In my work as a couple’s therapist, one thing that I see frequently is the aftermath of infidelity. Often, a couple has tried to work it out for themselves but struggle to move on together, which is when they come to see me.
There is no doubt about it, infidelity hurts. When you make the commitment to be together as a couple, whether married or not, you each invest in the ‘trust bank’ of your relationship. Infidelity is just like someone taking away your life-long investments without your permission. It leaves an ocean of emotions in its wake. Just like grief, it comes in waves and the pain can hurt deeply.
One of the misunderstood aspects of infidelity is that it hurts both people. For the person who committed the affair, whether a one-off or a protracted relationship, there can be guilt, shame and the threat that they will lose their partner whom they have betrayed. For the other, the shock waves can continue for a long time and can cause anxiety, sleepless nights, flashbacks and depression much like symptoms that can be experienced with Post Traumatic Stress. The threat is a big one and processing it can be very difficult and distressing.
The good news is that it is possible to move on from infidelity and stay together and possibly rebuild a relationship that has the kind of safety and security required to guard against this happening again. Getting the help of a professional therapist with good understanding of how the brain processes such a trauma can help a couple move through these intense feelings towards healing.
Here are 4 signs there is hope to heal and move on together:
1. Remorse – if the person who has been unfaithful feels remorse about their actions and is sorry and wishes to remain in the relationship, then there is hope you can work things out. Making the decision to stay together and work through it is the first step towards healing and moving on. This remorse or regret is paramount to getting a good result.
2. Connection – do you and your partner still feel connected? Are you both considering creating more safety and security to help prevent this ever happening again? In spite of the infidelity, do you have a strong commitment to each other and to your life together? Ask yourself if you still visualise a positive future together because this relationship has many positives that are worth saving and setting a goal to work towards creating a better relationship may have been something you have both neglected that needs to be addressed.
3. Communication – infidelity can often bring up long-standing, deep-seated issues in your relationship that have been previously unaddressed. If this is the case, the infidelity can allow you both to bring these issues to the surface. With the help of a skilled couple counsellor, you can each express your relationship concerns and issues within a safe, nurturing environment. In this way, the act of infidelity, just like so many major life events, can be viewed as an opportunity for a couple to commit to resolving their problem areas and to decide to work things out, giving the relationship a fresh new start.
4. Love – can you get beyond the big emotions such as anger, guilt, blame that accompany the infidelity and still feel the love you had for your partner? This can be hard to do and may take some practise or guidance, however taking some quiet time to consider the reasons why you are with your partner in the first place and contemplating their unique attributes, can help you tap into the those feelings of love once more. By moving into a heart-centred space, you are allowing the swirling negative thoughts and emotions to be underpinned by something much deeper and long-lasting. The heart always wants to heal and move towards love and it is in this gentle space, we can begin to repair and feel forgiveness and understanding, which is the first step towards healing and moving on together with insight and your mental and emotional health intact.
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