When cheating happens in a relationship, it can be a big eye opening and jarring experience for both partners. Once a partner violates the agreed upon “terms” of the relationship, it could become very difficult to trust and be open again. Even in the “best” relationships, partners can stray. We cannot be everything for everyone and this is especially true in intimate, sexual relationships. Nowadays, we are expected to fulfill every want, need and desire for our partner and vice versa, forever. So when cheating happens, it puts what we know about a relationship to the test. We believe and expect that the last thing our intimate partner would do is hurt us. But we ARE hurt, so now what?
Our reality gets questioned- what we think we know about our partner and our own self-worth. We think about ourselves in new ways: the victim, betrayed, abused and vulnerable. How do we come to terms with a partner who cheated? How do we accept that cheating happened in our relationship? In therapy, we try and foster an unconditional acceptance of the self, others and the world. This is difficult stuff! Learning that life happens not to us or for us, but just happens. We work to figure out our role in all of this. What we can control, how to define our feelings and the circumstances surrounding them. This process helps shape our narrative and how we chose to move forward, learning to shed the aforementioned definitions of ourselves. Using this experience as a chance to explore and have an open conversation about needs and wants. The meaning we create can help set realistic expectations and foster positive change in the relationship.