One of the most serious and common crises a couple face throughout its life cycle, this is what happens with infidelity.
Statistics on its frequency vary widely and can range from 20% (Institute of Family Studies 2017, Fincham 2016) to 70% (Rodrigues 2016), as it is not easy to distinguish what is infidelity and what is not. is not.
Therefore … How to act in the face of infidelity? In this article we will see a series of recommendations.
What do we know about infidelities?
It’s important to assume that the spread of social media has broadened the opportunity and definition of infidelity, while blurring the line between flirting and going beyond. The virtuality component of a cyber adventure can also influence our assessment of whether or not we are facing infidelity.
Anyway, in about half of couples therapy, the infidelity of some of its members is the source of the demand (Glass 2003, Camp 2007). In other words, secret contact with a third party, whether physical or virtual, is considered betrayal by the other party.
The questions below are a classic of psychotherapy: is it possible to forgive an infidelity? Is this necessarily the end of the couple? Can I regain trust in the other person? How to act in the face of infidelity?
In the case of couples undergoing therapy, at least the desire to find a solution for the relationship to continue may be presupposed, so that they seem to have some hope that the relationship can be rebuilt. Contrary to popular belief, it is not only possible to overcome infidelity, but, well managed, can strengthen the couple bond and be the starting point for a closer and better established relationship.
Obviously the process to get here it is very emotionally demanding for both members of the coupleAnd despite the intention to repair the serious damage done, it is possible to realize that in the end deception cannot be forgiven. And that will depend on multiple factors, such as his characteristics, his motivations (no, it’s not just infidelities in relationships that go wrong) or the implications it may have for the future of the relationship.
It also obviously influences the strength of the relationship and the beliefs and values of each member of the couple.
How does the person who feels betrayed experience it?
The deceived person arrives for consultation (invariably, regardless of the extent of the case) in an acute state of pain and anger, much greater if there was no degree of suspicion or no symptoms were seen that there were problems in the relationship; the surprise factor can leave the deceived in a state of bewilderment.
In these conditions, moreover, the social and moral pressure in the sense that it is right to break the relationship can be very strong if you do not want to leave someone who has been unfaithful to us, and become an additional factor of anxiety. and emotional conflict. .
here it is important to work to avoid the appearance of resentment, A chronification of the feeling of anger that easily leads to the path of vengeance and eternal retribution. The famous phrase “forgive but don’t forget” is the prelude to this phenomenon and it goes without saying that it is a way of wrongly closing down and not really overcoming the problem (Camp, 2007).
The experience of one who has committed infidelity
For its part, the person who has committed the infidelity usually has varying degrees of guilt: He knows that what he has done is morally wrong and faces the real consequences of his behavior, which on many occasions is unexpected to him (a common protective mechanism while fostering infidelity is to minimize them).
The attitude in therapy is generally defensive, because the professional is expected to line up against it and anticipate that he will not be heard and that his motives will not be taken into account.
Since to support infidelity it is essential to lie, it is also common for him to present some kind of internal conflict over his own self-esteem. Obviously, he’s more likely to hide important information out of fear.
How to deal with infidelity
If the intention is to overcome infidelity, the recommendation is to go to couples therapy: while it may not be essential, the appearance of an outside figure who can help guide the process makes it easier. greatly things.
The couple’s psychologist is a professional trained to deal with these issues. without interference from their own moral codes and of course, without allying with either of the two members of the couple. A fairly common situation on the first visit, where people usually look for a “conviction” rather than a solution.
Here are some of the important keys to knowing how to deal with infidelity and deal with such a complicated situation.
1. Clarify demand and adjust expectations
It is possible that there was a structural mismatch in the couple that no one knew or wanted to deal with. Also that there are individual wants and needs that the relationship has not met. Or that the couple’s project is incompatible.
In all these circumstances, it is essential clarify what is expected of the relationship in the future and, of course, avoid basing it on revenge or submission.
2. Foster a climate of sincerity
In this sense and following what was said in the previous point, it is important to avoid having hidden agendas; it is not uncommon, for example, to face couples therapy with the secret intention of severing the relationship, using it as an excuse to demonstrate the impossibility of a solution. It is important to be honest with yourself and with each other, As painful as it can be.
3. Listen to and support the pain of those who have been deceived
The basic need of those who have suffered from infidelity is to feel heard, understood and to have their discomfort recognized. This coexists in many cases with a logical hostility towards the other side, which may respond without exposing itself to the consequences.
However, it is essential recognize the damage caused in its exact dimension, Accept its commitment and commit to repairing it.
4. Replace guilt with responsibility
To do this, the feeling of guilt must be replaced by a feeling of responsibility. For the transgressor, to recognize him and to suppose that he acted unilaterally and without leaving the couple any margin of decision, being ready to initiate restorative actions. For the deceived, overcome the victimhood and explore whether there has been an intervention (by action or omission) to foster the conditions to achieve it.
When the two become co-responsible for the relationshipIt is possible to transform it for the better.
5. Deepen the meaning of the experience for the deceiver
Like your partner, the unfaithful person needs to be heard. It is not an easy task to explore personal motivations, the same doubts, needs, aspirations or weaknesses in the face of someone hurt by your actions, but it is necessary to put in context what has brought us here. .
Infidelity can be linked to individual or relationship deficiencies, but also to the desire to explore and search for a new identity (or a lost old one to know when) (Perel, 2017).
6. Avoid delving into unnecessary details
Always understanding the meaning of adventure is the key to reconstruction, the tendency to want to know the smallest details is pernicious, Since it contributes nothing more than a perpetuation of pain, anger and resentment. A common form of self-punishment very detrimental to repairing damage.
7. The infidel must appear as a protector of trust
The person who broke the couple’s pact she’s in charge of rebuilding that broken trust. A task in which she was watched very critically, but no one said it was easy.
Refraining from maintaining contact with the third party involved should, to the extent possible, be a requirement. Also be loyal and reliable at all times.
On the other hand On the other hand, any sign of loyalty and a desire to regain intimacy is important to be recognized in a positive way, even if it is not yet enough to trust the whole. It will not be restored in a week.
- David Rodrigues, Diniz Lopes and Marco Pereira (2016): Sociosexuality, engagement, sexual infidelity and perceptions of infidelity: data from Second Love, The Journal of Sex Research
- FD Fincham, Infidelity in Romantic Relationships, COPSYC (2016)
- Wang, W. (2017) Who cheats the most? The Demographics of Infidelity in America. Institute of Family Studies.
- Perel, Esther (2017) The State of Things: Rethinking Infidelity. Harper Collins Publishers: New York.
- Camp, C. (2007) Marital infidelity: management difficulties in couple therapy. Proposal of an intervention model. Family systems and other human systems. Buenos Aires, 23-núm-2007.
- Stephen B Levine Co-director, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry (2005): A Clinical Perspective on Infidelity, Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 20: 2, 143-153