It is a question that I am often posed with as a couples’ therapist. Can a relationship survive when a partner commits the ultimate act of betrayal and cheats?
The answer, like most things when it comes to relationships is, it's complicated.
Infidelity can have a devastating impact on the person who has been betrayed and as when we grieve, the loss of a loved one we will all handle such high emotions very differently. Some that have been betrayed even report having experiences very close to PTSD like insomnia, anxiety, withdrawal and intrusive thoughts that won't go away. For the person that has been betrayed on care must be taken both by their partner and themselves.
For some, such a betrayal can never be forgiven, no matter the actions of their partner, they simply cannot get past what has occurred and the relationship will end.
This is particularly the case if the cheating has occurred with a close friend, multiplying the grief with a loss of the friendship and that horrible feeling of foolishness.
It is like a double betrayal as the realisation emerges that you have spent close personal time with a person who is actively betraying you. This is further complicated by the exposure to your social group leaving you feeling embarrassed over the cheating and a need to meet expectations of how you should deal with your partner.
There are many factors at play when infidelity is involved and whilst they are not impossible to overcome, nor uncommon with 1 in 5 couples likely to experience infidelity, one key element is that the love between you must still be strong and the desire to heal real for your relationship to have a chance of survival.
For this to happen there are some key steps that you and your partner must go through.
Step 1 – Remorse
This step is all up to the one who cheated and if they are genuinely remorseful about their infidelity and are committed to repairing the damage to the relationship, then this is the first step to healing the hurt and without true remorse and regret, the relationship will not survive.
Step 2 – Connection
In spite of the betrayal it is critical that you and your partner are still connected and able to visualise a positive future together. That you can both work towards creating a stronger relationship that will address issues that caused the cheating and build a future relationship that is safe, secure and supportive and will prevent such an event from occurring again. Both of you must want to be in the relationship again.
Step 3 – Communication
This is the really tough one. When someone cheats this can often bring up deep-seated issues in your relationship that have been left unaddressed. These issues need to be dealt with for their to be any hope of a successful relationship. For the person who feels they have been greatly wronged, this is one tough conversation. So it is my advice that you only attempt this step with the help of a skilled and caring couple’s counsellor, one who can create a safe environment for you to both be able to explore what has lead to this in your relationship.
Step 4 – Love
Cheating in a relationship is the ultimate act of betrayal and it is natural for feelings of anger, guilt and blame to accompany the infidelity. The only cure is that most beautiful of emotions, love. It is not an easy journey, however if you can move into a heart-centred space and reconnect with the love that brought you together in the first place, then your relationship can heal through forgiveness and understanding, whilst leaving your mental and emotional health intact. This will mean that the person who has betrayed will have to be able to tolerate the diffuclt emotions the person betrayed is experiencing while putting their own feelings of shame and guilt aside.
Yes the road to overcoming infidelity is a tough one, yet with true remorse, a willingness to openly talk through the relationship issues and a sprinkle of the key ingredient love, all mixed together by a skilled PACT (Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy) trained therapist, you can overcome it and build a strong, safe, respectful, loving and long-lasting relationship.
While you are here please visit full details about the Couple's Retreat I am presenting in 2018 in the romantic lower Blue Mountains.
For more tips, daily quotes and information about love, dating, relationships and happiness visit my Facebook page Melissa Ferrari - Psychotherapist & Relationship Expert. Also available is information about couple therapy and how it can help your relationships.