However painful, it is possible to rebuild relationships after infidelity
I was always one of those people who said infidelity was a deal breaker and took a very hard stance against it. Little did I know I’d end up tolerating if for most of my adult life.
I always believed that infidelity was the end of a relationship, that it could not be surpassed. However, life proved me wrong and showed me how couples and relationships could not only survive infidelity but grow stronger as a result.
To clarify, I don’t recommend infidelity as a way of strengthening your relationships, but I share these lessons in the hope that if you or someone you know is struggling through occurrences of infidelity, that it may provide some semblance of hope in what can be a very dark time. The following 4 lessons helped me navigate the appearance of infidelity in my own life while helping me relate and connect to others walking down a similar path. Beforehand, my narrowminded stance and views of infidelity and the future it dictated for relationships made connection impossible.
So, if you’re facing infidelity in your current relationship, know that you can heal from it. You can create a relationship that is even stronger than its predecessor — but here is what you have to be willing to do first:
Let the Relationship Die
This may sound counter-intuitive, but you will need to allow the relationship to die. At least its former incarnation will need to be buried so that a new foundation can be created and built upon. This is by no means fast or easy and will require that you allow yourself time to mourn and be in your grief. Take it.
You may very well be able to put your relationship back together, but the new structure may not resemble the old one and may not fit into the previous mold. Allow yourselves the freedom to build and create something new. I’ve seen couples rebuild after the inevitable rock bottom that infidelity brings, and the resulting relationships were built on deeper levels of trust and respect than the original.
For something new to be born, something needs to die. This applies to our relationships too. Our relationships and the ideologies of who we were within them need to be mourned to create space for something new to be birthed.
Skip the Questions
Your Ego will bring all your insecurities to the surface in the face of infidelity, which is such an intimate form of betrayal. Your mind will be flooded with questions. Who was she/he? Are they younger? Prettier? Thinner? Where did it happen? How many times did it happen? Did they enjoy it?
Stop. Just stop.
There is no healing to be found in any of this. Digging for answers only results in deeper wounds that are harder to heal. It’s the equivalent of voluntarily pouring salt into an open wound. These questions serve no other purpose than to fuel our own insecurities and our Ego’s hold over us. Using them as shreds of evidence to prove that we aren’t enough or weren’t worthy. While we need to take accountability for our relationships and the parts we play in them, infidelity isn’t about your lack. It’s about someone else’s pain, manifested in a very destructive way.
Communicate about everything else; it’s essential. But skip the questions about the indiscretion.
You Don’t Need to Hold Anyone Accountable
Your partner remembers what they did. Unless they’re completely narcissistic (which we’ll talk about) you don’t need to be constantly reminding them. Guilting them into taking out the garbage or washing the dishes because of their indiscretion won’t further anyone’s healing or help mend broken fences.
As for the adulterer —I apologize for being so blunt — your role in this relationship has now changed. You are now the protector of this relationship. You’ve been entrusted with guarding the borders and manning the gate. Assuming this role will provide your partner with the space to heal. Doing so will also relinquish them of the need to provide daily reminders about your indiscretion. What you’re trying to rebuild is both fragile and sacred, treat it as such and keep it safe. Together, if you are both committed to the journey ahead, which will be rough at times, you can build something stronger and more sacred than you may be able to consciously conceive right now.
What if we’re not talking about a singular indiscretion but repeat appearances? I think the steps above still apply, and I would further suggest seeking professional help and support.
But what if you’ve decided you can’t rebuild? That things have been shattered beyond repair, and the only direction to move in is forward? Sadly, I’ve been there and can attest to it being one of the most difficult decisions we are forced to make in the face of our relationships: the decision to stay or to go.
If you’ve chosen to leave, this is perhaps the biggest lesson to be learned — and it applies equally to those who chose to stay.
Not for them, but for you. Our unwillingness to forgive only keeps us trapped in our victimhood, our narrative of someone who was cheated on. Unfortunately, this is a narrative that we carry into future relationships and situations, continually projecting it on our life until it manifests itself again. We take on the narrative as our new identity.
Instead, forgive. Leave it in your past and let it be part of the experiences that allowed you to grow and step closer to your authentic self. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you’ve let them off the hook or that they are no longer accountable for their actions. What it does mean is that they are no longer accountable to you and you are no longer required to hold them accountable. In other words, you are no longer judge, jury, and executioner.
Forgiveness doesn’t always come easily, especially in these situations. Start with the mere willingness to forgive, if that is as far as you can bring yourself today. Start by forgiving yourself.
Forgive yourself for staying, forgive yourself for not valuing yourself or knowing your worth, forgive yourself for believing that this was what you deserved.
You were doing the best you could with what you had.
Often on our road to forgiveness we encounter narcissism. We label repeat indiscretions and adultery as narcissistic, but do we really understand what that means? Beyond the excessive interest in one’s self and one’s needs, there is a spiritual and soulful ache that lies beneath. Narcissistic behaviors and tendencies are born from our unwillingness to be in pain and tend to our wounds. Our desire to run from them leads to living life in a fractured state. These fractures coupled with the desire to numb and seek external forms of pleasure lead to addiction and often manifest in the form of infidelity.
It is not your responsibility to heal your partner’s wounds, because they are the only ones who have the power to do so. But understanding that the pain and destruction that they inflict on your relationship is a deflection and reflection of their pain within, will help bring you a little closer to forgiveness and ultimately, healing.
>You may also enjoy reading The New Relationship Blueprint: It’s About Finding Yourself, by Nancy Levin