You fucked up. Like big time. You know you’re not supposed to do that stuff. Stuff like falling in love with another person when you’ve legally, religiously, and ethically committed to love only one person, that person being your significant partner/spouse. Stuff like having happy endings with paid masseuse , or hook up sex with Tinder men. You’re not permitted to hire a sex worker for the night nor chat online with an ex nor sext a stranger from Russia who you met online. I know you will tell me that cheating is unacceptable , lacks integrity and casts a pretty dark shadow on someone’s reputation . Perhaps you had a parent cheat or were cheated on yourself. In which case you don’t need me to tell you how painful this cheating thing is. Yet you submitted to it, you betrayed your own values and you probably feel as shitty about that as you do about the pain you’ve caused your injured partner.
What you may need is a little help in surviving the catastrophe you set in motion in your personal and relational life.
So get off your knees. Prayer won’t help you, and begging for forgiveness can only be sustained and impactful, for a certain length of time. Time to man/woman up and do the work.
- Don’t duck the bullets.
From the moment you are caught out, breathe out a sigh of relief – it feels so good to be set free from the heaviness of carrying such a big secret and juggling separate lives. And commit that from that point onwards, that you will be honest. Deathly honest. After all this might be one of the reasons that you stepped outside your marriage/relationship in the first place. Perhaps you were not honest about your emotions, sexuality, and needs and instead of risking being honest with your partner, you turned outward and sought these feelings elsewhere. Now you have the opportunity to create a brand new relationship based on radical honesty.
Hold onto your pants: your partner, who is clinically referred to as the “injured” partner, will be thrust into a state of trauma . She/he will hate and love you within the space of minutes. She/he will tell you to move out the house and then call you to come home and make love. Sit through it. Take the bullets she/he shoots at you during ongoing sessions of interrogation. Saying “I dont know/remember ” won’t cut it… even if this is your truth. A lot gets forgotten under the pressure of interrogation. Keep sharing your feelings, whatever they are : contrition , confusion , love, shame, guilt, fear whatever. Give the details if requested. Hey. you have nothing to loose at this point and its amazing how far honesty goes… even as far as co creating a richer relationship. Be aware that what your partner is really begging for is a way to feel safe with you again , wondering what he/she did that made you act this way, and is terrified that it may happen again . This is what you should talk to .
2. Mourn the loss of the affair.
Its not politically correct for you to admit missing your mistress, dominatrix, hook up, online chat buddy. Best you do this mourning in private, preferably with a non judgmental therapist. Its a really important piece of work in your process of healing as therein lies some of the answer to why you stepped out of line in the first place. Consider who you chose , the kinds of intimacy you enjoyed with this person/s, the sexuality. Overall consider how this person /s made you feel about yourself . Perhaps you enjoyed the feeling of being sexually desired, admired, intellectually stimulated, and free.Because this person, this you, is the one you will mostly miss.
3. Get on your knees
Express remorse.. if it is genuine. If not, this is your truth . You want out. So get out elegantly. Now is the time to talk divorce, separation . Remorse, open hearted chest beating , begging for forgiveness, pleasing behaviour and deep apology . Take responsibility for betraying and hurting. Denying, getting irritated, aggressive and defensive will keep you on your knees way longer than necessary. Go for the lie detector test, agree to a tracker on your phone and car. Prove your commitment to begin building the all important trust.
4. Get rid of the lover/s.
“My wife says I cant see you any longer”; “My partner saw our online chats and freaked out so unfortunately I have to disappear for a while”. This kind of non ending of an affair will keep your partner bleeding in agony. If you have chosen to stay with your partner, even if you remain in love/fascination with your lover , ending the hook up, relationship, is essential . Do it with elegance and ritual. And then close it. Block off all contact, temptations and opportunities for further contact. Keeping doors open to a lover/s, will add years of pain to your healing process as trust cant be restored.
5. Why did I cheat?
Esther Perel, a clinician and best selling author of “State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity”, discusses two models of infidelity: The Deficiency model holds that infidelity occurred because of some deficiency in the marriage and is a symptom of problems between the couple. The betrayer, is selfish, has narcissistic personality disorder, is a sex addict, has attachment wounds, or commitment issues.
Or, that the marriage was flawed in the first place and opened up the possibility for the betrayal. Or, that the hurt party was inattentive to the relationship, was not enough. This model can support shame for both people in the relationship. But shame inhibits growth and healing so let go of blame and shame and lets keep moving forward.
A second model is the Perpetrator/Victim model. The injured partner becomes so traumatized by the betrayal that it’s very difficult for her/him to move past the hurt that is witnessed and see more. Its so convenient to keep stuck in these roles, isn’t it? If you don’t fiercely object to this model, you ‘ll be on your knees for life, begging for forgiveness and your partner will be forever smirking in his/her role as hurt person , punishing you for any violation that will naturally occur in the relationship, from here on out.
You are both injured by your infidelity. You may both have been suffering injuries before you acted it out. Stand up for that truth. Get off the back foot and allow your self and your partner to individually take responsibility as you both honestly discuss and shred through hours of therapy, unpacking your past marriage/relationship.
6. Way forward.
Use this crisis as an opportunity for growth, both personally and relationally. Reform this relationship , shaping it from a new foundation of sexual and emotional honesty. And know when to accept that despite all the work you put into recovering your marriage , it may simply not be possible.