While infidelity is a sensitive subject, it's something many of us may face in our intimate relationships. According to a study published by The Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 25% of people (surveyed) admitted to an extramarital affair. Experts estimate this number is likely much higher, but that could be in part to differing definitions of infidelity. But regardless of your definition of infidelity, many people may decide to simply walk away from a relationship if infidelity occurs. And that's okay! But if, post-transgression, you AND your partner decide you'd like to work through it, there is a way.
Wichita therapist Margaret Goger-Cranston states that the process through which you'll go as a couple can be compared to the stages of grieving a death:
While none of these stages will be comfortable or FEEL healthy, it is healthy to experience each of them. And it may help to experience them together and with the help of a therapist or counselor. Something else Margaret advises is to:
- BE PATIENT. Be patient with yourself AND with your partner, regardless of whether or not you committed the infidelity. Do not put unrealistic expectations on the timeline of healing.
Other suggestions for working through infidelity include:
- Be as open and transparent as possible. Be prepared to ask tough questions or answer them candidly and don't shy away from tough but open conversation.
- Focus on routines or fun activities as a couple. Attempt as best as possible to maintain some identity as a couple and spend time doing things that can help bring you together, even if it doesn't feel great in the beginning.
- Take a break, together - take a vacation or staycation together. Get away from other's opinions so you're able to decide whether you truly want to make your relationship work without other thoughts clouding your judgement.
- Work with a therapist or counselor. You can begin working with a counselor at any point during your process, but working with an objective person who can offer insight from both perspectives may help your process along and also encouraging healthy conversation to work out doubts or problems.
Margaret also shared that often marriages are stronger after weathering the storm of infidelity. So although the experience will be extremely painful, it may be worthwhile to give your relationship another try.
Despite all these suggestions, you still may decide to end your relationship in the end. And that's okay too. Infidelity is a messy and tough situation, but I hope these tips help to process through it in a balanced and healthier way.