Six truths I have learned about infidelity.
It wasn’t too long ago that my phone rang and my good friend shared with me that one of the fathers in our town; the father of one our kids’ friends has been having an affair. She was almost breathless with excitement as she shared the story with me and I became increasingly uncomfortable hearing about the crumbling of this marriage taking place in the fishbowl of our suburban community.
Anyone that knows me knows that I am passionate about creating and sustaining extraordinary love and that I have devoted myself to supporting individuals on their journey through and forward after divorce. I am NOT a person who will derive pleasure from or in any celebrate, judge or publicize the demise of a marriage; no matter what the circumstance.
I am an Intentional Love Strategist and Divorce Expert, and believe me, I have heard it all. But despite everything I have heard, experienced or know to be true, I still love men and believe in extraordinary and committed love.
Along the way I have worked with and spoken to hundreds of men and women who have been affected by divorce and experienced the pain of infidelity, and regardless of each unique situation, here are the six truths I have learned to be true about infidelity:
- Infidelity never comes out of “nowhere”
Time and time again I have heard people say “I never saw it coming”; and I am sure that they never did. Even though there had to be signs, perhaps subtle, along the way. But, infidelity rarely happens spontaneously. Most often there is something going on in the relationship, perhaps an unmet need, a personal challenge, an inner struggle or a feeling of vulnerability that is not openly and honestly spoken about. Relationships and marriages are not always built on a “safe” foundation where talking about difficult relationship issues is done in a healthy way, and usually both individuals contribute to developing these unhealthy patterns. Therefore, the fear of what might happen if one does share openly and honestly can convince us that it is better to simply navigate our feelings alone; which can lead to making unintentional, and poor choices. Please do not read this as an excuse, but rather an explanation of what can happen in a relationship that does not have a foundation of strong and honest communication.
- It isn’t about the “other” woman/man
The natural instinct after infidelity is to not only “blame” your partner, but the “other” person as well. The truth is that there will always be individuals outside of your relationship and marriage that may be open to engaging in an extramarital affair; there will always be temptation. When your partner/spouse chooses infidelity, the focus of your disappointment, anger, frustration and sadness needs to remain focused on him/her. I recognize that you will not embrace nor like the “other” person; no one is asking you to. But, the infidelity is not an excuse for revenge, being nasty or harming this person in any way. Your partner is accountable for his/her behavior within your relationship and placing your attention on the “other” man/woman will only create more conflict with your partner than already exists.
- Good people make bad choices
The act of infidelity alone does not make someone a bad person. Before you try to find my email address so that you can send me an email telling me why this isn’t true, understand that there are good people who make bad choices. In fact, almost all good people have made poor decisions in their life; decisions that they wish they hadn’t made. Again, I am not making an excuse for the bad choice, but rather it is important not to judge your partner by this single choice. There are many ways to assess a relationship and an individual; infidelity will make it harder to judge fairly but you will be a better, healthier person if you can attempt to do so.
- Don’t let the infidelity draw attention away from the real issues
I have seen marriages and relationships fail only to blame the failure on an extramarital affair when that wasn’t the truth of why the relationship really ended. There is a lot that is unfortunate about marriages that end with cheating, but the most unfortunate piece is that it almost always takes the focus off of what really happened in the relationship and places it on the act itself while they are two separate, but connected issues. The choice to have affair is one that needs to be examined and managed, but it is most often NOT the sole reason for the demise of the relationship. While I know this may be difficult to hear, it is the truth; and understanding this truth will help you to move forward far more effectively.
- Bad behavior speaks for itself
In an age of social media; texting, sexting, facebook, instagram, youtube…there are numerous ways to impulsively and publicly share our challenges, adversities, anger and hurt. What we often forget is that bad behavior speaks for itself. The tendency is to falsely believe that it is necessary to spread the word about your partner’s bad behavior and share it with the world so that everyone knows that you’ve been wronged. Unfortunately, that is not what really happens. When bad behavior is met with even worse behavior, it takes the focus off of the original act. Imagine someone hitting you and instead of hitting them back harder, you simply walk away with your head held high. The old saying is true, two wrongs don’t make a right. When you react to infidelity with fury, revenge, retaliation and public displays of humiliation, it does not in any way showcase the affair. And it will never make the pain of the affair go away. Rather, it marginalizes you and will force people to more likely focus on your inability to control your emotions than to give you the support you will need to navigate next steps.
- What happens next is up to you
Being in a relationship with someone who has been unfaithful does not make you a victim. In fact, once you aware of the infidelity, what happens next is 100% your choice. I am in no way suggesting that this will be an easy situation to manage, however you now have significant choices to make. Your partner’s decision to engage in adultery in no way prevents you from moving forward; instead it means that you will need good and skilled support to help you determine what you want to happen and how to make it happen with courage, confidence, clarity and control. This is an opportunity to stand powerfully in your own core values, wants and needs; and intentionally choose what you want to happen next.
Infidelity is a complex, emotional and potentially volatile experience to manage. There is no right or wrong when it comes to navigating these waters and determining what will happen next in your relationship or marriage. And when there are children involved, even more care, consideration and restraint need to be put into the process of moving forward. For your own benefit, take the time you need and get the support you deserve so that you can take action in a way that allows you to be the person you really are.