Dealing with infidelity in a relationship is not easy. Those who love and care about you may tell you to leave your partner. However, it’s not always that clear cut.
There are several big MYTHS about infidelity:
- If there wasn’t sex it wasn’t infidelity or cheating.
- Infidelity only affects married couples.
- Only women are affected by infidelity.
- Infidelity only occurs in heterosexual relationships.
- If it was only one time, you should just “get over it”.
- You’ll never recover from infidelity.
- And unfortunately the list goes on. We’ll discuss it over time but in the meantime…
Infidelity has many layers to it. It’s a trauma that you and your partner are impacted by. It’s hard not to take infidelity personally when you’re on the receiving end and sometimes even harder to extend empathy to your partner if they hurt you. If you are the one that initiated the infidelity (physical or emotional), same rules apply. Regardless of the circumstances, honesty, transparency and accountability are required to even try to process what happened.
There are also a few things to consider:
- Don’t Feel Pressured to Have Answers – If you are actively dealing with infidelity, there are a few important things to consider. Infidelity doesn’t always have to lead to you leaving your partner if that’s not what you want or aren’t even sure yet. If infidelity is a zero tolerance boundary for you, that is totally understandable and the plan for terminating the relationship will probably be put into action sooner than later. No matter what, take the time you need to decide what is best for you. When you have children or shared realities and goals, that can take some time to untangle. Do not rush. The decisions you have to make are super important and shouldn’t be taken lightly or approached impulsively or strictly out of emotion.
- Assess Your Needs – While we usually want to identify positive needs (things you DO need) versus negative needs (things you don’t need), in difficult or emotionally volatile situations like this, you naturally will identify both. And for a situation that’s not ideal to begin with – that might have to be okay. These do’s and don’ts will serve as rules of engagement for how you function at various points. They will change and they are not written in stone. Start one week at a time. Do you need physical space and need to be in different spaces for a period of time? If that isn’t an option right now, how can you occupy the same residence and be respectful to each other’s boundaries? What is the priority (i.e., figuring out childcare or parenting responsibilities, financial tasks, etc.). Try to be honest and assertive versus impulsive and retaliatory.
- Get Qualified Objective, Professional Support – You already know I’m an advocate for therapy. Couples therapy can help to support you through discovery and exploring things about yourself and your relationship. It can also help you unpack and face some things that you have never thought about coming to terms with. With infidelity, getting into individual or couples therapy can help you pinpoint what gaps or missed opportunities contributed to the infidelity and trust being broken. You can also get help with developing a structure for how to function in the short term and figure out whether atonement and recovery is desired or possible.
I believe in love and want all couples to win, which is why I chose to specialize in couples therapy and affair recovery. It’s never too late. Whether recent or in the past, I encourage you to address infidelity and ensure that you’re healed to create honest space for your relationship future with the same partner or otherwise.