What Do You Do When Your Partner Cheats

November 28, 2017  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

The most explosive, chaotic and painful part of an affair-–and the hardest part of recovering from it—can be the disclosure itself. How a spouse finds out about the betrayal, the identity of the other party or parties involved and when and for how long the acts took place are some of the details often unloaded on the innocent partner all at once that determine how much trauma he or she will experience.

The digital age has made discovery an internet /cell phone event. Images both erotic or vulgar, and words of passion and endearment are laid out in black, white and living colour to become seared into the betrayed partner’s memory banks. We go from niggling suspicion to dead certainty with the click of a button. An affair that happens after the birth of a baby, the death of a parent, a child or a good friend or other vulnerable event is more devastating than an opportunistic one night stand that “just happened” at a conference out of town.

For marriages conducted mostly for economic reasons, an affair threatened, and in much of the world, still threatens financial security. But today’s relationships in the Western World are based on love, romance, being chosen, feeling special and believing one has found a refuge from the outside world. When an affair happens in this kind of relationship, our sense of identity is fragmented. When the person we believed was our soul mate cheats, the sense we had of an irreplaceable bond with him or her is shattered with frightening results. Innocence and the shelter of monogamy is replaced by the broken promises and the possibility of divorce.

Because the disclosure is so traumatic, the injured party can easily become fixated on the details, wanting more and more of them, repeated over and over. But in terms of rescuing the marriage or, for that matter, just moving on to a place where one can decide whether it is worth rescuing or, if not, how to terminate it, there are more important questions to explore.

Who, what, where and when are not as important as WHY and WHY NOW? Taking time to reflect on the immediate motives, reasons, emotional circumstances, and on the sexual, childhood and adolescent history is an important process of going forward to whichever destination. For some people it is just easier to get divorced than do this deeper work.

To assume the marriage is itself dysfunctional and is the main reason for an affair is naïve, not to mention self-serving for the offender. On the other hand, to assume the problem is nothing other than a moral flaw in the betrayer, for which the solution is divorce, is to nullify one’s past choices, commitments, sacrifices and achievements as a couple, and play down the impact on the children. (Oops, remember them? Solid evidence exists that they do worse after divorce in terms of , for example, mental health and school achievement.

To move through and beyond adultery, both partners must work through shock, and grief to remorse, asking for forgiveness, forgiving and reconciliation or closure. They must also develop the skills for being married well, or being single again, in an enlightened way. If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger.









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  • If you would like to follow up with more information about affairs please read Esther Perel's new book. Some of her ideas are included in ...

    The State of Affairs – Rethinking Infidelity