It’s one of the impossibles. Finding out your spouse or partner has cheated on you and on what you thought was a committed relationship. And here it begins, the cycle of grief; Shock, Denial, Anger, Guilt, Despair, Bargaining, Depression, and then, when you’re ready, and you will get there, Acceptance. But not before the struggle with why, how, with who, when, how many times, and then back to why again.
Half my practice, at any given time, has experienced infidelity, and are trying to work through it. Together, we work through it. Half of my clients stay in these relationships, mending and repairing, while the other half has given up, and left, leaving the other half struggling with the forever unanswerable, why. I get asked by almost every client at one time or another, if they should stay. I get asked by both sides, both the adulterer, and the person to whom this happened.
My answer is always this…
You need to do what is right for you, and what feels right, and that, may become clearer in time. I don’t have the answers because I’m not in the business of telling people what to do. Rather, I help you figure out what you feel deep down inside, and we figure out how to make that work. Whatever that looks like. I’m on your side. And so, we talk. A lot. We work through feelings, identify behaviours, look to see what went wrong so we can learn not to repeat those behaviours, and figure out what next. We try to understand what happened, in the face of wheat seems to be immeasurably impossible and shocking, and we search for reason.
Here’s the most important thing I want to share with you. If you are the one who cheated, you are the one at fault, and hold all accountability and blame. This, I want to make very clear. The first question you should be asking yourself is, why you did it. You made a choice. Your choice. You and you alone are the only one responsible and accountable. Only you. It’s never the other persons’ fault. Ever. You can make all the excuses you want, and blame your choice on all the things your spouse or partner has been doing wrong or not enough of, but at the end of the day, it was your decision to cheat, and you alone.
Why do people cheat?
Because, we’re afraid to talk, to voice our feelings, and our fears, and share what we feel discontented about or lacking. Our Ego’s run our emotions, and hold us back from dealing with the emotional. The emotional is painful. Being creatures of humanity, our base emotion is to be connected, and connectedness can only come from verbal and tactile emotion and language. Yet when we feel as though we’re not getting enough of why we want, or too much negative, we tend to clam up, shut down, and shut off. We’re not perfect, but we do have choice.
Granted, it’s scary to talk about our feelings. But, at the end of the day, it’s never ok to cheat, and it’s always our choice and decision to do so. I always remind my clients of two things; Asking for help comes from a place of strength, and if you’re having thoughts about being with someone else, and committing adultery, to muster up enough courage to have a conversation about how you’re feeling, and what your needs and wants are. It’s such a valuable conversation to have, and well worth the courage it takes to have it, because the alternative, is just worse.
If you’ve been cheated on, here are some things you need to ask yourself in order to start processing, getting through it, and moving forward.
1. Does infidelity fall under your list of absolute non-negotiables? If it does, is there any wiggle room. The answer to this will depend much upon your willingness to stay and work through it, and the level of commitment and investment you have in the relationship.
2. As the cheater, how much information are you giving? And as the one who has been cheated on, how much information are you getting? I always, say, the cheater is like CNN; they’re only going to tell you why they want, and how much, when and if they’re ready or willing.
3. Having said that, the person being cheated on will have to decide what their trust level is, and if, under the circumstances, they can manage living in a situation knowing that this has occurred, and knowing that there is much to rebuild and repair, including the biggest aspect of their relationship, trust.It’s going to take work. A lot of work, sp be ready because this may not be easy, but you don’t have to do it alone.
4. Consider a rest period, aka, a break. Giving space between each other is often what’s needed to catch your breath, gain some perspective, and allow your brain to think and respond. You’ve already been reactive, and now it may be time to give yourself a break and take a breather.
5. Consider this, as a last resort option, if you’re the one whose been cheated on, and you just can’t go on one more day and have to call it quits. Not only may this be a gift in disguise, but sometimes, it’s better to be alone than lonely, and sometimes, two people are better together, apart.
I’m all for rebuild and repair, if that’s what the best decision is for yourself. And if it’s not, I’m still on your side. Either way, both of you will still have to work on your emotions and feelings. Help and support is out there, and this is what we do in Counselling. We work through all the emotions, the anger, the disbelief, we try and understand the behaviour, figure out how to proceed, learn, and grow.
Ask for help, if you need it. If you, or someone you know, is in this situation, know that it’s not your fault. The choices and actions of others are never your fault, and you don’t have to go through this alone. Connect with me, and lets get you to a happier, better place.