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Like almost every paradigm to which we as humans subscribe, whether it be consciously or unconsciously, monogamy is very much a social construct. Humans are pretty much the only species that practices and enforces monogamy. Still, it hurts very badly when one learns that their partner has been unfaithful to them. While many believe that they?d leave their partner after only one incident of infidelity, doing so is a lot easier said than done.
If two people have been together for years, and one party cheats just once, does that mean the entire relationship was a lie or a failure? Truthfully, the answer is up to those in the relationship.
From personal experience, I can say that choosing to stay with a partner who has cheated isn?t easy, however, it doesn?t mean that the possibility of having a successful relationship is dead. While I won?t reveal the gender of the partner (as I?ve only dated a few men and a few women) and while I won?t reveal the time the incident of infidelity took place (as not to out any partner of mine, past or current, as a cheater), I am willing to share a few things that I learned from staying with someone who was unfaithful to me.
It?s tough. Like, really fucking tough.
When I had found out that my partner had cheated, of course, I was crushed. How could someone who loves me do something like this? Why couldn?t they admit to me what they had done when I had asked? Even though I chose to stay, I still found myself asking myself where I went wrong. Time heals all wounds, so if you are considering staying with someone who cheated, allow yourself some time to heal before making a decision. You surely owe it to yourself.
Don?t sweep it under the rug.
Once one party cheats, you two can never really go back to who you were before. When you notice the patterns that led to the infidelity re-occurring, address them before it happens again. It?s easy to write off one?s infidelity as just a bump in the road because cheating, unfortunately, is so normalized in today?s dating culture. However, your pain is valid, and you shouldn?t dismiss it. Sweeping the issue under the rug in order to avoid confrontation or conflict with your partner will just eat away at you, leaving you feeling resentful and miserable.
Sex does not always equate to love
Just because your partner had sex with someone else doesn?t mean they love you any less. Oftentimes, it is the result of giving in to temptation or just the need for physical contact or stimulation. Still, this does not excuse lying or breaking agreements you had previously set in place.
It?s (probably) not your fault
If your partner cheats, it?s a reflection of them, not you. They can tell you that they cheated because you weren?t meeting their needs, they can tell you that they cheated because you weren?t present enough, but the fact that they chose to cheat, as opposed to vocalizing their grievances, reflects a communication issue on their end. Unless you were abusive toward your partner, you shouldn?t blame yourself for their infidelity.
Be wary of considering an open relationship
Open relationships can be healthy, however, if it?s not something both parties are interested in, then neither party should force themselves to open up their relationship. It may seem like a simple fix to infidelity ? to allow each partner to have consensual sex with other people while remaining romantically exclusive ? but if one of you isn?t particularly keen on the idea, it may lead to resentment over time. You are certainly allowed to want a strictly monogamous relationship and you shouldn?t have to sacrifice that in order to keep your partner happy.
Allow them to earn your trust back
You may be the victim in the situation, however, when it comes to repairing a relationship after infidelity, you have to leave the ball in their court. They have to be willing to address the problematic behavior that led to their infidelity. They have to communicate their wants and needs. They need to be willing to make changes to their life in order to assure you that they won?t cheat again. Re-establish your boundaries and make sure both of you are clear on what you need and expect from each other.