An act of infidelity can change a relationship permanently. While the relationship may not be the same again, infidelity does not spell out definite doom – with intentionality for healing, it’s possible to grow the relationship from this experience.
What is infidelity?
There are many types of infidelity that can happen in a relationship. When one or more members of a relationship breach the commitment within the relationship, it can cause damaging emotional consequences for the other person or people in the relationship. This is also called cheating or unfaithfulness and is a common reason why relationships end. The breaking of trust can rock strong relationships and lead to questions about the future.
People cheat physically or emotionally for various reasons. Infidelity can lead to feelings of anger, disappointment, fear, loneliness, sadness, hopelessness, low self-esteem, or guilt for one, both, or all partners involved. Involving a mental health professional into the healing process – whether you decide to stay together or not – brings intentionality that can greatly benefit the wellbeing of those involved.
The aftermath of infidelity
There are two sides to every story, and in the case of infidelity, there are as many sides as there are people involved. Breaking the trust of a partner or partners, or breaching the explicit commitment of the relationship, is painful and damaging. It is hardly ever an easy experience. However, people become unfaithful for many reasons and understanding these reasons can help all parties understand what occurred.
Having your partner cheat on you can leave you with complex emotions. Often, infidelity and the aftermath of learning of infidelity can be a traumatic experience. It can lead to the development of trust issues, commitment issues, or vulnerability issues. It can also lead to a heightened sense of vigilance, a need for control over the self and others, or even toxic relationship dynamics. Many people who go through infidelity experiences develop mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. These are natural reactions that, with the right support, can be processed through.
Therapy for infidelity
Therapists who specialize in matters of infidelity may offer individual or couples counseling. They are trained in working within relationships and their goal is to remain objective and neutral. Couples counseling (which may also be accessed for polyamorous relationships or relationships with more than two people) is an effective way to work through the experience in a productive way that can lead to growth – personal or within the relationship.
In couples counseling, partners develop a better understanding of both or all sides of the situation. They can address their emotions in a safe, facilitated space. Couples therapists are trained in conflict resolution and can teach their clients healthy communication skills. If the reasons for infidelity are identified, couples may work towards alleviating these reasons. If the couple decides to end their relationship, the therapist can offer tools to help them through the grief, anger, or another other emotion that arises. The goal of therapy for infidelity is to gain a better understanding of what happened, process through the challenging emotions that come with cheating, and find ways to move forward – whatever that looks like.