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When entering a relationship, there is a mutual understanding about being exclusive, unless stating it’s an open relationship. Now, what constitutes cheating? Most people would agree that sex with another person is physical cheating. What about a kiss? What about making out with someone else? What about being on a dating site? What about porn? What about camgirls? What about an emotional connection? Where does one draw the line? And what happens after it’s been crossed?
In every relationship, there are unique boundaries in place. When those boundaries are crossed, and worse, hidden with lies, the betrayal is excruciating. If the partner finds out about the affair, that is a million times worse than the cheater owning up to their actions. Cheating is one of the worst ways you can hurt your partner, but cheating is common. Marriage ends in divorce 50% of the time. Cheating occurs between 30-60% of the time in marriages. So that begs the question, why do we cheat? What is there to gain? Is it about sex? Is it about an emotional connection? Is it about your partner? Is it about you?
Most people believe that when someone cheats, it’s because of something lacking in their relationship. Now, there may be some cases where that is a factor, but what is the real, deep reason behind why a person cheats? One of my favorite psychologists, Esther Perel, has written a book called, The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity. This book is currently sitting in my shopping cart. Esther Perel has so many videos, including this amazing Ted Talk that might help you understand her viewpoint on infidelity. Her video changed the way I perceived cheating, hence why I can’t wait to read her book!
When cheating occurs, the relationship can survive or it can crumble. That all depends on the two individuals. Do they both want to stay together and work through it? Does the betrayed partner want to leave? Does the cheating partner want to leave?
- If both individuals want to work on rebuilding the relationship, both individuals will need to have their own individual recovery, as well as the couple recovery. The betrayed partner should find all the support they can during this hard time, whether that’s a therapist, a trusted friend, an online forum. The cheating partner should be working on themselves as well, probably through therapy to help them figure out why they ended up choosing to cheat on their partner, and yes cheating is a choice.
- The couples recovery is challenging because the unfaithful partner has known all along about their infidelity, while the faithful partner is shell-shocked and disoriented, not able to distinguish truths from lies. The betrayed partner has every right to set up boundaries to protect themselves with consequences. I.e. “If you see or talk to your mistress again, I will sleep on the couch until I feel emotionally safe.” Boundaries and consequences are not punishments for the unfaithful partner, but protection for the betrayed.
- The unfaithful partner, if they want to save the relationship, should be honest 100%. Answer any and all questions the faithful partner asks. They deserve knowing all the details and leveling the field of knowledge so they can make accurate decisions for themselves. Knowing the details can be important, especially if the cheating was physical and there is a risk of getting an STD. At this point in time, the cheating partner should be humble and non-defensive. The more defensive and angry the unfaithful partner is, the less trusting and safe they seem to the faithful partner.
- Healing takes time, and the average recovery can be anywhere between three to five years to earn trust back, and that’s if the unfaithful partner is working hard to be trustworthy again, and being consistent in their efforts. Trusting someone who betrayed you so profoundly won’t happen overnight, they won’t just “get over it” or “move on” because they need time to process, whereas the unfaithful partner doesn’t need to process because they’ve known their actions all along.
This is just the bare minimum to begin the healing process. In my Resources for Subscribers page, I have lots of resources in regards to infidelity if you are looking for books, articles, and videos to help the healing along!