You’ve just found your partner cheated and you’re wondering if you should stay, or leave. Family and friends might see it as clear cut; black and white – they’ve cheated once so they’ll do it again.
The reality is that this is a grey area, dependent on a lot of factors. Here are some tips to give you an idea of how you might be feeling and how you can move forward.
Shock. Bewilderment. Disbelief. A sense of loss and betrayal. Feelings of being unlovable or not good enough. Anger and distrust directed towards a partner.
All of these and more are emotions I have seen expressed by clients who have discovered their partner is having an affair.
Generally, there is a varying, uncomfortable period of weathering these emotions, as the person re-evaluates their relationship and indeed their own identity as they saw it, before discovering the infidelity.
After this eases off a little, some partners decide to stay and work it out with the other person.
- The partner who cheated needs to weather this emotional storm with their partner. This is no easy task. Generally, there are a lot of questions as the betrayed party seeks to make sense of what and how this has happened.
- Patience and empathy on the part of the person who was unfaithful, is essential.
- If a good and solid friendship existed within the couple beforehand, there is a better chance of overcoming an affair.
- Cultural issues can impact too, as some cultures do not treat infidelity as the deal breaker that others do.
- A good supportive network where family and/or friends listen without overly emphasising their own views on infidelity.
- New boundaries around social media, phone calls and whereabouts may need to be negotiated in the interim and for some time after, as the betrayed party struggles to regain a sense of trust in their partner and the relationship.
- Finding ways to increase personal self-worth outside of the relationship.
What doesn’t help
- Impatience on the part of the person who acted outside of the relationship – there is a lot of repetition in this grief and loss phase, and being able to withstand it is imperative and essential to the healing process.
- Refusing to provide information regarding the infidelity – as this adds to the sense of distrust and isolation of the betrayed party.
- Defending themselves or providing reasons for the infidelity in the crisis stage just after discovery; there will be time for this later but it is too early and potentially damaging for the other person to hear, at this point.
Get some professional help – and try to talk to the counsellor at least on the phone beforehand so you can feel if they are a good fit for you.
Ensure your therapist of choice has expertise in relationship counselling, as it is a specific type of therapy which takes into account the specifics of couple dynamics.
Infidelity comes up a lot in relationship counselling, and a counsellor should be accepting of both parties attending, if you don’t feel this is the case, don’t hesitate to seek another therapist.
A lot of the above information was drawn from the book by Esther Perel – The State of Affairs, Rethinking infidelity