You don’t have to stay together.
How’s that for controversial?
One quick Google search on “cheating” or “infidelity” and we’re bombarded with “affair recovery” and “infidelity prevention” programs. We are affected by so many influences who overtly tell us we need to work it out and stay with a partner who hurt us. Whether it is our families or our religion, deciding on the best course of action for yourself and for your children is very painful and difficult. Some people see themselves as “bad” or “wrong” because they don’t want to work it out.
Infidelity is incredibly complex and requires a highly individualized approach. It affects how we see our relationships and those of other people. It has existed since the dawn of human-kind and I imagine that people have wanted it to stop forever. Esther Perel says in her famous TED talk that it is considered so wrong, that it appears in two of the Ten Commandments. One for doing it and one for thinking about it.
It’s also something that I don’t pass judgment on. You’re carrying enough shame around, whether you’re cheating or your partner is seeing another person. You are still a human being with worth and value.
Infidelity is not going anywhere. I hate to break it to you that way. Most people know someone who is involved with another person. If anything, it is on the rise because probably well over 90% of us have our eyes on a screen. A little computer that we carry around with us everywhere, where we do everything without our partner knowing.
Infidelity is also one of the most devastating experiences in a relationship for most people. It has a way of messing with the identity you once had in this relationship. It means something to us when we say, “I’m Bob’s wife” or “I’m Sally’s partner”. Who are you, now that this has happened?
The discovery of an affair sometimes leads one party to find a couples therapist. And there is nothing wrong with this approach at all. Working with a capable professional who can help you heal together can be very valuable.
I do not currently work with couples, after having done so for a number of years. But I’ve found that people often call me to process their feelings about the infidelity, separate from their partner. Whether it is the person who has strayed from the relationship or the partner who has experienced betrayal.
Alone with a therapist, clients want to grieve the loss of what their relationship was. Or they need someone to help them tolerate feelings of humiliation they experienced. They might also want to talk about how in love with the other woman or man they are because they feel so torn. A partner may also feel so angry that they could barely look at the partner who betrayed them.
Sometimes when clients reach out to me, they do not have a desire to stay in their relationship. They might need help discerning whether the path means staying or leaving. I trust my clients to make their own decisions as they are the experts of their own lives. In other words, unlike some programs out there, I am not of the belief that people should always be steered into staying. Nor do I steer people in one direction or another. By the time someone learns of an affair, the relationship may have been unhealthy for both people for many years. They might have planned to leave at some point and stayed for various reasons.
If you are confused about what to do now, it may be support you need. A place to vent or a person to hear you. I am here to help you navigate the situation you are in. If you would like to see if we are good fit, feel free to call me at 201-248-5552 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I offer a free 15-minute phone or video consultation.