No man or woman wants to discover or hear their partner confess their unfaithfulness. The emotions that infidelity evokes are strong enough to shatter and destroy lives. History has shown us that its power is strong enough to cause wars that tear apart entire nations, let alone families.
Is it possible then to recover from something as brutal as being cheated on? How does a couple even begin such a process? Well, grab a cup of coffee. This is going to be a heavy one.
1. Why Do People Cheat?
Before we look at how reconciliation happens, it is important to understand how and why infidelity even occurs. What is it that causes people to betray the ones they love? Cheating broadly seems to fall into two main categories:
- As an act of revenge
- As a means to fulfill their emotional or sexual needs.
Both categories are obviously extremely hurtful to the one being cheated on. In the first category, the rationale is “My needs aren’t being satisfied, and I’ve made it clear to my partner. So it’s his/her fault that I had to cheat.” It’s pretty tough to sympathize with this line of thought.
In the second category, cheating occurs as payback or revenge for an emotional slight. Sometimes, it could even be to get back at their partner’s own infidelity.
Regardless of the reasons for cheating, once infidelity occurs, a sort of timer starts. A countdown to either the discovery, dissolution, or challenging reconciliation of the relationship.
2. The Discovery of Infidelity
There are many ways a person reacts to infidelity. Most people experience some combination of shock, disgust, and anger. There is often very little discourse during such moments beyond pointless questions like “Why?”
No answer provided can reduce the hurt felt at that pivotal moment.
Others may have already suspected some form of infidelity, and the confirmation brings a deep resentment and a sense of betrayal. Others still experience a surprising sense of relief on knowing their suspicions were correct. They see the revelation as a definitive end to the relationship and the beginning of a new chapter in their life.
However, there are a few situations when, after the initial shock (which can last from a few days to even several months), the betrayed partner attempts to understand and reconcile with his or her partner. A number of circumstances are usually responsible for someone to consider staying with a cheating partner.
3. What Causes People to Stay?
Many of the factors that cause people to stay, when seen objectively, can be very tragic to learn about. A betrayed partner will often stay in the relationship and try to work things through:
When Children are Involved
A lot of parents value the stability of a home and a family structure. These people put aside their hurt and grief and think of the children. People in this situation try to come up with coping strategies and rationalize the cheating with statements like “Oh, most men have someone on the side” or “At least he doesn’t beat me.”
Single-parent homes do have a number of disadvantages in raising children, which have been widely studied. Unfortunately, it is usually the betrayed side that sacrifices the most for the sake of the children.
When Love is Strong
This is probably the most tragic circumstance of them all. Here, the betrayed person’s love is so strong that they’re unable to stop loving their partner even after being cheated on.
Even here, there is a lot of rationalization that occurs. Statements such as “I deserved it” or “I wasn’t giving them enough attention” are commonly heard from betrayed partners.
When History Runs Deep
Many long-term couples have a long and deep history together. They may have supported each other through tough times or may have known each other for many years prior. Sometimes, people feel like they have invested too much into the relationship to just end things after an incident of infidelity.
If the partner who cheated appears to be truly remorseful, it isn’t uncommon for the other person to overlook it and try to move on. This is especially true if the incident happened under the influence of alcohol or an intoxicant substance. Such situations are often excused as “They weren’t themselves, and it was an honest mistake.”
4. Is True Reconciliation Possible
We have now seen a number of circumstances where people can continue a relationship but only a lingering air of uneasiness. Can true reconciliation ever happen?
The answer is yes.
But there’s a catch!
The reconciliation requires a significant amount of effort and commitment from both partners, which may sometimes still not be enough to save the relationship.
Infidelity can cause deep emotional wounds, and the process of healing and rebuilding trust takes time and patience.
Reconciliation often involves addressing the underlying issues that led to the infidelity.
These issues revolve around building a foundation of trust and communication and developing new patterns of behavior. Couples counseling can be a very effective tool in this process, providing a safe space for partners to work through their emotions and build a stronger bond.
Counseling can also use the affair as a springboard to create a stronger bond. A good couples counselor can help partners renew their commitment and increase their quality of communication.
Therapists these days can be accessed from anywhere. Technology allows people sitting in Australia to have therapy sessions with counselors in New York if they so wish. Online counseling in this way is super helpful, especially if the couple feels uncomfortable with live, in-person sessions.
If things go well and progress occurs, couples will find that overcoming the affair can be one of the biggest milestones in their relationship. A sense of “If we can work through this, we can work through anything.”
Infidelity is something that every person in a relationship dreads. Across almost every monogamous culture in the world, cheating on your partner is considered to be the worst form of betrayal. The vast majority of relationships tend to end when infidelity is uncovered, and for a good reason.
However, there are a few situations where truly remorseful partners can reconcile. It may take lots of tears and time, but with the help of a couples counselor, a relationship can survive an affair and even grow stronger as a result.