NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Relationships: Coping with Infidelity

One of the most difficult and heart breaking situations for a couple to deal with is infidelity.

Deciding whether to stay or leave the relationship after you discover that your partner has been unfaithful is a hard decision to make. It's a very individual decision. 

Coping With Infidelity

For some people, finding out about a partner's infidelity, no matter what the reasons or circumstances, is beyond what they can ever tolerate or accept. There is no question in their minds that they are leaving. 

But for others, although they are very hurt, they decide to try to work it out. After the initial shock, they might feel that they've invested too much in the relationship to end it. It might surprise you that many couples are able to reconcile after infidelity and that their relationships are actually stronger as a result. This is not an endorsement for staying or leaving. It's simply an observation.

See my article:  Relationships: Should You Stay or Should You Go?

What are the various types of infidelity?
Infidelity can involve a one-time sexual encounter with someone outside the relationship. It can be a longstanding affair. It can also be a series of encounters with many different people. This is often, although not always, the case with people who engage in out of control sexual behavior. 

It can be encounters in person or encounters online in chat rooms or on various Internet and social media sites. Infidelity is not always sexual. Sometimes infidelity involves getting one's primary emotional needs met by someone else or it can be both. When the affair is strictly emotional, it can be more difficult to resolve sometimes because your partner might not see it as infidelity. However, if it's taking away from the primary relationship, it's a problem.  Both men and women cheat on their spouses and partners.  Infidelity occurs in heterosexual and gay relationships.

Infidelity on Social Media Sites
Why do people cheat?
The reasons that people give for cheating are numerous and complex. Often, the reason that people give is that they're unhappy in their relationship. They might feel that their partner is not paying enough attention to them, and they don't know how to express it without acting out. They might be angry and use infidelity to retaliate against the partner. For other people, they might have grown up in a household where infidelity was tolerated, so it's become commonplace in their minds. In other instances, people have a hard time making a commitment to one person, so they use another relationship to defuse the intensity of the primary relationship. In other instances, people don't know how to end their primary relationship so they enter into another relationship unconsciously hoping that they'll be found out and this will end the relationship. There can be so many other reasons.

What are the factors that contribute to a couple surviving infidelity:
One important factor is the quality of the relationship and how stable it was before the infidelity. All other things being equal, the more stable it was, the more likely it is that the problem can be worked out if both people are willing to work it out. It is essential that the partner who is cheating end the other relationship before anything can be worked out in the primary relationship. 

One of the most important factors is whether trust can be regained. Sometimes, even when both people are willing to work out the relationship, it doesn't work out because the partner who was cheated on just cannot learn to trust the cheating partner again. Without trust, most relationships don't survive.

Should You Stay or Should You Go?
What should you do if you find out your partner has been cheating? No one can tell you what to do. Well-meaning friends and relatives might try to give you advise, whether to stay or go, but it's your decision. Anyway, this is between you and your partner and it's not for others to decide. 

In most cases, it's better not to make any immediate decisions while you're still in shock. You need time and space to carefully consider your options. If infidelity has been an ongoing problem with your partner throughout your relationship, you might feel differently than if there was one encounter. Much will depend on whether you feel you can trust your partner again.

Regaining trust:
If you and your partner decide to try to work it out, know that it will probably take a while (for some people, months or years) to regain trust, if it can be regained at all. You must insist that your partner give up the other relationship(s). If your partner won't agree to this, he or she is not ready to honor the commitment to your relationship and you must face this.

See my article: Regaining Trust After the Affair

What if you both decide to try to salvage your relationship, but you're having problems getting past the hurt and anger?
Many couples, even when they decide to try to reconcile, have problems working out their problems on their own. They might find themselves coming to the same impasse over and over again. If that's your situation, it's best to seek the help of a licensed psychotherapist who works with couples. 

Friends and family members, even if they have the best of intentions, will usually add to the confusion. Even if you decide to end the relationship, if you can, it's better to find a way to end it in a constructive way, especially if there are children involved and you must remain in contact about them.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist. 

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.