Cheating Happened. NOW, WHAT?
It is a confusing time in a relationship when someone cheats. We feel angry as hell at first, then we try to decide if it is a deal-breaker. If we are dating someone, cheating is most often a definite deal-breaker. But many times, cheating happens within a marital relationship. When cheating happens in marriage, it is not always assumed that the big-“D” is coming.
The Decision can be Doomsday -staying focused on the feelings of a potential dissolved relationship or view it as a wakeup call to resolve issues. It can keep you bound in the thoughts of the Deception or alert you to deal with what went wrong. It can feel Devastational- but can be a catalyst for meeting unmet needs or facing unfulfilled desires.
It can stay Disastrous- and keep one partner in victim mode- or be the bridge toward having the intimacy that was lost.
It can be a Dreaded journey of bitterness, anger and lost hope or a beginning toward rediscovering each other.
It can be the most Difficult time of your life or the most enlightening as to what your future holds for you.
You can stay in a Depressive state of being over the past incident, or choose to move forward in a positive direction. It can hold you hostage with Discouragement, or help you grow wings to soar.
It can provide for you insightful knowledge that gives you a new Direction toward forgiveness and healing. Or it can lead you toward leaving, but still needing to forgive and heal, which equals the Biggest “D”….DIVORCE. But no matter which path ‘you decide’ on, forgiveness and healing is required to have a positive emotional future.
If you cheated, or if your spouse did; TRUST was the key ingredient that has now been compromised. For a relationship to have a positive flow, trust cannot be broken. Chances are, trust was broken down long before the cheating began; not in every case, but usually -it is the case.
Cheating in the eye of the cheater seems to get justified by the wrongful actions of the non-cheater (the victim) in a relationship.
Cheaters usually do not take the time to identify and/or communicate their unmet needs, or they feel unheard -unappreciated -misunderstood or neglected in some way; so they go out to try to fill these unmet needs by emotionally and/or sexually connecting to someone else.
In some cases, the cheater feels like they did try to tell their partner, but to no avail. So, therefore, instead of explaining that they are unhappy and want to separate, or express their need to go get couples counseling, they avoid this action. To fill their void, they just slowly attract to what fills their unmet needs: a person who takes and shows interest with them. Then they slowly, without realizing it, emotionally connect to someone, which sometimes leads to sometimes sexually connecting- to that person.
Cheating is a false sense of satisfaction and it is not a remedy for fixing relationship problems; it makes them worse. Cheating is never justified, no matter how wrong the behavior is with the non-cheating partner. Cheating is a wrongful choice. Conflict can be resolved, compromised, discussed, and dealt with. Cheating requires a lot more than ceasing the affair, it requires a long span of time to recover, heal, forgive, rebuild trust, and repair the things that were broken before the affair! Even if couples call it quits after infidelity; recovering, healing, forgiving, and rebuilding trust is still needed, especially if couples must co-parent together after splitting up.
Healing after cheating is not something that magically happens with one counseling session, nor does it resolve after the victim receives a remorseful apology, if or when the cheater may ask for forgiveness.
Healing is a long process that takes time, patience, quality communication, understanding, listening, and adhering to boundaries that may feel uncomfortable for the sake of the ‘rebuilding trust process’ that must take place.
The most difficult part of healing after cheating for the ‘cheated on’ person in the relationship is not only having to rebuild trust and all the crazy emotions that go along with that but how to eliminate the thoughts replaying in their head; the “would of…could of…should of…thoughts” of doubt and self-blame that go along with being cheated on.
The victim sometimes is made to feel responsible by the cheater. The cheater will often say things like…” well you never….” or “you always…” or “you just didn’t listen to me…” etc. Somehow, the cheater tries to continually justify their wrongful behavior and choice with blaming their spouse for their own unmet expectations. Let’s get one fact out in the open, here and now:
Behavior that you don’t like, current conflict with a partner, unmet expectations, or unbecoming behaviors or attitudes of a lover -NEVER- justify cheating.
Solving existing conflict doesn’t correct itself by going outside the relationship in secret, and starting a new one! A cheater usually does have thoughts and feelings that are negative toward their partner, but the correct and mature and responsible way to deal with those unmet needs, or unwanted behaviors-is to talk about them, and seek counseling to resolve them.
If unmet needs cannot be filled, or if the solutions are not reached, that is when a person should speak up and express their desire to separate from the relationship.
A person should be confident enough in what they want enough~ to express it. So, cheating happened. We can’t undo that. But what we can do, is to learn how to express our needs to our partner. BOTH partners need to sharpen their communication skills. Our partners should never, ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable sharing their deeper thoughts and feelings with each other. Partners should never feel fearful to share constructive criticism.
In many cases, a cheating partner wants out -but continues to ‘blame the split’ on the non-cheating partner, placing fault on them. The cheater sometimes has a history of building up a record of wrongs for weeks or months or even years as if they are on a mission to try and make their partner seem inadequate for them, which then justifies their reasons for cheating and leaving their partner. Reality is that those weeks or months or years they spent in the blaming mode- focusing on what behaviors they didn’t like, were all building up in their own head, causing them the inability to express their needs and work on unmet expectations.
If you were the cheater in the relationship and you definitely want a divorce; keep in mind, you made your emotional disconnection long before your spouse even began to, and maybe they still haven’t! So as you approach your separation and divorce, be cautious not to treat the situation as though it is mutual. In the non-cheaters mind, no matter their past behaviors, the divorce is about infidelity, not irreconcilable differences.
If you are the person who does not want to reconcile (cheater or non-cheater) then you need to free yourself by expressing your unwillingness to reconcile.
If or When either partner keeps trying to deflect responsibility for marital problems onto the other unjustly- it will cause major conflict.
It’s hard to imagine this, but why be angry if someone doesn’t ‘want’ to love you and work things out? Isn’t it their loss? Do you feel you were at your very best, giving your very best?
The formula for a healthy marriage is:
1 emotionally healthy individual + 1 emotionally healthy individual = A Healthy Marriage! ~Life Coach Annalisa O’Toole
If you were the cheater, wouldn’t the love you show, possible willingness to reconcile, humble apology, disconnection from the relationship you had outside your marriage, not be enough for them? If you are feeling this way, remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your partner needs time to process, accept, and forgive in order to heal.
If you were cheated on, you may be feeling 3 different things…and what you should do:
- I might be able to try to forgive and trust again~ if I feel my partner is genuinely sorry and genuinely loves me and wants to work together to rebuild.
If you feel this, seek couples counseling.
- I definitely know I can not move forward with this infidelity that happened, and I admit I am not able to work through the forgiveness and trust right now, it is far too devastating.
If you feel this way, confidently tell your partner.
- I need more time.
If you feel this way, confidently tell your partner, consider counseling.
Interestingly enough, most cheaters are in reality, unhappy with their self. Many times they haven’t mastered knowing what they really want in life, so they fall prey to a quick infatuation that can provide a false sense of satisfaction. Sadly, most affairs are temporary seasons of happiness, and do not fulfill the voids they lacked in the first relationship, to begin with! And, without personal growth of ‘both partners’, their relationship (if they stay together) will have pop up problems in the future because they didn’t take an inventory of weaknesses, and learn from them, making changes to support an emotionally healthy connection. But even more devastation comes from getting a divorce having never gone through the personal growth work of recognizing your weaknesses, learning from them, and eliminating the same issues which may rise up in a future relationship!!
Cheating happens for many reasons, but several most common causes are:
- A person is not emotionally healthy enough to communicate their deepest needs to their partner; so they seek those needs elsewhere. It sometimes isn’t intentional, it just happens slowly. A cheater slowly feels the joy outside the marriage, that they somehow either don’t have, don’t work for, or don’t recognize ‘inside’ the marriage.
- A person does not feel safe or comfortable expressing their needs, for fear of rejection, fear of confrontation, or fear of not being heard and understood.
- A person prides themselves on being the support, leader, giver, fixer, provider, etc…so they actually feel “selfish” to express unfulfilled needs, they don’t want to tell their partner their negative feelings, (what is missing) (since most of the time, whatever the partner lacks, they pick up the slack on) so they gradually fall prey…elsewhere.
- A person is not feeling heard, appreciated, or supported by their partner, even though they try to communicate their needs, they don’t feel understood. Instead of investing time to fix this, they gravitate toward a person who makes them feel understood …elsewhere.
- A person is not receiving what they need most, and so an affair gives them a sense of affirmation that fills their unmet needs, temporarily, which creates a new emotional connection which causes the first emotionally connected relationship -to diminish.
Even if someone cheats, it is possible to consider a reconciliation. If you are currently confused about your marriage, or your relationship, because you were a cheater, or were cheated on…
Here are the 5 key questions to consider while your emotions are on a roller coaster as to ‘stay or not stay’ in the relationship which was compromised…
- Does the cheater feel remorse? Do they, or have they expressed a humble, sincere, heartfelt sadness for their behavior? This sense of guilt should not at all be confused with having fear of separation, or potential divorce. This guilt or humbled request for forgiveness should be real, not just ‘words’- and not initiated due to the possibility that the ‘cheating relationship’ didn’t work out, so the cheater just wants to go back to normal…
- Does the “cheating” spouse seem to have unstable emotions? …it is expected that the non-cheating spouse has unstable emotions…(shock, grief, depression, anger, resentment, bitterness, etc) but if a cheating person has severe mood swings, where you find it hard to understand what they are thinking and feeling, it probably isn’t a good time to communicate on details about your future relationship. If a person seems to want one thing one day, and on another day -they are focused entirely in another direction, they most likely, need more space. This is a sign that the unstable person (could be the cheater or the non-cheater) needs more time to evaluate his/her needs as an individual, and need more work in the self-development department before re-committing to be a team together.
- Does/Did the victim of the cheating spouse take responsibility for the unmet needs of the cheater prior to the affair? If a partner was/is willing to admit mistakes AND a willingness to make corrections for those mistakes, going forward, and can truthfully say they can forgive (either now or sometime in the future) and move forward, then these are positive signs things could work toward reconciliation.
- Was the non-cheating spouses’ needs met by their partner prior to the affair? In other words, was there distance- or everything seemed fine? If everything seemed fine, and the non-cheater was blindsided by the affair, it means that there were unmet needs -and possibly still are unhealthy traits in the cheater; examples being: inability to express what they want, but pretending all is well; not able to express deep thoughts and feelings and not feeling understood; but not sharing these details; or taking ‘space’ in a relationship making their partner feel they are working on things; but that time was spent cheating. (Characteristic: dishonesty) If someone has not overcome unhealthy characteristics – it would not be wise to consider reconciliation.
- If both partners erased the “affair” from their mind- pretending it didn’t happen and they were faced with only the feelings for one another, their communication with one another, and their personal needs that they need to be filled- would there be a score of 8+ in each category if the scale was 1-weakest and 10-strongest between them in each of those areas?
Examples would be:
10 = feeling close and attracted to my partner
1 = no attraction and don’t feel close at all.
10 = we can talk and we understand each other, rarely argue
1= We fight. All. the. Time.
Personal needs met:
10 = My needs are always met by my partner.
1 = I don’t think my partner has any clue what I need most.
This test shows the work involved to reconcile beyond the work involved in rebuilding trust back! It helps couples evaluate whether the numbers reflect ease or difficulty of the reconciliation process. If numbers are low in these areas, working through a trust will be harder. If numbers are high, couples stand a better chance of resolving their issues and working through conflicts.
One of the biggest mistakes couples make after infidelity is playing the ‘blame game’ -blaming their partner for being unhappy with their present relationship, and naming all the wrong things their partner has done or is doing- as if this justifies their choice or reason for stepping out or not wanting to reconcile. This sometimes goes on for years.
It is much more freeing emotionally to know clearly what it is you need most, and decide if that criteria is realistic in your partner’s ability to meet those needs, or seek counsel to determine if they can.
Sometimes, we can love someone but just can not live with them. Sometimes we cannot feel deeply loved by them because they just don’t take the time to meet our deepest needs. Or…we have built up the record of wrongs for so long in our minds, any thought of a positive emotional connection to reignite a flame is impossible because it would make all of our hard work that created a “wrongful partner” seem as though we lied!
Don’t let pride or your record of wrongs stand in the way of reconciling. If you feel your partner is capable of loving you and meeting your needs and overcoming their inability to communicate their deepest thoughts and feelings, initiate a humble reconciliation. But if your partner has a hardened heart, you should either hold out …giving them time to heal and forgive, or make the decision it would continue hardening your heart to do that, and move on. Only you can decide what God may be leading you to do. There is not a best friend, a family member or even a counselor who can make the best decision for you. Only you, and divine connected guidance within you can decide if your future includes your partner, or if your feeling led away from them.
To divorce or not to, to move back in or not to, to reconcile your differences, or not to … lies between you…God …and your deep inner knowing, of what is best. Our deepest yearnings, those are our invisible compasses, guiding us toward joy. Our spirit is always trying hard to lead us toward joy. “Forget reason”…”forget religious laws”…those are things our inner soul speaks to us…” go here, where it feels good”…..that is our divine nature. To feel love. Acceptance. Joyful experiences. Belonging. We need it so badly, we forget that sometimes wrongful places and people illuminate the belief that we can capture the good things we need elsewhere, and avoid the feelings of ‘lack’ we may be feeling, elsewhere. Many of those illuminations are just illusions or false beliefs that seem real. They feel so real. Many of these, are fake. Fake illusions of our deepest needs. It’s trickery. ‘Bloom where you are planted’ is a powerful quote. But then so is this quote…
When the pain of remaining the same grows greater than the pain of making a change, we change. ~author unknown
When our feelings of lack expand in one area, our feelings of fulfillment expand in another!!~Coach Annalisa O’Toole
If you genuinely try to communicate, take steps toward your personal growth, learn from your mistakes, openly communicate what you need, and your partner is still not hearing you, this determines that your partner is not working on their own personal growth. If your partner is not accepting responsibility for their actions, or openly and positively receiving constructive criticism…it may mean you need more time and space, or you may feel God guiding you another direction.
Some people are meant to be in our lives for a moment,
some for a season, and some for a lifetime.
Pray about your situation and go with your gut feeling. No one should stay in a situation that feels constantly resistant- but no one should give up over a mistake if/when someone deeply loves you and you just don’t want to go through the work- that would be tragic too. Sometimes we just know when it’s time to let go. Sometimes we just know ~we need to hold on. Also, remember this…
When a person really loves someone, they would not need to be asked, prompted, or swayed by a counselor, a clergyman or anyone else to meet their partner’s needs because it should come naturally to them, to not only recognize what their lover needs, but meet those needs lovingly, and consistently.
“Love wins; every vibrational emotion below love, either helps us learn or lose.”~LifeCoach Annalisa O’Toole
Test your emotions by viewing this chart below for where you are feeling emotionally, where your energy vibrational number is, God’s view of that state, and the process you’re in.
We can not control what other’s will say or do, but we can control our reaction and response to them, ultimately controlling our own emotions for our desired state of wellness! ~LifeCoach Annalisa
If you or someone you care about is struggling with a personal or Relationship issue, reach out to me, by calling, texting, or seeking more information at my website!
Life & Relationship Coach,