The Eradication of Infidelity Author: Radonda Rowton, MAC, LPC
I love Counseling, I really do. However, if I was completely honest, I don’t like all the heartache that I see. One such topic that is particularly tough is dealing with couples who have come to me because of infidelity. For as long as people have made promises to be faithful to their partners, people have been breaking those promises. Aside from the hurt that comes with infidelity, romantic partners — both the cheated and the cheated upon — the guilt, betrayal, anger, abandonment, foolishness, and loss of trust are always present. It’s like watching a really bad movie that you’ve seen over and over again. The names may change, as well as some of the details, but the emotions and the pain are always almost unbearable. However, the interesting thing is that most people know that infidelity is wrong, and yet, people still do it. They do it even though they have seen the havoc that it has brought to other people’s lives. They do it even when they said they would never, and even though they might get caught. This begs two questions: The first is why, and the second is now what?
The mind is a tricky thing. We tend to assume that every thought that we have is obviously true, when honestly, that could not be further from the truth. Our intentions may be honorable but our impulse to be something other than what we are in our daily, monogamous lives, and the thrill that comes from the illicit rather than the predictable, is something that causes us to make choices that we end up regretting. We often feel entitled to things that we are not entitled to. For instance, living out the day to day causes a couple to see the flaws of the other person as well as the strengths, but what do we tend to focus on? The flaws, of course. In doing that, one partner will tell themselves, “I deserve better”, and instead of working together to come to a resolve, and knowing we may need to reach out for help and go to therapy, we give ourselves permission to step outside of the marriage to find relief. I have yet to talk to anyone who strengthened their marriage by turning to someone else. Yet, it happens.
In her book, “After the Affair, Healing The Pain And Rebuilding Trust When A Partner Has Been Unfaithful”, Psychologist Janis Abrams Spring writes, “The discovery of your partner’s affair forces you to redefine yourself in the most fundamental way. If you, my life partner, are not the person I thought you were, and our marriage is a lie, then who am I?”. And to add insult to injury, when asked why, what usually is revealed is what the non-cheating partner’s role was in the cheating partner’s behavior. Because yes, while it was the cheating partner who did the deed, more often than not the behavior didn’t happen out of the blue. Typically, one or both partners’ needs aren’t being met — sexually, emotionally, or otherwise. Maybe the cheating partner feels that their spouse isn’t affirming their sense of self-worth anymore. Maybe they feel like they’re not getting the same amount of attention as they used to, or their spouse isn’t helping them carry the burden of running the household. Whatever the reason, it is this that makes getting the time, attention, and affection from another person very enticing.
However, I would like to bring out the very important point that most non-cheating partners will refuse to evaluate themselves without a very heartfelt apology and a willingness to work to save the marriage from the cheating partner first, nor should they.
Couple’s therapist and author Esther Perel notes the importance of atoning for a breach in fidelity in her TED Talk. “Healing begins when the perpetrator acknowledges their wrongdoing. So, for the partner who had the affair…one thing is to end the affair, but the other is the essential, important act of expressing guilt and remorse,” she says. “But the truth is that I have noticed that quite a lot of people who have affairs may feel terribly guilty for hurting their partner, but they don’t feel guilty for the experience of the affair itself. And that distinction is important.” Perel goe