Weathering the Storm of Infidelity in Your Relationship
A healthy relationship has several components which include: trust, respect, honesty, and communication. Without these key elements, your relationship is at risk of failing. And if you are missing one or some of these elements, there is a good chance that you can experience infidelity. Have you asked yourself what does it mean for your relationship if your partner is unfaithful? I always approach the topic of infidelity by first defining it. Infidelity is defined as engaging in inappropriate relations with someone other than your partner which violate the trust and boundaries of your primary relationship. The types of inappropriate relations could be financial, emotional, and sexual in nature. These actions can occur one time, or undetermined amount of times. Bottom line: cheating is cheating, whether you do it once, or 100 times.
How do you respond when you find out your partner has been unfaithful, and can your relationship recover from this violation of trust? Well I wish there was a short and sweet answer for everyone, but the reality is that there isn’t. Everyone’s situation is different. You have to do what you is right for you. Here are some pointers to consider when trying to figure out whether or not your relationship is worth the effort to try and rebuild.
Length of the Relationship. When considering what to do about your relationship, think about the amount of time, and history that the relationship has. For example, if you have only been in a relationship with your partner for a month as opposed to 2 years, then most likely your bond isn’t that strong in the shorter relationship. You may have built a stronger bond in the 2 year relationship, and possibly even have children or other investments with each other. If your relationship is relatively new, it may not be in your best interest to put forth effort in a relationship that starts out as being unhealthy or deceptive.
Quality of the Relationship. It’s important to reflect on the quality of the relationship prior to the incident of infidelity. Sure every relationship has it’s ups and downs, but you have to consider whether yours consisted of more ups or downs. Perhaps it may even be helpful to make a list to yourself. If your list consists of more downs, throughout the history of your relationship, you may want to reconsider this relationship. Listed are some examples of possible questions to consider.
- With the exception of the infidelity, could you say that you had a great partner?
- Was your partner attuned to your emotional, physical, and financial needs?
- Was your partner there when you needed them?
- Was your partner emotionally supportive to you?
- Does your partner care about you?
Consequences of the Infidelity. When we think about someone being unfaithful to us, we automatically know that their actions have a negative emotional impact on us, because our trust has been violated. However it is also helpful to consider the impact of other consequences as well. For example, did your partner’s infidelity result in you or them contracting 1 or more STDs? If you did contract STD’s, how detrimental were they to your health? Did your partner’s infidelity result in them having a child with someone else? If your health was jeopardized, or your partner began a family outside of your relationship, that is a strong indication that they were careless and not considerate of your health in addition to their own. They also weren’t responsible enough to use contraceptives and prevent long-term consequences. Other things to consider are finances. Financially, was your partner contributing your shared income to this other person? Did your partner try to build a life with this other person by making a big investment such as buying a house or moving in with this person? If your partner engaged in high risk behaviors or actions suggesting that they were trying to build a life with another person, that is an indication that you should probably end the relationship.
How You Found Out About the Infidelity. Finding out about your partner’s infidelity is traumatic enough in itself, but how you learn about the infidelity can also tell you a lot about your relationship. For example, if you found out about your partner’s infidelity because you were going through their phone or emails (which may be something that you do on a regular basis), this could be an indication that you don’t trust your partner. If you don’t trust your partner, then it suggests that your relationship is in trouble and missing a key element in order for it to be healthy. Another example would be if you found out that your partner was cheating because a friend or family member saw them out at a luncheon together. That could be an indication that your partner is very comfortable with the relationship, and wasn’t trying to hide it from anyone. However, if your partner told you about the infidelity or admitted to it the first time when asked, this could be indicative that they felt guilty, or they cared enough and wanted to be honest about owning up to their mistake.
Did Your Actions Contribute to the Infidelity? This is an important question to reflect on and is often a hard thing to ask without being offended, blaming, or defensive. However, it is not meant to be accusatory, but rather an evaluation of your behavior in the relationship. It’s easier to say, “he/she cheated on me, and they are the problem.” But it takes two people to make up a relationship. You have to ask yourself, what was your role in your relationship with your partner? When two people are in a relationship, they like to feel alive. That means that they want to feel wanted, needed, and of course sexually attractive. Do you pay attention to your partner, and communicate with them? Are you still intimate with your partner? Do you take your partner out on dates? Do you compliment your partner and tell them that you appreciate them? Do you express love, affection, and respect for your partner? Do you validate your partner’s feelings when you communicate with them? People want to feel validated by the person that they are with. That means that sometimes, you still want to take the time and effort to show your partner that they are sexy, wonderful, and they give you butterflies like they did when you first started dating.
These are important things to consider when reflecting on the value of your relationship after you have discovered your partner’s infidelity. The emotional toll is often very painful. After time and letting your emotions heal – it can be thought of as a learning experience. Only you can decide if your relationship is worth saving. It is not an easy decision. It is important to get the support of friends and loved ones while going through this tough time. You may need the help of a therapist, through individual or couples treatment. A therapist can provide objective insight without being judgmental.
© Natalie Jones, PsyD, LPCC