Even in the world of just Adam and Eve, temptation appeared and a dream ended.
Despite the major consequences, however, they stayed together. There are many blows that a strong relationship can take: crime and punishment, financial turmoil, evolving personalities, the loss of loved ones. Infidelity is a different thing. It occurs almost universally, in weak bonds. It breaks one of the core commitments of that bond. It feels devastating because it’s every earthquake hitting at once.
Unfortunately, infidelity is timeless and pervasive. It is as old and prevalent as monogamy. In my years as a relationship coach, I have encountered many clients in one corner or another of these triangles. And I’ve found that cases generally fall into one of three categories: those where nothing changes; Where everything changes (in the midst of immense pain but also hope); And where the affair turns out to be terminal for the relationship.
Let’s start with the first one. My 37-year-old client, her name is Tina, has been in a loveless marriage for 10 years. There is no romance or intimacy between her and her husband; They co-exist as roommates, and have not had sex for three years.
A year ago, Tina began flirting via text with a man she met at a social event. A flirtation turned into a relationship. After eleven months, she ended the affair. I am helping him heal from the pain of losing this relationship.
Tina can’t explain exactly why she chose to stay in her marriage. Perhaps this is familiar; Maybe it’s because her husband isn’t a bad person. Since he was committed to this bond, he knew he had to end it. But she is determined to return to her marriage because she left it, without communication and attempts at resolution. Her heart breaks, and he sees that something is wrong, but they haven’t talked about what it might be. They seem determined to stick to the old pattern.
In the second scenario, the love is intact and the pain may be felt even more, but there is hope. A few months ago, I began coaching a client who contacted me after his wife admitted to having an affair. He began by saying that he understood the role he played. He came to these conclusions in therapy. For example, for five years he was only at home, and even when he was he was focused on work. As his career progressed, he allowed his wife to feel smaller and less important. He now wants help rebuilding his bond, from its current state of decay.
From “seeing” and “hearing” his wife to sharing experiences they both enjoy outside the home, we’re working to make sure his wife feels seen, heard and wanted.
In a third scenario, my 40-year-old client is getting back into the dating world. Her marriage ended when she discovered that her husband had cheated on her while working on a shared computer. He was completely blind, she says. And after she read the texts sent from the secret account, she knew there was no way forward for them.
Regardless of the circumstances and the outcome, I agree with psychiatrist Esther Perel, who says that there are lessons to be learned from any incident of infidelity in life. I recommend the help of a counselor, therapist or coach, as this is a difficult journey. As Perel puts it in his book The State of Affairs (2017), it “requires a willingness to descend into the labyrinth of irrational forces.” “Love is messy; mistrust even more so. But it’s also a window, like no other, into the cracks of the human heart. Not just the heart of a cheated man, but of a man left asking: How could this happen to me? It’s imperative to answer that question, Not with any sense of self-blame, but with the goal of never having to ask again.
(Simran Mangaram is a dating and relationship coach and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)