Couples that want to recover from infidelity can… with the right effort
There are two common reasons why couples who want to recover from infidelity fail.
One reason is not seeking specialized relationship help to contribute to the recovery journey.
The other reason is because they fail to fulfill the necessary requirements.
Not doing what you need to do to recover from infidelity can be compared to a person who wants to give up smoking, but doesn’t take the required steps needed to overcome the addiction.
It is this ‘second reason’; not meeting the criteria required to recover, that is addressed in this post.
Here are essential attitudes and behaviors required by the philanderer.
Essential attitudes and behaviors required of the philanderer:
1. Frequency. A single mistake versus a pattern of betrayal
Infidelity is always wrong and cannot be written off as an ‘innocent mistake.’ Betraying one’s partner is a willful mistake that triggers dire consequences. Does a one-night stand count as cheating?
A partner who commits adultery ‘one time’ and is prepared to do whatever it takes to rectify the damage he or she has caused has the potential to become a person who will never betray again. A person who learns from his or her mistakes is capable of being a person of good character and of being loyal in the future.
However, a serial philanderer, someone who has never learned to restrain his or her behavior, can never be trusted — never ever!
Thus, with such an individual, recovering is impossible for the simple reason that they can never be trusted not to cheat again. Repetitive cheating — for whatever reason — is proof that participating in reconciliation is only an effort to manipulate the victim into accepting past cheating, in spite of the likelihood of ongoing or future cheating. There is a saying, ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’
2. Attitude. Remorseful versus justified
A partner who cheated must be repentant. He or she must take responsibility for his or her bad behavior.
In contrast to this, if the cheating partner feels that what he or she did can be justified, then he or she is not a candidate for reconciliation. He or she is only prepared to ‘recover’ to the point where he or she can find another excuse and then betray again.
3. Feelings. Victim empathy versus victim callousness
Cheating is an emotional assault on one’s partner. And naturally, the victim — the cheating partner’s legitimate partner — is devastated. It is essential to recovery that the betrayer, the perpetrator of the injury, empathizes with the suffering of his or her partner. If he or she cannot do this, they are likely to betray again.
Most individuals do not hurt others because they too are pained when another is pained. This is a function of empathy. A cheater who cannot empathize is not a candidate for reconciliation.
4. Integrity. Presently truthful versus presently deceitful
Integrity is a necessary ingredient to relationship fitness. A person who habitually lies and thinks nothing of it, and when caught lying covers it with another lie, simply does not have the necessary positive character trait to contribute to a healthy and stable relationship.
Partnering with such an individual will only lead to disappointment and heartbreak.
5. Spiritual position. Humble versus arrogant
Recovering from infidelity is not easy, and the cheater will often find himself or herself in the ‘hot seat.’ This position is naturally uncomfortable. Nevertheless, it is necessary for relationship healing, recovery, and rebuilding.
Only the humble can succeed with this complex, arduous, and difficult relationship feat. An arrogant person will never endure the relationship recovery journey. He or she is too conceited to acknowledge the shortcomings in his or her character. He or she will be offended when their imperfections and behavioral failings are pointed out by someone else.
An arrogant person cannot contribute to his or her partner’s recovery because he or she can only see themselves.
Full infidelity recovery is only assured when the the cheater meets all the above five recovery requirements. If he or she is lacking of any one of the five, then there can be no infidelity recovery until the cheater undergoes the personal growth needed to be a recovery candidate.
Essential attitudes and behaviors required of the victim of infidelity:
1. Decision. Willingness to explore reconciliation versus continual refusal to explore reconciliation
The victim has been terribly injured by his or her cheating partner. Trust, safety, comfort, and more have all been sacrificed on the altar of infidelity.
Often, victims have no interest in recovering with the perpetrator of their injuries. On the other hand, for a variety of reasons, victims of infidelity want to recover and maintain the relationship with their betraying partner and keep the family together.
It is natural for many victims to be ambivalent, uncertain regarding what they should do. However, such a position as reasonable as it is, keeps the door closed to reconciliation.
If there is to be relationship reconciliation, the victim has to make a decision to at least try to reconcile.
2. Objectivity. Willingness to take responsibility for one’s reaction versus absolute blame
Yes, the ‘victim’ is a victim. However, in addition to being the victim, the person injured by their straying partner must take a reasonable position and acknowledge that his or her reaction to the hated event — the cheating — influences in some way the current relationship dynamics and what will happen in the future.
In other words, some reactions to infidelity are reasonable and constructive and some are not. The victim needs to acknowledge that he or she can choose to some extent what his or her reactions will be. Without this, there can be a position of never-ending anger and blaming which will certainly doom the relationship to failure.
3. Position. Willingness to consider forgiveness versus never-ending damnation of the cheater
At some point in the relationship recovery process, the victim needs to recognize that forgiveness is a goal worth striving towards and that true forgiveness with a full heart is a valued gift.
After all, when infidelity recovery is genuinely successful, revenge, anger, and devastation must transform to trust, love, and friendship. This can only occur when forgiveness has been earned by the philanderer and bestowed upon him or her by the victim.
4. Responsibility. Willingness to consider the needs of each family member versus only his or her entitlements
When trying to decide how to respond to a cheating partner, it is necessary to take into consideration the needs and interests of other family members such as one’s children.
Considering the needs of each family member does not mean in any way that the betrayal is to be swept under the rug or just forgotten. Not at all. Considering the needs of others will help set goals and motivate future efforts, whatever they may be.
5. Open-minded. Willingness to consider the broad context in which the infidelity occurred versus a single black and white view of the infidelity event
Infidelity is only a single aspect of a marriage or committed relationship. There are many other aspects that need to also be taking into consideration.
Naturally, when the truth of the betrayal breaks upon the relationship, the shock and hurt is overwhelming.
However, over time the victim needs the strength of character and position of honesty to also consider the needs and circumstances in which the betraying partner committed his or her acts of betrayal.
Doing so does not in any way diminish the responsibility that the betraying partner has for his or her shocking and bad behavior. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that even the betraying partner has a legitimate position as does the victim, even if it is not agreed with and that this right to an explanation must be acknowledged.
Infidelity is a shared experience. It is not at all like the impression that is conveyed with the well-known saying, ‘What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas.’ No, it does not stay in Las Vegas!
Rather, infidelity is like a virus. And like a virus, it spreads from individual to individual. Everyone becomes sick.
And since everybody gets sucked into the after effects once infidelity is known, everyone has a role to play — both the betrayer and the victim — if relationship recovery is to be a relationship reality.
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About the author
Abe Kass, MA, RSW, RMFT, CCHT., is a Registered Social Worker, Registered Couple and Family Therapist, Certified Hypnotherapist, and award-winning Educator. He has a busy clinical practice in Toronto, Canada and throughout the world using the phone or Zoom.
After many years of clinical practice and research, Abe concluded that practical solutions requiring a focused effort of no more than a few minutes a day for very specific relationship problems were critically needed. GoSmartLife Publishing House has been created to fill this need.