One request we make to our partners in marriage and serious relationships is pure monogamy.
Monogamy is a widely-expected practice in our culture; however, roughly a quarter of married couples will unfortunately experience infidelity according to Dr. Richard Fitzgibbon (see more at MaritalHealing.com).
What can a couple, which built their lives around one another, do after a case of infidelity? For the couples that choose to work through it, here are some things to expect:
Honestly is the key. Once a partner finds out about infidelity, he or she will have many heavy questions that are not easily answered.
It is important to understand that the partner will want to know who, what, why, where and how. It is best to answer the questions honestly.
The only exception of full disclosure is intimate descriptions of the actual sexual encounter. Infidelity can turn a couple upside down and it's usually traumatic.
Details of the actual sexual encounter can increase symptoms related to post traumatic stress disorder and increase emotional pain, not to mention painfully vivid pictures stuck in the brain.
2. Feelings To Be Expected
It is important to understand a spouse's traumatized emotions. Partners can react to news of cheating in ways related to acute stress disorder or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Infidelity can raise deep fears and damage to self-esteem. It can cause intense anger, reoccurring dreams, unwanted and intruding thoughts or flashbacks and feelings of despair.
Also much like PTSD, feelings of being stuck in the drama can continuously make one partner feel like he or she is on hyper-alert.
It is likely that the partner will repeatedly ask similar questions over a period of weeks are months.
3. Offering Transparency
Because symptoms like PTSD can result from infidelity, it will be necessary for the cheater to provide full transparency.
The partner will want to look at all social media platforms, including Facebook messages, texts, emails, Twitter and phone calls.
It would be best if the cheating partner offers complete transparency and allows the partner to look at anything he or she wants and at any time.
If a partner is sending messages to a third party and actively hide the interactions, he or she may be in an emotional affair, which can be damaging to the relationship, too.
Of course, personal messages to family members should be respected as private.
4. Don’t Get Defensive
Defensive statements like, “Well, you didn’t give me the time of day, so what was I supposed to do?” actually pass blame to the partner for the cheater's cheating.
It is an unhealthy spiral that will only lead to other issues. Focus on one issue at a time. Speak from the “I,” like, “I felt so lonely.” This statement doesn’t spread blame for actions.
5. Seek Support
Marriage is hard, even without infidelity. There are no manuals, especially these days. Look for support in your community.
Reach out to your religious affiliations or seek counseling (shop for a good therapist who supports your decision to stay together).
Talk to other couples that have experienced similar events. Stay away from people who do not support your decisions.
6. Make sure there is no third party in your relationship
It is easy to let others in, like friends, parents or children. They become the third leg to help stabilize the relationship, either subconsciously or not.
Venting your anger to your mom or a friend is healthy, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the direct communication you make to your partner.
And an even bigger no-no is complaining to the children about a parent. This can damage their relationship with him or her and can create unhealthy dynamics between the couple.
Remember that love brought the two of you together. There is good and bad in all of us, and sometimes we make mistakes.
Try to see that a person is not all bad because he or she made a big mistake. Remember to love yourself and forgive yourself for your mistakes.
All we really want at our cores is to feel safe and be loved. We all want that bond, it is just human nature. Try to discover what you need.
Choosing to stay together after cheating is a huge decision. Infidelity can be symptomatic of much larger, underlying problems.
It would be wise to seek out counseling from an experienced and supportive therapist or from your religious affiliation.
There is hope; it's up to the couple and only the couple to make that choice.