Infidelity in Marriage: From Hollywood to Your World

Given the recent revelations about the Sandra Bullock and Jesse James scandal and the less recent revelations about Tiger Woods, it is impossible to escape the age-old topic of infidelity.

Sandra Bullock and Jesse James
Sandra Bullock and Jesse James at the Oscars

Sandra Bullock is known as America’s sweetheart. Her story broke on the heals of winning the coveted best actress Oscar award for her performance in The Blind Side. Her glorious win morphed into suffering and grief when the allegations of Jesse’s multiple affairs became known.

Tiger Woods and his wife, Elin
Tiger Woods and his wife, Elin

The widely reported stories have stirred compassion and empathy for Sandra Bullock and Elin Noregren Woods while piquing the attention and disgust of ordinary Americans.

Most of us think of Hollywood as the epicenter when it comes to infidelity and compromised values. The truth is however that this behavior happens in our own communities, perhaps even in our own homes, yet on a much quieter scale.

What are some clues that your partner may be having an affair?

Noticing changes of behavior like these can be tip offs that your partner is having or thinking of having an affair:

  • renewed interest in sexual activity and experimentation
  • extreme secretiveness and defensiveness
  • sudden attention to appearance and preening, loss of weight
  • intense need for self-gratification

This is a good time to have a serious dialogue with your partner, if that has not already begun. Therapy is a valuable way of intervening.

How to move forward in the face of infidelity?

Infidelity constitutes a breach of the agreed upon rules of an intimate relationship. It undermines the integrity and trust in a relationship. Usually infidelity involves deception about physical intimacy outside of the relationship, but emotional intimacy can also be implicated as a form of betrayal or cheating.

The question that comes up is ‘can the betrayal of infidelity be overcome?’ It doesn’t really make a difference if you are an Oscar winning actress, the wife of the world’s best golfer or the wife of anybody, for that matter. In my experience the suffering felt as a result of a spouse’s betrayal is one of the most emotionally painful experiences a person can endure. Worse yet is when a partner wishes to continue the extramarital affair.

While a partner may eventually be able to forgive this breach in trust, the memory of the betrayal is never forgotten.

The path to reconciliation

The path to reconciliation begins with an authentic apology and display of true remorse. There needs to be a willingness on both sides to work at repairing the damage incurred and at the ongoing communication within the marriage.

It is also important for both partners to examine their own behavior because it is too simplistic to lay all the blame on the one who cheated. There is a dynamic in a marriage or partnership that involves the actions of two people. Both players need to take ownership of their behavior.

That said, there is the stark reality that regardless of what was going on within the relationship, one person chose to step outside of the boundaries and break the trust.

For many there is no going back after the rupture caused by infidelity. There are also many other couple who choose to work through the pain and rebuild their relationships. They examine the experience of infidelity and use it as an opportunity to self-reflect, grow and change behaviors.

The ultimate decision to end the marriage or to go deeper and work on the relationship is an exquisitely personal decision. Therapy, insight and introspection help tremendously, but in the end your gut trumps all.

Sandra Bullock and Elin Noregren are dealing with serial adulterers, men who are “addicted to sex” and cheating. Seems to me that the odds are wildly against their marriages working out, as their men are claiming to have no control over their own behavior. It is tough to change or manage a behavior when you feel powerless over that behavior.

What are your thoughts about whether a marriage can work after infidelity.

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