Infidelity is certainly one of the most challenging issues a couple can face. The depth of pain experienced by the partner who was cheated on can be excruciating and unrelenting. For those who are not able to move past this transgression, it can represent the death of the relationship. The breach of trust is simply too much for some to bear which is completely understandable. However, for those who want to try to move past this event and rebuild their relationship foundation – there is hope. But it requires hard work and a commitment to the process.
The issue of “cheating” and having an “affair” comes up frequently in my couples work. Though this is one of the more challenging circumstances to work through in relationship, the fact that the couple has presented themselves at all to work on it is a great first sign. This can not only be very damaging to the partner who was cheated on but shaming for the one who did the cheating. When the couple sits down on the couch in front of me, they both know they are about to climb an incredibly steep hill together in which they may not even make it to the top. There will undoubtedly be slippery rocks, sharp grades and harsh weather along the way.
Unfortunately when the human mind doesn’t have the answer to something, it fills in the gap. Now ask yourself, does it fill in the gap with a story about the other person’s best intentions? Nope. In therapy speak we call what happens “awful-izing” and catastro-phizing”. Our brains fill in gaps with the worst possible scenarios. “She doesn’t care about what’s important to me.” “He thinks I’m always doing it wrong.” Sound familiar?
When this happens once or twice, it might not be such a big deal. When it happens every day; when a couple does not spend any time talking about what their day has been like, what their thoughts and feelings are about their lives together, this is a problem. If none of this is happening then most likely that couple is not repairing arguments either.
If a couple cannot talk about the mundane everyday stuff, how can they talk about the hard stuff? Instead of working through difficulties, instead of sharing bits and pieces of themselves, instead of feeling like a close couple and special to each other, they grow distant, disconnected and not engaged with each other. They become two individuals – probably resentful about the other person’s lack of care and concern.
Okay, you got the problem. Does any of this sound familiar? So many times in life the answer to our problems is to quit resisting what we are resisting. When we do this, new options appear; we get through the problem and gain new insight and learning. We grow! In this case, be intentional about how you move through space and time together. Make time to be together and talk.
When you first started seeing each other, did you make a date? Did you chose a specific day, time and place to meet? And what did you do then? Talk? Sure! You talked and got to know each other. You learned what was important, what the other’s values were and hopefully learned where their raw spots are too. Then we quit talking and quit getting to know someone. Are you the same person you were when you got married or together with your partner? Probably not. We all change, but we also quit making an effort to get to know our partner even though they changed too. Getting the idea here?
Be intentional about setting aside time together and be together. Talk together. Get to know each other. Go on a date and pretend your are starting over getting to know your partner. If you have things to repair, then get started!