Infidelity: When To Forgive

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I am not writing this to say what’s right or wrong, or to tell you what your limits should be. If you can’t forgive or accept any infidelity at all and would prefer to just end the relationship, then this post isn’t for you. I am writing for those who want to know if it’s ever worthwhile to give a cheater another, (or multiple) second chances

The most destructive part of infidelity is not the sexual act itself, but rather the loss of trust that it causes. Often, it’s impossible for a couple to move past this breach of trust, and the relationship ends. Love alone isn’t enough to maintain a strong relationship; trust is necessary as well. Trust is the glue of the relationship.

Relationships involve many promises: perhaps one of the most important is the promise that you’re only with your partner, and no-one else (excluding open relationships). When this promise is broken, all trust vansihes. Without trust, intimacy and communication suffer. Hostility takes the place of tenderness, the relationship slowly becomes toxic, and a break-up is likely. However, if both parties desire it, the relationship CAN be revived and rejuvenated, though at this point therapy is absolutely necessary to accomplish this. Therapy helps by working out the problems with communication, broken trust, grief, and the anger caused by betrayal.

To reconstruct a broken relationship, all cards need to be on the table. After all, infidelity is couple problem, not an individual problem. The truth needs to be spoken, by both parties. The cheater should not attempt to hide what they did, should explain their motive (i.e. what is the relationship lacking?) and assume the blame. In the same way, the one who was betrayed should explain what they need from their partner in order for trust to be regained. However, trust is not regained easily, nor should it be. The betrayed partner was manipulated and repeatedly lied to. Trust is no longer a guarantee, and needs to be won little by little; it’s a slow process that requires lots of hard work and dedication.

But is all this effort ever really necessary in the first place? The chances of a couple staying together after infidelity are surprisingly reasonable, as long as both parties desire it, and put forth the required effort. But what about partners who have cheated multiple times, or of betrayals that were discovered but never admitted? The point I’m trying to make is that many times, while in therapy, the ‘victim’ is completely blind to the reality of what is going on. Love truly is blind. What is the victim’s responsibility in a situation such as this one? One of the most difficult things to do is examine the whole situation and determine what portion of the blame needs to be placed on us. What about partners who have never shown signs of infidelity before? Or situations where we are blind to everyting until the last moment? What do these situations say about us? What makes us go to therapy to “fix ourselves”, to accept a monogamic relationship that is repeatedly disrespected? What is it that stops us from looking for a way out fo these relationships and starting over? Is it the fear of being alone? Is it what’s “best” for the family? Is it the fear of an uncertain future? These are important questions that need to be answered before giving another chance to anyone who has repeatedly shown signs of betrayal. The ability to forgive, while commendable, is not always the best solution.

Paula Monteiro
Psychologist
psicologapaulamonteiro@gmail.com
+55 21 99742-7750

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