Question from a colleague in South Africa on LinkedIn: “After infidelity in a relationship – how do you guys handle the healing process of the person who has been cheated on?”
I appreciate your question, Anri. Here are a few things I can express briefly; I have thought about this and written at length on infidelity; its sources and resolutions:
1. Lack of Maturity
2. Lack of Emotional Intelligence
3. Lack of Knowledge
4. Lack of Skills
Thanks, Chris. After infidelity, I try to start fair by reminding the couple that there must be something missing (one or more of the above) in their marriage/relationship (best friends who are romantic). No blame, just logic, and let’s figure that out.
Yes, the affair must be ended. And, I think there needs to be enough of the Five Languages of Apology and forgiveness…but it is not possible for an intelligent person to forget completely (such an injury, if forgotten, can happen again).
I want to be sure to remind them that this is a sledgehammer wake-up call. Something needs to change and improve.
The betrayed party often wants to know every detail – it’s up to you how much of that you recommend. I think the less the better – less rumination and sooner on to what’s relevant: what needs to change. Namely more talking, more time, more fun, more meaning, more help, etc…this is the point where the energy is so high that you can press the envelope of intimacy to the next level of vulnerability and caring.
And, then the grieving. Grief about something precious in a relationship usually affects many secondary losses and, of most profundity, ends a sense of loss of a part of our own identity (a carefully-held role) and that is the most difficult to rebuild – often takes 3 years.
For more…When I was presenting at NARME this year, I attended Dr. Scott Haltzman’s introduction to his new book: Secrets of Surviving Infidelity. It was superb.
Chris and Barbara, thanks so much, you’re adding to my languaging for this. It really feels like a dance I do internally…hunting for the view which suits their personalities and style of relationship. There’s that dilemma: am I reinjecting the “other party” or am I helping them get enough clues to “de-glamorize the other party,” quantify the affair so it diminishes in comparison to the marriage? But, then, there are affairs which were SO intense that the marital relationship looks mundane. I’m usually on a hunt for the foundation of strength, goodness and value in the marriage, the family and the lifestyle which will help us diminish the value in any illicit relationship.
Yes, Barbara, I, too, recommend time-limited focus on the hurtful and commensurate (more) time on expressions of love languages to replace the negative and the accumulation of lack. The idea of “un-knowing” is profound – I’ve experienced the injured party re-wounding him or herself visualizing their mental pictures compulsively.
Sometimes, depending on their philosophical filters, I can point out the great value in the affair because it was the only kind of wake-up call which would immediately slam on the brakes and stop the downward spiral in the marriage. It may remind them of how much attention their relationship could receive but wasn’t.