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Infidelity – Hurtful, But Not Hopeless.

While it is understandable that stepping out of a relationship to be with another person is one  of the most painful and threatening exits from the commitment, it is not necessarily a one way path to break-up or divorce.  If the couple will put in effort to address their relationship issues, statistics indicate that there is likelihood of relationship repair and survival.  In my practice, I have experience with couples who come to session in crisis and have made progress rebuilding trust and moving forward. Whether admitted to or discovered by searching through texts, emails or questioning irregular behavior, infidelity is clearly not something easily pushed aside, but it signals the need to explore what may have caused the betrayal.

Some partners who were cheated on, demand learning the details, some would rather not know anything besides whether or not the affair is over. While it is reasonable that feelings of hurt, betrayal, jealousy, are hard to handle and threaten personal and relational stability, these are not necessarily feelings the unfaithful partner wanted to cause.  In other words, the partner left behind was not the primary motivation, nor was the person he or she went toward. What most likely inspired the infidelity was the way the unfaithful partner was able to feel about him or herself in a desired or needed way.

Perhaps feelings of getting attention, being prioritized, desired, or other ways of being seen or treated had faded or were never quite provided.  Maybe these unmet needs or wants were expressed in negative ways, were ignored, or if conflict or distance was the dynamic between the couple, the mutual importance of positive self- judgment was unknown.

Whether the breach of loyalty involves sexual and or emotional involvement, secretive flirtation or communication or habits of exploring porn in person or online, if the partner feels betrayed and the relationship stability is threatened, both members of the couple need to look honestly at themselves and each other and take responsibility for what may have inspired this security threat.

By shifting focus from the details of the affair which may retrigger intense reaction, to the time in which the partners may have lost connection, felt taken for granted, or had not devoted time to needed change, the couple may identify when and how they became vulnerable to breaking their bond.  This is key in exploring ways in which the couple may take necessary steps to change patterns of behavior and rebuild trust.

For some, dishonesty by the partner is the most hurtful aspect of the relationship exit. Being lied to, whether it was meant to threaten the commitment can create a wound that may feel traumatic and needs healing over time, even if the unfaithful behavior has ended. Coming into session provides the opportunity to address these difficulties in a structured, less triggering way, to deepen understanding and offer insight regarding the need for change and repair.

Can a relationship survive the discovery of infidelity? Yes, if each of you will accept a share of responsibility for what may have strained the bond, take it as a signal for change and use it as an opportunity for growth, personally and together.

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Joan Warren, LMFT

Joan Warren Therapy

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