People strongly believe (and warn) that if their significant other were to cheat that they would immediately terminate that relationship. Boom, it’s over. But then they find themselves sitting across from me, wanting to figure out if they can heal. 100% of my clients who have been betrayed tell me they never thought they would want to work on a relationship if their partner cheated, so they are flabbergasted that they would consider exploring the possibility. Ending a relationship is not that simple, I assure them, and it is okay to stay.
The stigma of infidelity is powerful – so powerful that few people know that some (or many) of their friends and neighbors have experienced infidelity in their relationship and moved forward/healed. People just don’t talk about it because they are embarrassed that they would forgive after such a horrible action. But how easy is it, in reality, to just cut someone out of your life who you love and loves you – someone who you have made a commitment to and with whom you have built a life. Yes, the majority of the people who land in my office still love each other – even the one who strayed.
When I assure them that people do heal, that it is okay to stay with a partner that cheated, I see a weight lift off of their shoulders. Our culture teaches us that, if you stay with a “cheater,” you are somehow weak – or that “once a cheater, always a cheater.” Neither of these statements are based in reality. Many couples heal, feel whole again, and the unfaithful spouse never cheats again.
That being said, a lot of work has to be done for the betrayed spouse to feel safe in the relationship again. If the unfaithful spouse takes responsibility for their actions, learns about what led them to stray and makes appropriate amends, the hurt spouse will experience a shift in their spouse and their marriage leading to a sense of connectedness that helps them feel secure. Believe it or not, many people feel that they have a stronger marriage after the crisis of infidelity because they had to re-examine themselves and their marriage and make changes to safeguard it.
Of course, a lot more goes into healing after infidelity and it is a difficult process with many twists and turns/ups and downs. I compare it to a roller coaster ride. And, certainly, I recommend you see an experienced couple’s therapist to guide you on this journey. The ride is bumpy, unbearable at times, but the end result can be of healing if you are both willing to put the work in. I would never want the stigma to be something that stops someone from healing – it says nothing about one’s character to forgive a partner for cheating other than that you are human, see your partner as human, and you realize that life isn’t so simple as you thought.