes on her infidelity. Sushma endured his punitive treatment as her just desserts for 20 years, but when he began to put her down in public, her dormant self-esteem awoke and she insisted on being treated with respect if she were not to walk out of the marriage. Her husband was unwilling to surrender the upper hand in their power equation, but eventually agreed to see a counsellor. Slowly and painfully, the couple is rebuilding its stores of trust and commitment once again.
“Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit…” said Peter Ustinov.
The truth of the matter is that marriage needs work. For two people of differing genders, backgrounds, inclinations and experiences to pull together harmoniously requires a rare degree of maturity on the part of both partners. It is the consistent practice of respect and consideration for each other, and a determination to overcome one’s own limitations, that will ensure that a marriage wears well.
Aniket Gupta (name changed) shares a wonderful relationship with Adity, his wife of over 25 years. Calling her his ‘love, lover, best friend and guide” he shares that what makes the marriage work is that both strive to please the other.
When the crucial aspect of thoughtful consideration is missing, a marriage begins to fail. Karuna, an otherwise successful professional, was a long-suffering spouse of a suspecting husband. Frustrated at losing his job, Harshad gave Karuna a hard time. He suspected her of having an affair, and put her thorough a senseless test to prove herself. The sickening marriage drove her straight into the arms of Harshad’s good friend, Ashok.
|The opportunities for mixing and mingling with the opposite sex is unprecedented now that women are forging into every area of human endeavour. Titillating material on the internet, TV and other channels of mass media, also tantalise the imagination with forbidden pleasures.|
Though the marriage broke up and Harshad re-married, he also sought counselling which made him realise what went wrong with the earlier marriage.
Happily ever after
So can a couple live “happily ever after” even after being traumatised by infidelity?
“Most definitely yes,” says Dr Mirchandani, “as long as you can answer this question honestly, ‘How much do you love your spouse?’ Is it enough to forgive and forget?” If the answer is in the positive for both, then half the battle is won.
Before working on improving the relationship, it is important to accept that one partner has slipped up. Accepting one’s mistake is essential for the problem not to arise again. Not accepting one’s mistake only pushes issues under the carpet from where they may emerge at a later stage.
With determination and commitment, infidelity can actually help strengthen and build up the relationship in the same way that cracks in a building can force us to add more mortar and plaster to save it.
Dev and Sheela Mehta (names changed) got married when they were 21 and had two children early in the relationship. At first they were happy, but
|Before working on improving the relationship, it is important to accept that one partner has slipped up. Accepting one’s mistake is essential for the problem not to arise again.|
postpartum depression and Dev’s long workdays and preoccupation with sports caused the young couple to drift apart and Sheela eventually had an affair. Her affair stunned Dev. ‘I was angry,’ he said.
Sheela’s affair nearly destroyed her marriage. It ultimately, however, brought her closer to her husband. ‘Our relationship is definitely stronger,’ says Dev. ‘We’ve learned a lot about each other and a lot about ourselves.’
The two went on a retreat with other struggling couples and learned how to make their marriage work, and most importantly, love again.
‘Would I choose to go through the experience of an affair and nearly divorcing in order to become stronger in our marriage? Absolutely not,’ Sheela said. ‘Would we be where we are without that happening? I don’t think so. I fully believe we would already be divorced.’
Seek help from a marriage counsellor. Use discretion while involving parents. Keep them in the loop, but refrain from getting them involved. Parents get emotional about their children’s future and are blinded by their love for them. In such a situation, sides are taken and the reality is all but forgotten.
Go back to the basics…it is but natural that a long-standing marriage, if not kept well tended, could silently collect dust. Therefore, it is important to, every now and then, for the couple to press the ‘re-start’ button. Make an effort to do small special things for each other. Nothing over the top or expensive, just something very touching.
|Get married again! Call in a priest to solemnise the relationship once again. A small ceremony of forgiveness and then go on your second, third or is it your fourth honeymoon?|
Every weekend share with each other the issues that could have caused hurt. This is a delicate matter and is always advisable to do so in the presence of a counsellor. Refuse to be judgmental or form quick opinions.
Most importantly, get married again! Invite a few of your friends and close family. Call in a priest to solemnise the relationship once again. A small ceremony of forgiveness and then go on your second, third or is it your fourth honeymoon? In case of broken trust, share mobiles with your partner and also passwords of your email id, especially when you are trying to overcome an affair.
Presto, you have a marriage again.
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