Holly Hein, a therapist and author of Sexual Detours: The Startling Truth Behind Love, Lust and Infidelity (Golden, 2001), says that there are many reasons women stay with a partner who has cheated. If you're considering doing the same, she shares her insights into what you need to know.
1. Get help
If you have decided to stay with your spouse following infidelity, it is important that you either get professional help as a couple or that your partner commits to doing so on his own. "Staying in a relationship is not a bad thing if you work on the relationship, change your behaviours and grow," says Hein. If your relationship had a good beginning, it's possible to get back to a positive place if you are both truly willing to work on repairing the marriage.
Hein suggests approaching the situation by telling your partner that you are willing to stay if he is willing to commit to getting help. This can include seeing a therapist, sex addiction counselling, couple therapy or individual treatment. "Everything has to be worked on in a relationship to sustain it," she explains. Before you agree to stay, make sure your partner is willing to own up to his infidelity and put the work into getting your relationship back on track.
2. Ask yourself why?
By taking time to think about your values and what's important to you, you can determine what will truly make you happy, says Hein. Ask yourself why you married your spouse. Is he a good partner? A good parent?
"Be as thorough as you can, because it is through this questioning process that you can assess what really matters to you," she advises. By knowing what is most important to you and why you want to remain in the marriage, you can move forward more easily.
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3. Communicate in a way that is truly intimate
Deciding to give your spouse and your marriage another chance means rebuilding intimacy, which can be difficult following infidelity. Hein suggests having a regular date night in order to start reconnecting on a more intimate level. It is also important to remember that connecting goes both ways. "Just as she wants him to give her flowers or do something special that she needs, he needs the same thing," she explains.
4. Move forward
As hard as it might feel to move on after infidelity, doing so can actually improve your relationship. "Look at the affair as being a catalyst for change so that it becomes a positive force," suggests Hein.
In order to do that you will have to deal with your anger and hurt, and understand that this process takes time. You can't just forgive your partner and move forward. You have to face your feelings. Release your pain by writing about it, talking about it and getting professional help if you need to. "Moving on as a couple has to be based on your desire to stay and the realization that change requires suffering," Hein explains.
5. Let go
If you decide to forgive your spouse, then actually forgive him. It will take time until your anger and hurt have subsided, but if you agree to work on your marriage you need to hold up your end of the bargain. It's unfair for you to bring up his infidelity each and every time he does something wrong.
"If you make someone accountable you can never build the intimacy back because you are constantly looking for a flaw," Hein explains. And when we're looking for flaws we often find them, because we are able to recall negative memories far more easily than positive ones, she says. If you have chosen to accept the situation, commit to moving past the infidelity.
Deciding to stay in a relationship after infidelity is not a decision a friend can make for you or one that you will find in the pages of a book. Take the time to heal before making a drastic decision, and realize that staying together can be a lot of work. But if you're both willing to put in the effort, the results can truly be positive.
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