Adultery, Addiction and Abuse can go hand in hand in ripping a marriage apart. If a couple is experiencing The Three A’s, a term coined by professional marriage counselors, then the two faces a long, difficult and thorny journey to healing the pain. The decision whether to continue, or dissolve, their marriage looms over their heads.

The following information will help such couples understand what must be done to rescue their union:

First, Address the Addiction

Deep work on repairing a marriage cannot take place without first addressing the addiction problem that affects the addict within the relationship. No amount of couples therapy can alone uproot the raging need of that person to satisfy his or her craving for alcohol or drugs. 

Therapists often find untreated addicts to be first-class deniers, liars, manipulators, and excuse-makers, whose sole objective is to feed their addiction. Often, the addict has to become thoroughly ashamed of his or her damaging behaviors to want to seek treatment. Only an addict who is in recovery, willing to work on making up for the lies and deception that wrecked the marriage, can adequately respond to marriage counseling.

The most vital step, then, is to make sure the addict in the relationship is in deep recovery; guided by professional addiction therapists. The addict is ready to work on the marriage when he or she is open about being an addict, is willing to change his or her manipulative ways, and has been given the green light to pursue treatment as a couple.

Dealing with the Pain of Adultery

Affairs inflict a lot of emotional trauma. Akin to a grenade going off in the marriage, the hurt party is thrown into a world of desperate insecurity and angry feelings. He or she feels lost and in pain, and initially disbelieves the shattered foundation of trust sustaining the relationship can be repaired at all.

However, despite most people saying an affair will instantly provoke them to file for divorce, statistics show that 60-75% of partnerships survive the betrayal. Often, the injured party needs to go through the full cycle of emotions, vent and process in the presence of a qualified therapist who can monitor the conversation.

Doubtlessly, the betrayed party will have many questions about the affair, where and when it happened, who was involved in the cover up, how they kept their encounters secret, etc. These deserve an answer, as honesty in providing such information will help both parties process what happened and eventually decide over the next steps.

At all costs, the cheating party should spare the conversation of the dirty, sexual details that can aggravate the pain of the affair. Nor should s/he directly compare the betrayed spouse to the third, outside person of the illicit affair. This may be difficult, but indispensable.

According to Swift River, “It’s important to find the balance between keeping the lines of communication open and avoiding the conversation escalating into a major fight.”

The Psychological Link between Addiction and Adultery

Key to moving the relationship forward understands the role alcohol and/or drugs played in triggering the infidelity. Experts believe there is a thrill-seeking gene in about half of the population that leads to cheating and promiscuity. This, paired with a propensity for addiction, likely led to more than one moment when alcohol and drugs provided the moral disconnection, the courage and the impetus in the addict to break the rules.

Address the Root Causes

Still, there are root psychological causes behind every act of infidelity, and these must be addressed if the marriage is to fully recover from the crisis. Embarking on discussing and uprooting these, while building new pathways of communication can help all couples facing The Three A’s to rebuild their union and possibly find a new stage of happiness and contentment with each other.

It will take work, but a new kind of marriage can be had if the hope and will is there to serve as a foundation for the rekindled relationship.

Guest post by Michelle Peterson,

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