Cheating, affairs, infidelity … the words alone are tough to hear.
What's so hard-hitting about this topic? No one wants to admit that their partner may be cheating. Even the idea of infidelity feels unsettling. The message we say to ourselves is, "there must be something wrong with me if he / she has an affair." The truth is, there's nothing wrong with you, but if it's happening, critical areas of your relationship have been neglected by both of you.
You can look at cheating in two ways. Some view infidelity as a devastating end to a relationship. From a fearful distance, they say they've never tolerated it, and it's the worst betrayal of all. But, avoiding affairs only works by offering love, respect, understanding, and trust to a nurturing relationship. Fear then, the opposite of these strengthening qualities, only adds a layer of negativity, leading to the result you're trying to avoid.
On the other hand, you can choose to see an affair as a major red flag in the relationship. An affair in your relationship is alarm sounding off. It's ringing loud and clear that your relationship is in major trouble, and needs immediate attention. But, where does an affair leave your relationship? I'll answer this in an upcoming article.
For now, here are 7 Do's & Don'ts to consider if you face this painful realization.
1. Do not Ignore Your Gut. It's not very easy to cover up cheating behaviors. The signs of cheating are usually pretty consistent, which I'll also cover in a future article. Whether it's a one night stand or a lengthy affair, a cheating partner is often overly cautious. Their attempt to "act" normal can create great suspicion. You also know when a sequence of events does not quite add up. It's usually more than one questionable occurrence that's created a restless frenzy of worry for you. But, be careful and stay in control of your thinking. Do not create stories about what you "think" he / she is doing. It's easy to obsess about hypothetical cheating and convince yourself its taking place, even with no evidence.
2. Do Be Objective. Obviously, if your partner has cheated, you're upset, and will go through a very normal sequence of pain with infuriating thoughts and feelings. But, it's really important to objectively look at the evidence. Emotions are running high now, and it's easy to create a cloud over the truth.
3. Do not confront the other man or woman. A relationship that's facing an affair really has nothing to do with the "other" man or woman. Then, why do people get so mad at the other man or woman? Because, an affair is saying that something's been neglected in your relationship. It's easier to blame a third party than face the truth about your own troubles. There's no man or woman that can make your partner cheat. Your partner decided to cheat. He or she, therefore, is the one you need to face, and the one who changed your relationship forever.
4. Do not end it right away. Give yourself some time and space to think. You may decide that a cheating partner is not worth your time, which is understood. But, walking away from any relationship purely out of pain and anger will never help you heal … you'll continue to feel victimized and angry. It's important to understand what happened in your relationship so that you can move on. Whether you forgive or dump your partner, both people actively played a part to create this relationship, including you. Analyze what you could do differently in future relationships, or what can be done to restore the one your in.
5. Do not Obsess about What Others Will Think. You may be thinking, "What others will think if they find out?" Who cares? What others think of you is none of your business, and it will not help your situation. Focusing on world's vision of affairs is looking "outside" of the real issues facing your relationship. It's the same behavior that leads to affairs in the first place … the "inside" of the relationship was not being nurtured. Unrealistic expectations, a lack of respect, appreciation, intimacy, and understanding drive relationships down very rocky roads. Consequently, people put lots of effort to make a relationship "look great." On the inside, however, these relationships can lack true care, appreciation, and affection.
6. Do get help. The emotional tsunami you'll face if your partner is cheating is too much to think through clearly. Earlier on, I mentioned to think objectively, and I feel strongly about this. But, you'll need some support, someone that can help you sort through the initial shock of it all. Honestly, how can you strategically plan what to do next when you're distraught? You'll need to go through all the phases of cheating, and then learn how to set boundaries in the future. Consider working with someone that's not biased, to help you sort through this tough time. Your partner has already bought comfort from someone else, and you can too (without cheating, of course … see # 7 below).
7. Do not cheat for revenge. If someone stop from you, would you steal from them?
If you're not a thief, you're not a thief. You would not become a crook because someone else is. So, do not be a cheater just because someone cheated on you. You decide which values you live by. Consequently, cheating on your partner for revenge has a list of painful consequences: 1. It hurts your relationship further. 2. You show your partner that cheating is okay with you. 3. You hurt yourself by living against your own value system. 4. You hurt the "other" person, who did not ask to be used. If you cheat for revenge, say goodbye to your dignity, and any hope of restoring your relationship to a healthy place.
Whatever the reason, cheating is an emotionally charged topic, and the idea alone sounds devastating. In future articles, I'll discuss more about the reasons men and women have affairs. Just know that while you're hurting and angry, it's not the end of the world. But it is the end of this relationship as you know it. You'll have to decide if your partner really deserves you. If so, then it's not just your partner's job to restore your relationship. Become aware that it's also your job to analyze what went wrong, and help create a newer, stronger, more loving relationship that's shielded from the destruction of affairs.