What is an affair? What constitutes cheating? Infidelity? These are very personal definitions. Most people have their own version of what constitutes what. Here is a definition I have adapted from experts in the field that works well: An affair involves one of the partner’s passion being directed at someone or something other than their partner that often includes secrecy.
Affairs/cheating can include making-out with or kissing someone at a club, one-night-stands or flings, cyber sex, or behaviors for getting sexual gratification. They can also include devotion to cars, work, projects, children, etc. If the activity keeps one partner from fully engaging and being available to the other, then the activity can be considered an affair.
For the purpose of this article, the focus is on affairs that involve one of the partners going outside their relationship for sexual and/or emotional intimate gratification with another person(s).
The affair is not the problem in the relationship, but a symptom in the relationship. Affairs happen for a reason. Even if you thought your relationship was great until the affair was discovered, there was still something in your relationship dynamic that allowed for the affair to take place.
Affairs are discovered in many different ways and can be addressed once they are acknowledged. It is more difficult to do any repair and healing work until this happens. Very often one of the partners has a gut feeling their partner is cheating to have the other stubbornly deny it. This leaves the suspicious partner very disgruntled, confused, insecure, and with a host of other not so pretty feelings. In my own experience and from literature, it is believed that when a partner has this gut feeling it is usually true.
**A note of caution: sometimes because partners have been wronged this way or have experienced other forms of betrayal, they are unreasonably suspicious. It is therefore unfair to say that if there is a gut feeling their partner is cheating for sure.
The suspicious partner’s reality is tentative and questionable if their instincts are denied. If they believe, and can a lot of times prove something, but their reality continues to be denied, they are left with a world that doesn’t make sense. Things don’t add up and the relating with their partner is off, and yet they can’t put their finger on it. As a result they go on a quest to prove and make sense of things, becoming detectives, nags, interrogators, etc. This situation is not healthy to any of the parties involved, Both parties can’t get their needs met and are not satisfied in their relationship.
When there is a suspicion and/or the relationship is not working, it is better to come clean so some real work can be done. It is risky business disclosing affairs as the partner who went out of the relationship has to face consequences and related fears. My thoughts are that if one wants a genuine and satisfying relationship, works needs to be done and it can’t happen when there are secrets and exits in the relationship. What’s the point of continuing a dissatisfying situation? It might get pretty heated and ugly in the face of a disclosure, but in the long run, whether one creates a satisfying relationship with their partner or moves on, they are taking charge of their life and meeting their needs.
Once the affair is admitted or disclosed, the offending partner needs to be prepared for the other partner’s reactions. Once the storm settles the couple can get to working. A lot of patience is required here and the offending partner needs to hang in there until their partner gets a grip. At that point the work entails rehashing the details of the affair so the non-offending partner can finally make sense of their world. This includes admitting lies, filling in the blanks, and answering questions about events, situations and the other person. Even thought this is painful and uncomfortable for the partners, it is very helpful in co-creating history and their reality and establishing a platform from which to build the new conscious relationship. Remember our imaginations are pretty powerful, it is better to have facts out there than to leave our partner guessing.
Then some real healing and rebuilding can start to happen. The partners need to put the affair in context of their dynamic and see it as a symptom of what they have and how they have related. They need to own what they contributed to this dynamic that eventually led to one of them going outside their relationship. This is very hard work, especially in the face of the tumultuous feelings going on.
The aggrieved partner needs to receive a sincere and complete apology and amends need to happen for forgiveness and healing to be possible. The offending partner needs to initially suck it up and be at the partner’s whim in creating security and proving their sincerity. The hypervigilance and micromanaging eventually subsides, hang in there.
While this work is being done, the partners also need to be working on creating changes in their dynamic and healing their original wounds that set this wheel in motion in the first place. Making these changes empowers both partners and serves as a preventive measure for relapse.
Experiencing this traumatic situation in our relationship is not an easy thing to undergo and heal from. Doing the work is worth all the effort and pain. Couples do not go back to how they were before the affair, but create an amazing new, intimate and strong relationship.
There is nothing good to loose by not addressing these lapses in judgment. Tap into your courage reservoir and get to healing!! You can only make things better in your life in the long run!!!