I find that generalizing about infidelity can be difficult given how episodes of cheating are usually the symptom of a larger relationship problem (that only you can objectively assess).
Nevertheless, there is one thing we can absolutely sure about, and that is that the relationship has forever changed. If we consider where the past has landed us, on what is probably the pinnacle of mount resentment and hurt, the promise of change may come as a chance to grab the bull by its ever illusive horns.
The Illusion Of Intention
Deciphering the intent that led to the episode of cheating is something that our ego usually demands that we solve. That somehow, knowing why we were cheated on will help us regain a measure of control.
The problem with this understandable impulse is that no matter which way we cut it, no matter which face the dice roll reveals, the end result is always the same. Cheating simply isn’t acceptable. There is no scenario, even under the most humanly relatable of hiccups, where knowing why we are cheated on is in any way beneficial to us. Other than to cement self-inflicted insecurity such as:
- I was horny/It was just a fling. – Do they no longer find me attractive?
- I needed warmth because you’re always distant. – Is this what I deserve. Am I at least partly to blame?
- I didn’t mean anything. I Promise! – If it wasn’t important, why jeopardize what we have over something insignificant. Unless, of course, what we have is insignificant.
Fixing a relationship after cheating will take a great deal of nerve, no matter what the circumstance are. The problem with all these questions is that they really serve to reinforce insecurity and guilt, rather than to clear a way forward. We’re better off attempting to accept that it happened at face value, without indulging in guessing games with regards to intent. The question that we should be asking ourselves isn’t why then, but what now.
Does this mean the healthy thing to do is just to take the hit and swallow our hurt? Absolutely not. Infidelity should have consequences, and you should not vicariously absolve them of their guilt or actions. However, if the intention is to move forward, as is implied in the title of this article, we have to come to grips with the fact that moving forward will involve leaving most of the emotional debris behind. The alternative? A progressive accumulation of resentment and distrust that will shatter progress further down the line.
Now is the time to be honest with ourselves. Is reconciling trust and romance something we are fundamentally willing to do, given what has already happened? Because if you realize that you can’t, you should be under no obligation to do so (and yes, allowing the relationship to collapse under the weight of its own problems is entirely understandable).
Dealing With Trust Issues
Ultimately, this isn’t only about how we feel, but also about they feel. And because of this, communicating openly without fear of offense or confrontation is the first step towards turning wrongs into rights.
By communicating I do not mean obsessing over intent (although to some extent over-analysis is going to happen anyway). What I do mean is attempting to turn this tragedy into an opportunity.
The focus should be on present and future, and not only the past.
- Talk about what you want to do, or how you feel right now. Along with what steps you feel can immediately be taken to address these issues. Maybe you need some time alone, maybe you feel like some time exclusively together. Now is the time to act.
- The relationship has changed. Don’t try to find a way to rekindle what was. Due to the fact that what exists today is something else entirely (and not necessarily in a bad way — it’s only natural for relationships to evolve), any attempt to resurrect what was will only ever end in further disappointment.
- Redefine your personal relationship goals. As cliché as it sounds, every curse is potentially a blessing in disguise. While many will understandably treat infidelity as a terminal relationship foul-up (on a personal note, this is definitely me), it can, and has proven to be, a wake up call that can help both you and your partner re-evaluate the relationship in a way that is more fulfilling. However, it hinges upon mutual collaboration. Your partner will also have to not only demonstrate, but feel that this is an opportunity, not the beginning of the end (and you can only ever been partially responsible for this).
The Way Forward
At the end of the day the continuance of a relationship can only be rooted in something predominantly positive because that is what fuels friendship, romance and trust. If the pain that stems from infidelity has contributed to an environment which drains everyone involved (beyond the shock and pain of it occurring in the first place, which is unavoidable), then the relationship is doomed because it offers nothing of value. And frankly, you would be better served letting the curtains fall, or at the very least, taking a significant break.
Fulfillment is a long-term goal, however. And in the meantime there will be pain to meander, and remorse to naturally exorcise. Personally though, if you can realistically, and objectively envision a future that features the same level of trust that gave birth to the relationship, devoid of the vestiges of resentment that may now plague you, then perhaps getting there might be a struggle worth fighting for. If not, then perhaps it would make more sense to find a little more space.