Sometimes we believe we know what we would do when faced with this scenario. But when it comes down to the reality of being faced with betrayal – would you stay or go if you caught your partner cheating?
It is the ultimate act of betrayal and one that if it occurs will end most relationships. I am of course speaking of infidelity or affairs and when they happen it is like a house fire in the heart, absolutely devastating.
With the trust ripped away, it lays bare the relationship and for many couples who attempt to navigate this difficult path to keep their relationship together, it can seem to only add trauma on top of trauma.
This trauma can impact both parties, with the person who committed the affair wracked with guilt, shame, remorse and an undercurrent of fear that they may lose their partner. These feelings are even more powerful if you add children to the equation.
For the other, there are constant trust issues and a reliving of the trauma the betrayal has caused, acting likes waves, with periods of calm followed by a ferocious swell that reignites the conflict and lays bare the gulf that now exists in the relationship.
For the victim of the betrayal, these symptoms can be quite serious and very similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, with constant flashbacks and anxiety impacting their mental health and well-being.
Infidelity can seem to strip away all happiness and given the hell that both partners will go through, it does pose the question, why on earth would anyone put themselves through that?
An excellent question for another day and in this piece I want to focus on whether it is possible for a couple to say together following such betrayal. How could trust possibly be re-built?
Believe it or not, cheating in a relationship is far more common than people think, with data from one of the ‘cheaters’ website shows that over a million Australian’s accessed the site, whilst research suggests that close to 1 in 5 people are cheating on their partner right now.
So this is an issue that many couples have to deal with and the good news for those who elect to work through the affair is that it is possible to come out the other side and rebuild the relationship.
It is not an easy road and there are many barriers that will need to be passed, but through working together it is possible to find the safety and security required to help prevent such a trauma being repeated.
When a betrayal of such significance occurs, the road to healing is very tough and there are some important steps that will need to be undertaken for the relationship to be repaired.
The first step towards healing and moving on is for both couples to commit to stay together. This can be a very difficult step for the person who has been betrayed and will require genuine remorse and regret from the perpetrator for the hurt they have caused. Without it, the relationship will not survive.
when we are betrayed by someone we love a connection is broken that can seem almost impossible to repair. So there needs to be a coming together of the couple, who will need to find a way to reconnect and begin to visualise a positive future together, one built on the safety and security that such betrayal will never happen again. This is one of the hardest steps.
This is tough as affairs happen for a reason and an important part of moving forward is identifying what caused someone to look outside the relationship. These discussions tend to bring up some long-standing and unaddressed issues that need to be dealt with. My advice is to not undertake this alone and do so in front of a skilled relationship counsellor, so views can be expressed in a safe environment. If you can get this right, you are well on the path recommitting to each other.
If there is one emotion that can counter the feelings that infidelity creates, such as anger, guilt and blame, it is love. There was a reason that you and your partner came together in the first place and if you recapture that feeling then you are on your way to forgiveness and understanding. It is from here that you will find healing, hope and a fresh start with your emotional health intact.
Surviving infidelity is a delicate process, one that comes at great cost and it is important to understand that the relationship that you had prior will be very different to the one that survives post-affair.
Given the trauma that is being dealt with, trying to stay together is not a decision you should undertake without support from a therapist with a good understanding of how the brain processes trauma, one who can help a couple move towards healing and rebuilding your relationship.