On top of the utter devastation infidelity causes, there are feelings of hurt, confusion and betrayal to contend with. On top of that, there are also many heart-wrenching decisions to make about the future of your relationship -- from ending things to seeking counselling to taking a time out.
We asked Gilda Carle, relationship expert and author of Don’t Bet on the Prince: How to Have the Man You Want by Betting on Yourself, about the course of action you should take when your partner strays. She maintains that cheating may actually have a silver lining: “Cheating can sometimes be the best thing to happen to a shaky relationship because it means that a couple will finally be forced to decide either to mend their love -- or end their love.” Carle offers some more insight into how to handle a cheating partner and how to move forward in a way that works for you.
1. Why do people cheat?
People cheat for a variety of reasons -- it simply depends on the person and the couple. Some of the most common reasons a person becomes unfaithful are:
• They feel disconnected from their partner on an emotional and physical level.
• There’s little to no physical or emotional intimacy.
• They are angry with their spouse and don’t know how else to deal with it.
• Their sex life has become non-existent.
• They are bored.
• They are looking for positive attention that they don’t feel they’re getting from their spouse.
Regardless of the reason behind the infidelity, one thing is certain: Cheating means your relationship is in need of serious repair. No matter why someone strays, cheating has a big impact on a relationship. “Infidelity affects a relationship because the person you’re supposed to be giving your attention to is missing out on that intimacy,” Carle explains. “No relationship can survive without intimacy.”
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2. What action should you take if your partner cheats?
You may be tempted to lash out in a rage upon discovering infidelity -- which is understandable -- but there is a better way to handle things, says Carle. “If you discover your partner has cheated, neither hold in your emotions nor create drama,” says Carle.
After you make the discovery, you need some time to process the information, so confide in a trusted friend or family member. She suggests finding a quiet, neutral spot outside of your home and talking about what is really happening in the relationship. Beyond that, you might want to seek professional advice before you engage in a conversation with your spouse.
Sometimes, infidelity can cause a couple to examine the flaws that already existed in the relationship prior to the infidelity. Doing so can spur a couple to be proactive when it comes to their relationship, says Carle. “At that point they can decide whether to end the marriage or mend it,” she says. “My best tip for how to deal with infidelity is to recognize whether your relationship should be salvaged.”
To make the decision less stressful, write down on a piece of paper what you truly have going for each other. If the list is short, that will suggest you have little in common anymore. But if it’s long, you may decide to repair your problems.
3. How do you repair the relationship and move forward?
If you decide that you want to forgive your partner and stay together, both parties have to equally want to make some changes for the sake of their union, says Carle. If it boils down to just pointing fingers rather than taking responsibility, a couple will not survive.
“It is wrong to solely blame and accuse your spouse of wrongdoing. Instead, understand that you are part of the equation," she says. Owning up to your share of the burden takes courage and guts, but it can go a long way in rebuilding your relationship.
Getting back on solid ground after someone cheats requires hard work and the rebuilding of trust, Carle explains. “Being open and honest is the only thing that can bring back trust,” she says. “Trust takes a long time to build, and when it’s broken, only honesty and openness will get it back.”
Even then, repairing your relationship will take time and it is a good idea to work with a counsellor for guidance. The counsellor will steer you away from the secrecy that has derailed the relationship and toward more open communication.
Infidelity will always wreak havoc on a relationship. But by being honest with yourself and with your partner you may be able to find a solution that works -- whether it’s moving on or moving forward together.
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