October 13th, 2015
Yes, you read that correctly: If your partner strays, all hope is not lost. There is a silver lining to infidelity.
You may find that difficult to believe. Many people tend to see infidelity as a relationship’s death sentence… or at least, the beginning of the end. I assure you, cheating does not have to ruin a relationship. But to see the upside of infidelity, you must understand your partner’s cheating for what it really is. You need to understand why he or she is cheating before you can see that silver lining and before you can begin to fix the problems that led to their unfaithfulness.
Cheating Happens for a Reason
So why do people cheat? The common reasons for infidelity are lack of understanding, lack of communication, lack of intimacy, lack of sex. I call them the “lack ofs.” They are the deficiencies that take place in relationships. I tell the couples who I work with in counseling that infidelity is not the problem, it is a symptom of a problem. You see, in relationships there are going to be cycles of “lack ofs” — fleeting moments when one partner isn’t giving the other partner one or more of those pivotal relationship ingredients. It happens to the healthiest relationships. However, a “lack of” can become a serious problem when neither person in the partnership discusses them, when you withdraw, blame or pretend there is nothing lacking at all. You haven’t had sex in a month, and you haven’t discussed it. But everything is great, right?
That’s when a space opens up in your marriage for infidelity to happen.
As I stated, there are many relationships that go through a “lack of” cycle. But in healthy relationships, couples don’t let it grow into a problem. They are understanding and compassionate about their partner’s feelings and thoughts. I hear many couples say, “You never told me that… I thought we were happy?” With one statement and one question you say so much about your relationship. Your partner may not have told you their issues in the way you think they should have voiced their concern, but he or she has likely tried to express their unhappiness. This is why you need to work to understand your partner and accept them for who they are — instead of trying to make them into something they are not. Accepting them is important because it can help make sure you recognize and talk about any “lack ofs” before they turn into major problems.
For example, if your partner says, “Why do we always have to go out with your friends on Friday? Can’t we have a night out to ourselves?” And you say, “Well, don’t you like Marsha and Bill? You and Bill get along very well.” Your partner did not say that he didn’t like Marsha or Bill. He said he would like to spend more time alone with you. Taking the time to listen to your partner and have concern about their needs can stop problems in their track.
Like I said, when an affair happens, the problem already exists. Is a problem in the marriage an excuse for your partner to have an affair? No, no one should cheat on their partner. I am not justifying infidelity; I am just letting you know how affairs happen. We all have desires and want to feel loved, so instead of telling your partner how they should feel loved, listen to them.
Yes, Infidelity Can Save Your Marriage
I like to think of cheating as a wake-up call for your marriage. An affair has the potential to bring you closer together and make you more connected. How? Because infidelity can get you both to you admit that your relationship has problems — those aforementioned “lack ofs”— and it can empower you to work on finding solutions. Your affair can be the one thing that shows each of you how strong you are and how much you are willing to fight for your marriage. It can be a powerful tool that forces you to see the light.
However, I must say, it takes two to tango. To come out stronger after an affair, you both must love each other and want to stay together. Surviving an affair is not for the faint hearted — but it is for the open hearted. Because if you can see past your partner’s mistake, forgive them and say, “Your mistake is not bigger than our marriage,” then you are on your way to finding each other again. And I know family and friends may have a lot to say about working out a marriage after infidelity, but this is your marriage and you have the say-so of when it ends.
[bctt tweet=”Surviving an affair is not for the faint hearted — but it is for the open hearted.”]
There are some instances when an affair can permanently sabotage a marriage. If a partner repeatedly cheats, this means you are dancing by yourself. You then must leave the marriage and start the healing process alone. I don’t support anyone being in a relationship in which your partner continues to cheat — because that is simply not healthy (The same goes for relationships that are emotionally, physically or sexually abusive). In these instances, it is most definitely the right decision to leave. Your health is always a priority.
But if the cheating isn’t habitual, the relationship can survive. If you are willing to put in the work, you can heal from infidelity and the problems that caused it.
You need to start at the beginning of the relationship. Look at all the good and not so good times throughout the years of your friendship, partnership and marriage. See the things that went unsaid and all those elephants that proverbially sat in the rooms of your home. Discuss the love and the pain, and then decide if you both want to move forward. Because here is the thing: Your partner’s affair is one bad decision, but what about all the good decisions? What about all the times he or she had your back? Supported you and loved you? Does one bad decision trump all their good decisions? I am not saying it is easy, but it is possible to move past an affair and rebuild your marriage…a marriage you deserve.
A marriage counselor can aid you in this process by helping you work through your emotions and fears. A marriage counselor should be objective, and he or she should not just tell you what you want to hear. Remember, this is your wake-up call. It is a chance for you both to get this relationship thing right. If your partner cheated and you don’t try to save your marriage, then you will never know if what was broken could have been fixed. Marriage counseling can give you the peace of mind that you did everything possible to save your relationship. This isn’t your mother’s marriage, your brother’s marriage or your best friend’s marriage. This is your marriage, so make a decision that you can live with.
If you need a counselor who can help you do whatever you can to save your marriage after infidelity, you can contact me at (864) 559-8181 to set up a free consultation call. I can help individuals and couples in the Greenville, SC area or out of the area by phone.