Interview with Rita DeMaria, PhD, written by Gabriela Garcia for Latina.com - August 2008
You caught your significant other cheating. Now what? Dump the two-timing liar, right? While that may seem like the obvious response, life isn’t always that black and white. Maybe you just bought a house together or have kids involved. Maybe you realize it’s the fifth time someone is cheating on you and you’re thinking that you may be doing something wrong. After cheating has occurred, when do you stay and when do you go?
Dr. Rita DeMaria, of the Council for Relationships, sees patients with exactly those kinds of questions all the time. According to her, most people never intended to cheat. “People think they are going to be able to be faithful but they start to grow apart or one person doesn’t want to get involved with the romantic aspects and the other person starts to become very frustrated. The more unaware someone is of how unhappy they are, the more dangerous it is.” People often vent their frustrations to others around them, and often times that connection with someone will turn into cheating. Consider that about 90% of affairs for men and 60% of affairs for women take place at work and this becomes even more apparent. Cheating often signifies other problems in the relationship, and in some cases the issues can be resolved.
When to stay: Of course, you need to consider practical matters. If you are married and have a life together, it is obviously more difficult to walk away from the situation. The most important factor, however, is willingness from your partner to stop cheating and work things out. If both parties are willing to try, she suggests seeking professional help and getting ready to be very open with communication. “The person who’s been betrayed always wants to know certain things…[often you say to yourself] ‘How could I have missed it? I had no idea’ so it causes a time warp and people need to put the pieces back to make sense of their life.” Once the couple has worked through the cheating, it’s a matter of keeping things honest and not letting the old communication problems pop up again. “Keep communication open, keep romance alive, and make sure that you keep your own sexual energy and interests healthy.”
When you need to walk away: “When one person is having an affair they won’t stop, the other person gets kind of crazy in their behavior. Often they lose weight, they’re very suspicious, they can’t sleep, and it really begins to take a toll on them,” says Dr. DeMaria. If that sounds like you, it’s time to let it go. Chronic cheaters rarely ever change their ways, even if there’s a family involved. Dr. DeMaria suggests getting support from family, friends, and community groups to heal from infidelity and work to maintain healthy relationships in the future. She also suggests visiting www.beyondaffairs.com and hooking up with a support group in your area if you are having an especially difficult time. If you find that you are going back to men who cheat on you, or are constantly in these types of relationships, seeking professional help is a good idea. “It usually has to do with what your expectations are of men and what your relationship history is,” she explains. “I usually have people do a little family background checking when they come in to see me because it’s very common that if there are patterns of infidelity in your life they’ve been in your parent’s, grandparent’s, [or other family member’s] lives.”