COPING WITH INFIDELITY
There is life even after your heart stops beating. it is tough but sure it will beat again…
Trust is a very important aspect of a relationship. Once it is shattered, it takes a lot of time and efforts to figure out whether it can be rebuilt or not. Reflection over a period of time will help you decipher from where the nuances of trust started to crack and whether breach of trust is a consequence of an unhealthy relationship or not.
There are many reasons why a person cheats in a relationship, it ranges from his/her own personality as he/she could be high on risk taking or vulnerable behaviour, to attractiveness towards the opposite sex, or higher sexual drive, or need for more intimacy and companionship in a relationship.
After an episode of infidelity, if you need to trust again you need to see the situation you and your partner are in as transformation. Change requires commitment from both sides and insights into the past. This can be achieved by counselling. Counselling will also help you understand whether the change is possible or not. Many couples are able to deal with infidelity and stick together while emerging closer. Whereas there are also many other couples who eventually fall apart and probably divorce or separate.
“Dealing with infidelity can be devastating as the initial experience of discovery of the situation can make your world tear apart. You find yourself in shambles…”
Tips on coping with infidelity
• Feeling the emotions: Discovering infidelity comes with range of emotions like frustration, anger, helplessness, sadness, resentment, shame, obsessive thoughts, pain, irritability, repeatedly analysing the details, uncertainty, paranoid attitude or inability to focus on urgent priorities like children and work. One must try and express these emotions, it is ok to cry, express anger or feel sad. These feelings are very much normal. But one needs to plan out on how to manage work and children as it could lead to further complications like financial burden and unemployment. Even if it does not reach this extreme, it can significantly affect your career.
• Taking care of you: Your body and mind are in a panic mode. Chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol are released in your brain. Breathing exercises will help you break this pattern of chemicals and help you maintain your mental and physical health. Further, you should sleep for 7 to 8 hours preferably at the same time so that your body helps you achieve your goal. If it is difficult to sleep with your spouse, sleep in another room till you sort things out either ways. You will not feel like eating as you care the least about your well being and are extremely overwhelmed with the unfortunate situations. But you should still eat three healthy meals a day. Avoid comfort eating in sugary, salty and oily food. Also do not resort to excessive alcohol or smoke as they would never help you recover. Laugh and find reasons to laugh whenever you can. Start by watching and reading funny matters. Spend time with people who care for you. Life goes on despite all the painful episodes.
• Do not take any decisions till your emotions are dealt with: Ascertain the logistics if you decide to move out. Where you will stay? Will you be able to manage the finances? What about the children, their activities and schools? Do not take decisions in hasty emotional states as you will not be able to take the best decision that suits you and your life. Once you have a grip over your situation and emotions, you can take the best decision possible.
• Reasons for infidelity. After the initial emotions have been dealt with, a couple needs to come to a common understanding of the situation and formulate a common goal whether to separate or to rebuild the relationship. If there is any confusion the couple needs to surpass these emotions. The true reason behind the infidelity can be very tough to decipher despite best intentions as sometimes the person who cheated cannot find the reason. Also at other times, due to the fear of making things worse between the couple, the person who cheated might hide or lie about facts. To understand how to deal with it, one needs to understand reasons for infidelity better. Sometimes it is one relationship outside marriage or a one night stand; at others times it could be frequent extra marital affairs. The latter can be difficult to resolve as it seems to be a part of the personality of the partner who cheats or a high level of incompatibility in your couple. If it is the former then you need to communicate and conclude the reasons. If it was a one night stand and your spouse is guilty and commits to not repeat it, then you should give it some time to understand how you feel about it. If it is a relationship due to lack of love and companionship between the two of you and your spouse wants to still try and work your relationship out, then again you should give time to understand if you would like to put efforts mutually with a common goal or you will never be able to forgive him/her.
• Relationship prior to the episode: Whether you can rebuild your relationship or not also depends on the kind of relationship you had prior to this episode. Some couples have had a deep past from where they had started off, and over the course of time they got occupied with other priorities and started taking each other for granted while trust and communication started suffering. In such cases, for need of intimacy sometimes people stay. Re living past moment can often help rebuild the trust lost and bond deepen.
• Do not overanalyse or get into details: You can confront your spouse and ask questions to open communication and start feeling comfortable with the situation. But do not ask too many details as most likely you will hear fabricated versions and get further instigated to delve into various other details. You will tend to compare yourself with the other person. This is futile as it will only cause further distress. At some point of time in all relationships, people betray trust. It begins somewhere. When it reaches infidelity, it is an extreme form of betrayal.
• Do not blame yourself: Do not blame yourself for what has happened. Your relationship could be on unhealthy grounds since a long period of time. Ideally you should have not let it be and tried to take cues while putting efforts and working things out. But at any cost, an extra marital affair cannot be justified.
• Set boundaries: You can make your demands and set boundaries like asking your spouse to commit on not being in touch with the other person at all. Asking him or her to keep conversations with the opposite sex non personal, letting you know about his/her whereabouts throughout the day. But at any cost, being cruel or trying to take revenge from your spouse will not take you anywhere but only cause further pain. Setting consequences if there is another affair is a great way to go ahead.
• Communication patterns after adultery: Do not hold on to your feelings and doubts. Share your feelings with your spouse and ask as many questions as you may want to. Do not repeat your questions too many times and ask for too many details. Blaming any one for this situation will not help you come out of it. Constant fighting, blaming, accusing, anger, not being able to empathize with each other and understand each others’ needs will not help you arrive at resolution.
• Taking care of children: In case of children living with you, by now they would have sensed negativity and distrust in the atmosphere. Reassure them and let them know that there are some problems between the two of you and you are working on them. Let them know there is nothing to do with them and both of you love them dearly. Do not let their activities be affected. Make alternative plans in case their routine is disturbed. Do not give them details.
• Rebuilding trust after infidelity:This does not happen overnight. One needs to mourn any loss that takes place in their life in order to move on. Usually whenever there is an unpleasant event that occurred in your life, it is initially tough for you to accept. Somewhere, you subconsciously deny it. Then slowly, once you realise it has really happened, you express anger and frustration, try negotiating the reality, remain sad and messed up for a while then eventually you start accepting it. This is a natural process which will occur and you should let it happen. Once this is done, you can start trusting your spouse if she or he has agreed to your demands and boundaries and is trying his/her best to win your trust back. This will happen if there is openness and sharing from both sides. It is important to hear both person’s perspective without judging constantly. If you understand your spouse then you can accept. Only after acceptance, trust begins. After this, starting to appreciate each other for small things and taking care of each others’ needs will help you build trust and rebuild the lost relationship. Eventually, you need to consciously try and spend time together without any discussion on what had happened. Once you have started, follow it consistently. Begin reliving your good old memories and remember your commitment towards each other.
• Forgiveness: It takes a lot to forgive. It will work out if you are able to let go negative feelings, without holding any hard feelings against your spouse. It comes with understanding the situation, accepting and rebuilding your relationship from where you are. If you carry feelings of needs to cause harm or hurt your spouse in any ways, then you will not be able to forgive. You need to see this episode in the context of your relationship in order to forgive. If you keep looking at it as an act of betrayal, you will never be able to forgive. You need to understand and accept if your spouse is a person with good heart and intentions and has made a mistake.
• Deciding to separate: If you are not able to forgive your spouse, there will always remain feelings of loneliness, anger and frustration. This will affect both your mental and physical well being as well as the well being of your children if any. There should be no feelings of guilt when you reach here as before you reach this point, you have been through a lot of emotions and realised there is no way ahead for you in the relationship. In such situations, it is healthier to separate as you would save all of you from further miseries. You deserve to give yourself a chance to live independent again without the burden of this relationship which you cannot bear anymore.
Counselling provides a safe atmosphere where the two of you can be comfortable and along with the help of the counsellor work at analysing the situation and rebuilding trust while taking care of other significant priorities like work, children and health. Counselling also helps you to accept and understand whether forgiveness is possible or not. In case it is not possible, it helps you accept the situation and separate without vengeance, as negativity holds you back and does not let your life blossom into second opportunities. Feel free to ask me a question or book an appointment if you think that you need help to take the best decision after an adultery episode in your marriage.