Infidelity

As you know, I’m all about Relational Self-Awareness, which is about taking responsibility for ourselves in service of growth and healing. No one is a perfect human being.

Personally, I have lived experience in all of these perspectives – the Betrayed Partner, the Person Who Cheated, and the Affair Partner. And I’ve worked with many individuals and couples helping them recover from all of these perspectives.

When a person gets stuck in blaming others or circumstances, this person is unable to integrate the infidelity chapter into the larger story of their life. They don’t learn from the transgression, and this creates a risk of repeating the same mistake.

Infidelity is common, and, I’m not promoting it. My approach is of pure compassion, and I prefer to “sit in the situation” with the people involved, to help them understand and integrate new levels of Self and relational awareness, wholeness and love.

Life puts us in situations so we can integrate new levels of wholeness and so we can learn how to love better.

We are sexual beings, and sexual energy is relentless, it demands expression. Sexual energy can be creative or deconstructive depending on whether it’s being expressed in a healthy way or not. Sexual energy has zero rules, therefore as human beings we need to have respect, empathy, boundaries, integrity and rationality, so we don’t become a self-fulfilling narcissist, and so we can co-exist with others in peace, love, harmony and thrive in relationships.

When we look at infidelity with an intra-psychic and relational lens there are many happenings and perspectives. I’m going to share the deeper aspects of what’s going on for each person from each perspectives, and I hope that what I offer here helps you feel grounded, clear and helps stop you from repeating unhealthy patterns. This sharing is from a place beyond blame and shame, it’s a contextualisation not a justification, and it’s about understanding Self so you can move towards empowerment.

The Affair Partner

Once the affair is over you may feel grief, confusion, shame, loneliness and sadness. Give yourself space to lean into these emotions using emotional freedom techniques, feel them fully and remember to ground and connect with mother earth throughout the process.

The story of low integrity you tell yourself – “I’m not the one in a relationship, I’m not cheating.” The message this sends to your being is that you’re okay with blocking someone, shrinking your empathy to make it okay, and telling yourself that it’s okay to harm and hurt other people.

What makes the affair so compelling and attractive?

  • Slowly one boundary at a time gets crossed and this can feel exciting.
  • “Will we, won’t we, what’s going to happen next” = sexual tension.
  • Playing with integrity and danger.
  • Secrecy + Sex = Neurochemical Brew that’s neurologically compelling. It’s extremely intoxicating and seductive.
  • Being the object of someone else’s desire. Very common in those who have low self-esteem or self-hatred, arousal is triggered by knowing someone is turned on by you. “You are hot for me”. “You would put your relationship at risk for me”. For those with low self-esteem or self-hatred, this can feel very alluring as it gives a false sense of wholeness.
  • You may be at a particular stage in life where you want passion, romance and intimacy, but you don’t want companionship, domesticity, longevity. An affair relationship cannot be compared to a real relationship. In a real relationship there’s accountability, responsibility, taking care of duties, managing finances, bills, scheduling, doing laundry, washing dishes, sharing a bathroom etc. In a real relationship you see all sides of each other. In an affair relationship it’s a slice of life and you only see the most positive versions of each other, because you only spend that piece of time together, you don’t see the whole person.
  • Your observation of the dynamic of your parents (primary role models) often plays out for you as an adult as a way of life attempting to get you to understand something you didn’t as a child.
  • Also, the dynamic of your relationship with your parents often plays out with partners. Was there a dynamic in your home as a child where you didn’t feel special and/or you craved closeness? This is trauma and an old wound that warrants healing rather than playing out.
  • The right thing to do and the hard thing to do are the same thing – End it.

The right thing to do and the hard thing to do are the same thing – End it.

“I love you and I won’t, I’m done!”

“I accessed something deep about myself and I’m done.”

When you do end it, you need support and accountability from friends and/or a therapist. There will be a void that needs filling. Focus on nurturing and nourishing yourself, community, friends, playfulness and doing things that fill your heart with joy. Your sexual energy needs to be expressed in a healthy way, channel this into Self Pleasure practice, reading erotic fiction, take a pole dancing or boxing class, gym, playing sport, doing yoga etc.

The Person Who Cheated

Yes, infidelity is common but you also don’t want to bypass feelings of remorse, guilt, accountability and witnessing.

Feel the shame – “I’m a shitty person”. But don’t get stuck here.

Progress the shame you’re experiencing towards guilt as this indicates responsibility for the choice/s you made and will help you stop doing it again – “I am a good person who did a bad thing”.

You made a choice for yourself at the expense of your partner.

You took your feelings somewhere else to get your needs met.

You need to understand why you made these set of choices.

What are the stories going on inside of you?

  • “My partner isn’t being who I need them to be.”
  • “I feel angst, bored, unseen, not validated, unheard, disconnected, conflict.” – Find the Source of this.
  • “I deserve this, longing for something I didn’t have”. – Very self-focused.
  • “My partner is needy, depressed, cold, unavailable etc”.

It wasn’t their neediness, depression, coldness, unavailability that made you cheat, it was the feelings this brought up in you.

It’s less about the Affair Partner and more about how you look in this person’s eyes.

  • “I couldn’t resist, they’re so into me, they find me funny, attractive, loving, alluring etc.”
  • “This is the person I get to be when I’m with ________ (Affair Partner)”.

The Affair Partner helps you access parts of yourself you’re unable to access in your primary relationship.

Sometimes the affair is about recklessness, self-sabotage, begging to get caught and rebelliousness that has an adolescent feel about it.

  • “I can’t contain myself.”
  • “Nobody is stopping me.”

This comes from childhood trauma and old wounds where you didn’t get to feel special, significant or close. The affair is an attempt to gain attention and validation that you didn’t experience as a child.

Heal all of these parts of yourself so you can bring more of yourself to your primary relationship. Communication is essential! Stay connected to Mother Earth throughout this process and seek support where needed.

The Betrayed Partner

There is a huge difference between disclosed infidelity and discovered infidelity. Disclosed is when the Person Who Cheated owns up to what they have done. Discovered is when the Person Who Cheated and the Affair Partner have been caught in the act by the Betrayed Partner or someone else has shared with the Betrayed Partner something they have witnessed going on with the Person Who Cheated and the Affair Partner. Both disclosed and discovered, are very challenging to overcome, but as you can probably imagine, disclosed does have a slightly higher chance of recovery.

Check your emotional climate, you may be feeling angry, hurt, confused, lost, worried, unworthy, embarrassed, rejected, not validated or numb. Work through these emotions using Emotional Freedom Techniques and find the source. Often these emotions relate back to childhood trauma and old wounds where you didn’t get to feel worthy, special, validated, or loved. Life creates circumstances, situations and events for us as an adult, as an opportunity to finally process and sequence old wounds and trauma, feelings that were too big for us to process as a child and at the time the initial event/s happened. Stay connected to Mother Earth throughout this process and seek support where needed.

  • Communication is essential for a healthy relationship.
  • Get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations.
  • Establish or re-establish agreements and boundaries.
  • Re-establish a healthy connection with your sexual desire.

Some betrayed partners will feel disconnected from their sexual desire due to not feeling chosen. Others can feel hyper-aroused and want more frequent sex with their partner as a way of trying to prove their worth, and in a primal way, attempt to reclaim what’s “theirs”.

Have conversations about this with your partner, let them know how you’re feeling, what you’re processing, how you desire to process it, and what you need.

Recovering from Infidelity

Research shows that the Betrayed Partner’s symptoms are deeply impactful and can have long term affects to their mental health. Experiencing betrayal, a form of emotional abuse, can cause various PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorders). Symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares and impaired sleeping, depression, anxiety, brain fog, distrust, and disassociation are common. Betrayed Partners often feel as if their reality has been shaken to its core.

All forms of betrayal in relationship expose the Person Who Cheated as someone the Betrayed Partner does not recognise, which can be disorienting and heartbreaking. The Betrayed Partner now is left with a decision. “Should I stay or should I go?”

Sometimes the healing is within staying and other times the healing is within going.

For the Betrayed Partner who chooses to stay, here are some things to keep in mind, and these need to be shared with the Person Who Cheated, you cannot heal on your own.

The old relationship has died, there’s a turning point that can’t be undone. There’s a “before” the infidelity, and an “after” the infidelity. A new relationship emerges.

For the Betrayed Partner, there’s a mourning of the loss of your partner and the person you thought they were. You are now getting to know your partner again with this new piece of information about them.

  • “Who are you, I thought I knew you, I can’t believe you did this.”

Recovery, integration and rebuilding takes time – yes, it will be challenging.

What’s needed from both people is:

  • Patience
  • Forgiveness
  • Accountability
  • Boundaries
  • Communication
  • And a knowing that it will be painful and challenging especially at certain times (e.g. the anniversary, being with children, family, friends, group gatherings etc)

Recovery is blocked by:

  • Person Who Cheated unwilling to end affair
  • Person Who Cheated unwilling to acknowledge hurtful behaviour
  • Person Who Cheated shows no signs of remorse

Couples who successfully recover:

  • Person Who Cheated focuses on accountability, acknowledgement, empathy, patience, gaining forgiveness.

The Person Who Cheated often wants to forget about it and make it go away because they don’t want to feel guilty and they don’t want to feel their partners pain. The Person Who Cheated must be willing to sit in their emotions and hold space for the Betrayed Partner to sit in their emotions. What we resist persists. Feel the feelings and allow them to sequence through the body in their own time. You cannot force healing, it will take time.

The Person Who Cheated often feels like they’re drowning in an ocean of regret and guilt. They must know that it’s not going to just be forgotten about it, it will not go away or “back to normal”. Rather than avoiding the uncomfortable focus on building a “boat of presence”. To sit in the mess, to feel what needs to be felt and to support the Betrayed Partner in feeling what comes up for them.

Person Who Cheated must never say:

  • “It only happened ____ times.”
  • “I was drunk/under the influence of a substance.”
  • “It didn’t mean anything.”
  • “You weren’t available.”

Nothing excuses infidelity.

The Person Who Cheated must not “Gaslight” and deny the Betrayed Partners feelings and experience.

Replace with:

  • “I love you.”
  • “I know I hurt you.”
  • “Tell me more.”
  • “I can only imagine how that feels.”
  • “I can only imagine how painful this is and how much you’re hurting.”
  • “What do you need?” – This could be space, taking a walk together, go and get an ice-cream, having a cuddle. Let the Betrayed Partner choose.

The Betrayed Partner’s body is on its own journey and it can’t be forced. Their body needs to be honoured and also “stretched” gently into experiences where trust can “breathe” and be re-established.

E.g. Imagine a hot bath: It’s the Person Who Cheated’s responsibility to make sure the “water/environment” isn’t too hot where it will “burn/re-traumatise” the Betrayed Partner. They must constantly be “dipping a finger in” to “test the waters” before asking the betrayed partner to step into the “water/environment”. This holds the potential for where the Betrayed Partner can re-establish trust in the Person Who Cheated.

There is no “getting over it”, the focus is on “living with it”.

For a couple to recover from infidelity, they need to become allies where they are working with each other shoulder to shoulder, and gracefully carrying the infidelity and all the emotions down the road together.

Preventing Infidelity

The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.

Someone who has a pattern of repeated infidelity is someone who is a high-risk endeavour, they are a riskier partner than someone who has no infidelity in their history. There is also no partner in which you get a 100% guarantee that they won’t cheat.

If your partner is saying: “I won’t cheat on you because you are different, you are the love of my life, you are my soul mate etc.” This is more worrisome and a warning.

If your partner says: “I won’t cheat on you because I am different.” Here you can feel acknowledgement and responsibility. This person will also share that they are deeply ashamed of having cheated, they have done some work on themselves to figure out why it happened (past unhealed trauma, family systems), they have read books, listened to podcasts, done therapy and made shifts inside of themselves that make the way they live their life incompatible with infidelity. They have practices that help them manage their boundaries better than they used to. This person is aware of the pain that cheating inflicts and they don’t make excuses. They feel ashamed about their past behaviour and they are compassionate towards themselves to heal. They can no-longer cheat because they can no-longer have sex without being present, they can no-longer lie without feeling a thing, they can no-longer live in a disconnected state, they can feel when they’re playing with fire and they know how to navigate away from it.

Opening yourself to someone, and to be “intimate” there is a risk involved. There is never a 100% guarantee. Infidelity sucks and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

Relationship can be a bed of roses, and it can also be a bed of thorns.

The way we tolerate the risk is by:

  • Creating a relationship where the dynamics are healthy
  • By caring for yourself
  • The primary trusting relationship is with yourself and your awareness. If infidelity happens, will you be able to be there for yourself? Will you be able to learn from it? Will you be able to survive it?
  • Ability to trust your feelings. Is this person someone you feel you can lean towards and trust?

You can navigate from either fear-based infidelity prevention or love based infidelity prevention.

Fear based: clingy, grabby, scarcity

Constant monitoring, vigilance, control, watching like a hawk. This breathes resentment, it’s exhausting and it’s not sustainable. Fear dismantles connection and creates disengagement from each other.

Love based: open, trusting

Relational self-awareness, two people who continually turn towards each other to learn, grow and practice relationship, they meet sexual boredom together with communication, curiosity and playfulness. Constantly students to self, each other, the relationship, the erotic, and to love. Love creates engagement with each other where both people are invested in connection and communication.

Infidelity happens because of disconnect, neglect, and lack of communication.

Get comfortable with having regular conversations about your needs, desires and boundaries even when it feels uncomfortable. If your partner is unavailable, rather than taking it personally, stay curious about why they’re unavailable at this point in time. Be flexible in regards to your needs and desires and ask them what they are available for.

The most uncomfortable conversations are the ones that you most need to have.

Communication in relationship is absolutely essential!

Relationship can feel like a prison or the launch pad of your evolution. If your relationship doesn’t feel like the latter please do get in touch to see how I can support and empower you in connecting to more love, intimacy and pleasure.

Phone:

0420 400 179

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Reference: Dr Alexandra Solomon

Essential Conversations for Intimate Relationships