Infidelity is not an easy subject to discuss, Womanistas. It can be one of the more devastating relationship crimes to commit. While cheating is a deal breaker for some, others don’t consider it the sole reason for relationship demise. If you have been in the crosshairs of infidelity, you may have found yourself torn between the two extremes of anger and hurt, unsure of what to do next.
Do you try to forgive and forget the emotional or physical affair and stay together? Do you make a break and move on without your partner? These decisions are not so cut-and-dry and if you do decide to try and make it work together, there are questions to ask yourself before making your final decision.
Are you certain the affair is over?
If your partner cheated, make sure it’s completely over. Because trust is broken, it’s hard to feel certainty, especially if you see them for hours online playing video games or wonder how much longer till they get home. If your spouse continues communication, then it’s not over — think about it. Unless it was some random person, there are feelings present that oversee the sexual nature. Can your partner make a sacrifice to ease your worry?
Is there a family history of cheating?
Don’t misjudge how this impacts your partner’s decision and actions. Researchers at Charles University in Prague discovered cheating runs in the family, at least as far as men are concerned. Last year, The University of Nevada reported its own findings, noting 44 percent of cheaters had cheating parents. Like subliminal messaging, actions seen early on become internalized as acceptable or a way out of complications.
What were the circumstances of the affair?
Try to understand the affair as this can help you make your decision. If your partner can’t be an open book, it’s a warning sign of their intentions and not a cover to protect feelings. We all make mistakes, but not everyone makes the mistake of having an affair. If it’s a one-time sexual encounter, seek a sex therapist. But, if they were in a long-term affair, it’s usually because your partner is emotionally attached or in love. Long-term affairs denote lies, secrets, and manipulation. Ask yourself, why couldn’t they end it earlier? How will they get over their affair partner?
Is your partner deciding to stay with you out of an ultimatum?
Licensed social worker, Robert Weiss suggests cheaters given an ultimatum usually find themselves waffling between their marriage and affair. Though frantic to save their marriage, they continue similar habits and wonder aimlessly about the other person. However, cheaters asked to make the choice don’t realize their relationship is dependent on their uncertainties. Make sure your partner wants to be with you for the right reasons and not because they’re afraid to be alone.
Is your partner compartmentalizing?
Seen as a minor form of relationship detachment, compartmentalization is a defense mechanism used to separate internally differing thoughts, while disregarding cognitive discord. Couples counselor, Marni Feuerman says if a partner unremittingly compartmentalizes in a relationship, this is a major red flag. Compartmentalizing weakens relationships and becomes so habitual it wanes the cheater’s intuition and perspective logic, leading them to fail in chief areas of their life that require maturity.
Can you trust this person again?
When a partner violates trust, counselors and therapists commonly see a slow crumble in relationships. Dr. Joy Davidson says rebuilding trust doesn’t come easy, quickly or sometimes at all. But it is a demanding progression that requires two committed participants and a licensed marital therapist.
Conversely, if your partner draws comparisons between you and the affair partner, the damage is done. The atom of betrayal is not just turning away from the relationship, but seeking a comparison for an alternative lifestyle that indicates the cheater’s discontent.
Are you willing to face your fears?
Cheating doesn’t pop out of the blue. It usually begins when intimacy breaks down in a relationship and friendship dissipates. If you can no longer trust your partner, are excessively controlling, consistently critical and have to look over your shoulder, ask yourself, “Do you really love your partner? Are you willing to take control of your life in a responsible mature way?”
Try everything you can, but know that if a relationship is not working for both of you, it’s not working at all. Make the choice for yourself and your health first. Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you need to leave, see it as a life-affirming choice. Can you be happier on your own?