INFIDELITY AND BROKEN TRUST
INFIDELITY AND BROKEN TRUST
• How could he do that to me? To us??
• How can she say she loves me and then do that?
• Why am I not good enough?
These are just a few of the multitude of questions you ask your self after learning your partner has been unfaithful to your relationship. Discovering an affair is devastating for most people. Understandably you are experiencing a convergence of emotions including but not limited to:
- Rage - The rage of being your partner sharing a part of themselves that was promised to you can be overwhelming.
- Anger - He/she has been lying to me! How could that happen? How did I not know?
- Rejection - I’m obviously not enough. He wouldn’t do that if he loved me.
- Betrayal - She destroyed our entire life together and has been lying this entire time. How could anyone do that to someone they love?
- Disbelief - There’s no way he/she could have been doing this without me knowing. I can’t believe the person I love would ever hurt me this badly.
- Hurt - The PAIN! the pain is unbearable. How am I going to live through this?
- Fear - What if he/she leaves? What if I leave?
- Anxiety - What will life be like now? What should I do?
After a while there is the Grief and Loss. It’s totally appropriate for you to feel these deeper feelings of loss and grief. You’ve lost the security of a faithful partner, you’ve lost the dream of a perfect person who wouldn’t hurt you.
You have lost so much, and it’s uncertain what you will ever regain. You’ve lost the security of a faithful partner, you’ve lost the dream of a perfect person who wouldn’t hurt you and you’ve lost confidence in your ability to trust your own judgment and other losses.
How to Deal with Infidelity in a Relationship
If infidelity has arisen in your relationship, it is imperative you seek therapy. It is possible to overcome infidelity and move forward to create a stronger, successful, happy and healthy marriage. The decision to try to stay together or end the marriage is intensely personal and there is no right or wrong answer for everyone.
When infidelity occurs in a relationship, it can be very devastating for the parties involved. Infidelity involves breaking a promise to be completely faithful to your partner, and when it happens, it erases the trust that existed in the relationship. Dealing with infidelity is challenging and it raises tough questions. Should you stay? Should you forgive? Can you ever trust again? Will things ever be the same? If you’ve just found out that your partner has been unfaithful and you’re not sure of what to do, therapy is the place to get answers.
It’s important to note that infidelity can occur in any relationship not just marriages. We often think it’s never going to happen in our relationship, but existing statistics show that infidelity occurs in about a third of relationships. A happy fulfilling relationship is not an insurance policy against infidelity, although it can be a helpful deterrent.
Why do people cheat?
There is no single reason that infidelity occurs, but research shows there is an increase in opportunistic infidelity as opposed to planning to stray.
People cheat for a variety of reasons, and it rarely has anything to do with the person that’s being cheated on. You might think your partner was unfaithful because of something you did or didn’t do, but that’s rarely true. Here are some reasons people cheat:
- To feel desirable
- Impulse/Lack of self-control
- Impaired decision making under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Sex addiction
Remember that none of these reasons are an excuse, and your partner made choices.
What Counts as an Affair?
An affair is anything that is done without your partner’s knowledge and approval. If you ask yourself, would my partner be okay with me doing this? Am I comfortable telling my partner about this when I get home? If the answer is no, you are being unfaithful.
What one person considers an affair or infidelity may not be considered infidelity by someone else. Knowing what your spouse views as infidelity is a key to maintaining your marital vows or committed relationship. For example, some people might not consider viewing pornography as cheating, while other people do. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what you and your partner consider cheating to be.
Some view infidelity only as sexual intercourse with a non-partner and therefore may not consider emotional affairs to be cheating. However, this type of infidelity can be more detrimental to a relationship than physical infidelity, as an emotional affair might indicate that the partner committing the infidelity is no longer invested in the relationship.
Studies have shown that women appear to be more likely to forgive sexual affairs since there is no emotional bond, while men have a more difficult time forgiving a sexual affair.
There are two main categories of infidelity: Physical and Emotional, with several different subcategories.
- Emotional Affair: An emotional affair is sometimes referred to as an affair of the heart. An emotional affair is when a person not only invests more of their emotional energy outside their marriage but also receives emotional support and companionship from the new relationship. In an emotional affair, a person feels closer to the other party and may experience increasing sexual tension or chemistry. This type of affair occurs when one partner becomes emotionally attached to someone other than his or her spouse. Sharing problems, issues, life dreams and goals with someone other than your spouse or partner takes attention away from your relationship and is considered an emotional affair. What distinguishes an emotional affair from a friendship is the assumption of emotional roles between the two participants that mimic of those of an actual relationship - with regards to confiding personal information and turning to the other person during moments of vulnerability or need.
- Object Affair: This is a situation where the attention of one partner is drawn off the primary relationship because that attention is placed on something outside the relationship, reshuffling the person's priorities relative to the primary relationship. This might be work, a hobby, an activity, an actual object or some other interest. More and more often the object is a smartphone or tablet. Yes, you can be having an affair with your phone, if you pay more attention to it than your loved one, that is a deterrent to a healthy relationship. A healthy balance of outside interests is perfectly fine, normal and encouraged in a committed relationship, but when one is so consumed with the object or if the interest takes top priority, that is when the problems arise. An object affair may seem harmless, but it can result in a lack of attention, communication and intimacy in your relationship.
- Cyber Affair: Cyber Affairs, Online infidelity, online affairs, cyber infidelity, internet affairs, even social media cheating are some of the many terms given to the act of being unfaithful to your partner by engaging in either emotional or sexual involvement with someone over social media sites, the internet, or the phone. A cyber affair occurs entirely online. It has typically been defined as an encounter initiated through online contact and sustained by communication such as email or online chat (Young, 1999). It may involve anything from discussing personal information with an online partner to cybersex. The acts of sexting, texting, chatting or video chatting with a sexual context, without your spouse, are all considered to be a cyber affair. The ever-changing nature of technology has created a culture of unlimited options at our fingertips – quite literally. A potential partner, friend, or confidant is just a click or message away, and there are an infinite number of means to find them on the internet.
- Sexual Affair: A sexual affair is when one has sexual relations or intercourse outside the marriage, experiencing no deep emotional attachment to their sexual partner. Examples may be one-night stands or hiring a prostitute. Having a healthy sex life is an important aspect of marriage, and most people believe in monogamy or sexual exclusivity. Monogamy allows the trust needed to be vulnerable with one’s spouse.
- Commit to a new future together. Both of you must do this and mean it.
- The unfaithful partner must end the affair, once and for all. In other words, they should confront the other party together and let him or her know that it is over. That way there won't be any room for secrecy, intrigue, or misunderstanding in the future.
- Assume responsibility. When marital unfaithfulness has occurred, one of the most important elements of the reconciliation process is willingness on the part of the offending spouse to take responsibility for his or her actions and face up to the real-life consequences of the mistakes he or she has made.
- Be transparent about your future actions by sharing information about schedules, as well as, disclose any interactions with the other person.
- Set a time limit for your discussions but don't talk when you're tired. You could end up talking for hours and hours and go around in circles.
- Show your spouse empathy, no matter what. One of the best indicators of whether a relationship can survive infidelity is how much empathy the unfaithful partner shows when the betrayed spouse gets emotional about the pain caused by the affair.
- Agree to discuss future challenges too, don't just hope they'll go away. Talk about the future threats to your fidelity, like crushes or friendships that could cross the line.
- Find time for each other, take an interest in each other’s lives and feelings, and resolve to be honest with each other in future, even if it means taking a risk.
- It can be hard to restore a sexual relationship after an affair. Be patient with each other and talk about any emotional barriers.
- Forgive when you’re ready
Infidelity is breaking a promise to remain faithful to a sexual partner, whether that is marriage vows sanctified by the state or privately uttered agreements between lovers. Couples seeking therapeutic intervention want to recover and repair the rupture, but often times are not sure how to push past what seems like the impossible. On one hand, you have the betrayed partner who is suffering from hurt and anger and on the other; you have the unfaithful partner who is suffering from shame and guilt. Sooner or later the individual who has discovered that their spouse has cheated asks him or herself whether they want to or should continue the relationship. This is not a simple question because there are often many factors involved that complicate the decision. We will later discuss how you can help mend your relationship after infidelity.
Can my relationship survive infidelity?
Yes! It is possible for a relationship to survive infidelity; however, it means that both partners have to be willing to work hard at rebuilding the trust that has been broken, healing, and making the relationship strong again.
Relationships damaged by infidelity can recover, and the work couples do in resolving the crisis will bring about real relationship improvements.
In rebuilding a relationship damaged by infidelity, patience is key. With the support of each other, a good therapist, and possibly family and friends, it is possible for a couple to move past an affair and become even stronger. It may be difficult to believe that, however I assure you it can. I have helped multiple couples achieve a stronger, more loving relationship after getting through the hurt of the affair. I offer relationship-counseling services for couples that find themselves in this difficult situation, so please contact me to book a session.
If your partner had an affair, to come to terms with why it happened you will need to talk about their vulnerability to an affair. What was happening in your lives and in your relationship before they first encountered the other person or object? How might your partner's lifestyle have contributed (e.g. working away from home)? What beliefs did you both hold about fidelity? Part of the process is being honest with yourself about your own vulnerabilities to an affair and why these might have been different to your partner's.
This is a gentle unfolding that will take months and possibly years as new losses surface. Allow these losses to move through you instead of trying to block and suppress them. They won’t harm anyone but will help you begin to order your world again.
If your partner continues to provide stability, fidelity and accountability, you’ll be able to move through this grief process. It will take time and space. Please be gentle and patient with your emotions and your body as you make sense of your new life. Integrating these new realities into your life requires time and movement.
What we do in therapy
One of the first things we do is help the offended partner decide if he or she wants to stay in the relationship. Just because you come to therapy does not mean you have decided to work this out. You may just need some unbiased support in order to decide.
Some of the goals that need to be achieved in order to successfully rebuild your relationship are:
“Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive.” William Paul Young, The Shack
Even though your partner is a good person, he or she has hurt you in profound ways that have changed the way you see him or her, see yourself and see the world. Even though he’s worked hard to be accountable for his choices and is providing a measure of comfort and safety for you, the losses you’ve experienced need to be organized, understood, validated and released. This is what the focus is at the beginning of therapy, before the healing can begin.
If your partner truly cares about your healing, he’ll put aside his own discomfort and tend to your deepest needs.
We will be using a therapeutic technique developed by Sue Johnson called Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy. I have been trained by her personally and am excited to share this knowledge with you. It is the most effective method in couples’ therapy and particularly in processing affairs and producing lasting change in your relationship. We do this just as the name suggests, we focus on your emotions. Research has overwhelmingly supported the effectiveness of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy in marital distress.