Sometimes, when in a relationship, we find that one of the partners, or even both, has committed infidelity. This results in an emotional tsunami that can generate a lot of suffering, chaos, and mistrust.
Depending on the agreements and commitments we agreed upon with our partners, it can be considered infidelity if there have been non-consensual sexual encounters outside the relationship (physical infidelity) or it can also be considered “mental or emotional” infidelity if there have been emotional expressions of affection towards other people without having consummated a sexual act. Therefore, it is important to take into account the agreements that have been made clear between the couple and the commitments that each one of us has made. There are couples who do not consider fooling around on social networks as infidelity and others, on the other hand, have agreed that they do not tolerate such behavior.
What is common is that after an act of infidelity, pain and distrust flood the bond, and the couple can break or perhaps emerge stronger from the experience if this situation is used as a space for learning and self-knowledge.
Whether or not a couple overcomes infidelity will depend on several factors, among which are:
- Whether the infidelity has been hidden
Many people are even more hurt by the lie and concealment itself than by the emotional and/or sexual connection that may have occurred outside the couple. Couples who have been honest about what happened are more likely to be able to forgive each other and stay together than if they have been discovered by chance or previously denied.
- Whether the infidelity has included purely sexual encounters, whether they have been face-to-face or online, or whether it was purely emotional.
Circumstances and context matter when it comes to forgiving and overcoming this situation as a couple. Circumstances do not, in any case, justify the lie or exempt the person who commits the infidelity from responsibility, but they are important in facilitating forgiveness and the possibility of continuing or not the couple’s relationship.
- If the infidelity is a punctual situation or maintained over time.
Many people can tolerate an eventual slip but cannot bear the idea of a long-term act of infidelity. Therefore, open and sincere communication with the partner will be fundamental to face this situation.
- The communication and trust that previously exists in the couple.
All the pillars and good habits of the couple that they previously have will be useful when facing an act of infidelity and will be decisive in the continuity of the relationship.
- The maturity age
The maturity age in which the members of the couple are and the resources of coping such as conflict coping and conflict management that they previously have are factors that have an impact on whether or not the couple can overcome infidelity. Resilient people face these situations without putting their mental health at stake.
- The evolutionary stage of the relationship.
If cheating happens at the beginning of the relationship or in moments when the couple was not at their best, it is more difficult to overcome the infidelity. This is because there is no solid foundation where the bond can be sustained during the storm that uncovering cheating can bring.
What comes first, the chicken or the egg? It is difficult to really discover if the infidelity has occurred because something was wrong in the couple and one of the partners is seeking comfort outside the relationship or if the bond between the couple breaks because one of the partners seeks comfort outside.
This is not the time to look for culprits, but rather for each part of the couple to assume their responsibility in the matter because blaming the lover usually entails a lot of additional suffering, more than the one we are already feeling.
It is usually advisable to make use of a therapist or mediator to facilitate communication between the partners. Even more so, if there are children involved, although they do not know the details of the situation, they always perceive and notice the tension that may exist between their parents. The support of the family, of the social network, and of a good professional will be key in order to continue the bond or to put a golden brooch to the relationship without the thirst for revenge or reproaches.
It must be taken into account that forgiving the partner for cheating does not mean forgetting the facts, since the reality of the data cannot be changed and the memory cannot be erased no matter how much we wish that certain things had not happened. What we can change is what we feel and think about what happened. We can use this situation to introduce changes or end the dynamics of the couple altogether.
Forgiving your partner for infidelity does not necessarily mean staying in the relationship. You can forgive that person, be at peace with him/her, but decide not to continue being together romantically. You may continue to be friends or completely scratch them off, but without holding a grudge about what happened. Of course, you have the right to be hurt, and it is natural and adaptive that when you find out about being cheated on, you feel a lot of emotions; anger, sadness, distrust, and frustration are some to name a few. So this will be a time when you will have to put in place your coping strategies that may include a time of reflection without contact with that person, ask for professional help or hire a mediator to guide the process.
You are the expert in your life, and you will know what you need at each step to make this process as pleasant as possible, taking into account that it is not a pleasant situation and that it removes many foundations of relationships and self-esteem.
This is not the time to blame, but to take responsibility for what each of you feels and does, separately and as a couple.