In the book This is how you lose her, Dominican American author Junot Diaz wrote, “You are free to choose. But you are not free from the consequences of your choices.” Seldom has a statement been more true than in cases of infidelity.
Marriage and family therapists often work with couples where one or both partners have chosen to cheat. And yes, it is a choice. You could have taken a different path to deal with the relationship issues, including a demand for therapy if the relationship was to continue.
Let’s be honest. Almost everyone, at some point while they are in a committed relationship, will be approached by someone other than their partner. It is extremely flattering to be noticed, to be given undivided attention. If you are happy with yourself and satisfied with the state of your relationship, being approached is a compliment. If, on the other hand, you are not, then it becomes an opportunity. An opportunity in which far too many engage.
For those couples who choose to stay together and try to work through the affair, here are a couple things that you should expect.
- Healing will take time.
The affair wreaks havoc on the fabric of the relationship, your self-worth, confidence in remaining a couple or family, your ability to trust and be trusted, your willingness to be vulnerable and to love. After all, the only time you can be hurt is if you are vulnerable. And what is more vulnerable than being in love.
Many partners share that there is an expectation to “just get over it”, after some positive changes in the relationship have been made. If you cheated, expect that your partner may have moments where unexpected and painful memory surfaces. These moments may become less frequent over time, but they may still be present. All you can do is allow them the opportunity to talk it out and once again tell them you are sorry. You cannot change the past, you can work on the present. If were cheated on, try very hard not to take positive memories and redefine them into something negative and ugly.
- Both partners need to make changes.
The problems that were inherent in the relationship before the infidelity, are still there. You have the opportunity to work through those issues and make your relationship stronger than it has ever been.
Many partners share that they don’t feel they have the right to ask for changes in the relationship because they were the one who cheated. Both partners have needs and wants that have for too long gone unfulfilled and that were evolving before the cheating started. Now is not the time to hold back.
If you cheated, you absolutely have an obligation to share what needs to change. It is never an excuse or explanation for the infidelity, but it gives you and your partner the chance to create a relationship that is new and powerful. If you were cheated on, your anger and hurt over the infidelity is understandable and should be expected. How you handle your feelings defines your willingness to make changes. Were you really that satisfied with how your partner was treating you? If not, now is the time to make sure that your needs will be met.
After all, It would be a shame if either one of you looked in the mirror down the road and said “I wish that I had tried harder.” The truth is, that having and keeping a great relationship, of being loved and in love, is a consequence of your hard work to make it so.
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