I always tell my clients that they are the only people that matter in this instance, and if they love each other enough, and are committed to getting through the infidelity, with putting in the work, and in time, they can heal and have an even better relationship.
The relationship they had is over, but the new relationship they forge together after the cheating, must be much stronger, with more honesty and be more real.
Each person needs to take accountability for the part that they play in the relationship. And we all have our part to play.
In this situation both partners in the couple are hurting:
The partner that has been cheated on is absolutely devastated, it is damaging for self- esteem, feeling undesired, unappreciated, taken for granted, used, feelings of how this could happen to me, I would never do it to you, what about our children and family, the list can go on.
For the partner that has stepped out on the relationship, I usually hear how incredibly surprised they are to witness the level of pain their partner is experiencing. This can hurt too. There is terrible guilt and possibly feeling like they are a bad person. Feelings of how can my partner forgive me. Do I even deserve to be forgiven?
As mentioned, what happens next in trying to reconcile is a process.
The partner that has cheated needs to cut all contact with the person that they cheated with (if there is a person), or if they are paying for services or online sexting, they need to stop those behaviours.
As they have been the partner who has stepped out, they need to be transparent, be able to give passwords to phones and devices, regularly check in with your partner, let them know where you are always. Basically, you have lost your freedom for the foreseeable future due to your actions.
Apologise and try to make it up to your partner, woo them – you are paying penance for what you have done.
Understand that as much as you would like to fast forward, and even if you are both committed to working it out, it will still take time.
Be patient, hold the space, be available to answering questions, be sensitive to when your partner may become triggered. An example of this could be a movie or a series where infidelity is playing out.
You will not always know what to say or how to comfort your partner, you might not want to remind them if you believe they are in a good space. That’s when I say it is helpful to hold the space. Just touch their arm, sit close and be there for them.
For the partner that has been cheated on, the power in the relationship should now be with you. Basically, if you are willing to accept and work on the relationship and be accountable as there would be areas you could improve on too. But a big thing here is, you do need to forgive your partner, and that means you need to learn to let your partner recover with grace.
From my experience some couples struggle with this.
What can happen is the partner that has been cheated on doesn’t want that things are just forgotten and go back to normal. They want them to pay penance, to keep saying sorry, to keep trying to make it up to them, to reassure them. It can be exhausting for both parties.
What is needed in this whole process is some time that is normal – that not every moment is about the cheating. So, it becomes a situation where you put aside time to talk deeply about what has happened, and more and more you go back to living a more normal day to day functioning life.
If you are going through a difficult time, or have been involved in infidelity, please reach out to me. I offer neutral practical counselling without judgement. Together we can make this better.