Infidelity in relationships. Do both partners need to change to save a marriage?
On Sunday this week I was asked to take part in a CapeTalk podcast on the subject of infidelity.
One question that was put to me was regarding whether or not a partner who has been cheated on in a relationship also needs to make changes in order for the couple to reconcile and recover their bond. When listening to the podcast the next day I realized that I hadn’t answered the question!
I regret this omission as this is an important question.
When one partner cheats in a relationship it is a sign that the couple aren’t communicating totally openly and that there is some degree of estrangement. The degree and quality of this “disconnect” will vary between couples of course. I couples where the disconnect is severe, the partners would tend to keep a great deal of their inner lives very private. As a consequence, each partner will start to live a disconnected life and will, to all intents and purposes, start to “suit” themselves when it comes to choices and decisions.
When an infidelity is discovered, and the couple decide to try to work through the associated hurt and betrayal, they have to begin to become a “we” again, with the resultant requirement of mutual compromise and consideration. For the partner who has been cheated upon, this is often a very difficult pill to swallow as there is usually a great deal of anger and resistance to the suggestion that there is a joint responsibility on the partners to work towards a mutually satisfactory and satisfying quality of life as a couple.
For example, where a couple have not had an intimate connection for some time and one of the couple has an affair, then the spotlight is put on the nature and quality of their sex life when they attempt to reconcile. In this scenario, the partner who has been cheated on is often privately quite content with not having sex with their partner and now feels pressurized to reconnect on an intimate level. This is particularly common in couples who are no longer young as is not an easy problem for couples to solve!
Often a compassionate and empathetic professional can make all the difference in helping such individuals find a way forward in their lives that will work for each of them.
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