The first thing to understand is that infidelity is a lot more common than is thought, it is believed that about 25% of men are thought to have extra relational affairs, and about 15% of women. There are biosocial reasons for this behaviour in humans, common with our nearest social animals such as chimps etc in terms of seeking a healthy gene pool.
We are all familiar with the apocryphal stories of the kings and queens of yore having sickly babies due to inbreeding, which doesn’t help if you are the victim of a cheating spouse, but it does help to make a distinction between normal cheating and abnormal cheating and it should be pointed out that the 25% and 15% are not the same group of people but it’s at any one time.
We may all at some point be the perpetrator or victim of this scenario and really should head the adage around stones and glass houses. The decision about whether you stay with the partner who cheated will largely depend on the circumstances of your relationship.
If you decide to end the relationship it’s unlikely it will be due to solely the infidelity, but that will be one of the factors and maybe the most important of the factors that mean the relationship is unsustainable. Why this is important is for several factors that will mean you can move on cleanly and not bring this dynamic into you next relationship. Crucial to this is to normalise the experience and to take some power of decision making and authorship.
Allowing oneself to experience the infidelity as an event which turns us into a victim disempowers and possibly sets up a situation in which you will blame yourself inadvertently for the cheating of your partner.
You will ask yourself what is wrong with me, rather than what went wrong with the relationship or with the situation and in thinking about what was wrong with the relationship it’s not, ‘what was wrong with the relationship that led to the cheating’ as this is another trap, but what was wrong with the relationship that I didn’t want to or couldn’t forgive the infidelity?
In relationships we forgive because we want that person in our lives, and we refuse to forgive because we want them to go.
As much as possible we want in this situation to move to a place where we can accept it’s an event that happened, that happens to many people, and it was the last straw. The effort involved in repeating the rupture wouldn’t yield enough return as there were problems anyway. We move from being potentially the victim of a soap drama to someone who has had a challenging life experience who wants to move on and heal.
Being able to reframe in this way does mean we are very much less likely to be processing the experience in our next relationship, and by processing, I mean carrying dumping the baggage from the infidelity into the next relationship.
During this process of ending and moving on it’s going to be important to avoid those folk in your network who feed on drama. Even though this may feel tough at first, it’s important to have voices in your life that ask you to be reflective, avoid dramatising the situation, try to normalise it, look at the bigger picture, look at your part without self-blame and at what you gain from moving on, above all avoid angels and demons.
Angels and demons are simplistic, black and white, infantile ways of thinking about people and life. Life and people are complex and muddy and there is good and bad in all of us.
It’s important to look at abnormal cheating and by that, I mean cheating that should not be normalised. This will tend to be of the serial nature and often the person doing it will have other issues, such as drinking, substance problems and for sure intimacy issues.
Generally, the partners of the type of hyper-sexual person will experience significant harm over time due to the range of manipulations, the love bombing, the lying, the intimacy problems that lead to attachment issues and self-doubt in the person being cheated on. You will be very likely to need professional help to deal with the damage done in this type of situation as you will have been living with someone with a chronic relationship problem.
Often the partners of the philanderer in that type of situation will experience significant trauma and need help to overcome it. As the partner there is little you can do to change them, in the same way you can’t change an alcoholic, unless they do the work to get help and stop.
You are better off getting out of an unhealthy situation and seeking help to ensure you don’t carry the damage with you.
About Noel McDermott
Noel McDermott is the Founder of Mental Health Works Ltd. He has created unique, mental health services in the independent sector. Noel’s company offer at-home mental health care and will source, identify and co-ordinate personalised care teams for the individual. They have recently launched a range of online therapy resources to help clients access help without leaving home.