Through friendships and connections, I have come to more people than I wish I knew, who have found themselves in the unfortunate midst of either a full-blown affair or some degree of infidelity on the cheating spectrum. Some are cheaters. Some have been cheated on. I could cite studies that claim infidelity occurs in 60%, 50%, or 25% of the time over the life of the relationship. However, I’m not sure that any of those statistics help understand whether or not your relationship is at risk or what you should do about it.
Is Infidelity the End of Your Relationship?
It could possibly be the death of one phase of your relationship, but it might also open a door to communicate, forgive and build a second one together. For both parties, there is a sense of loss; but in most cases, an affair has much less to do with the person who has been cheated on and much more about the growth and desires of the person who is doing the cheating.
Losing Your Religion or At Least Your Identity
Affairs are complex. Modern patterns of infidelity can leave a massive, digital trail of footprints, extensive documentation about a process you wouldn’t want to relive in such intimate detail. As Esther Perel says, the sheer volume of evidence leaves, “a thousand cuts.”
An Affair Can be Shameful
It is difficult to find support from friends who would encourage you to stay. Because how could you ever trust your partner again? How can you forgive? The sense of betrayal might be so painful that it triggers a protective response in everyone you know. By staying, you feel shame. You might feel unworthy. You might feel paralyzed.
It Doesn’t have to be a Zero Sum Game
Affairs are often 99% about the cheater. They are highly-focused on emotional expression and desire for maybe novelty or to nurture parts of themselves that they wish to grow or empower, or simply to know. Instead of vilifying the cheater, maybe we need to reach out to them and open the doors of communication to find out what they need and if it’s possible to meet them.
Maybe We Shouldn’t Promise Fidelity?
A lie from someone that you trust is a profound and painful experience. By promising fidelity, we might inhibit our own growth. We might limit our communication and open potential doors to deception. Instead, why not promise honesty? Maybe all of this talk of cheating is really a crisis of communication? Maybe we’re not very good at seeing ourselves and expressing our own desires and aspirations.