To Forgive or to Leave: Is a Happy Life Possible After an Infidelity?
Aug 26, 2019
At the beginning of a relationship, we rarely think about the fact that someday we will have to solve the question: how to forgive an infidelity? When feelings are at their peak, cheating seems unbelievable. But, unfortunately, such situations happen with many couples.
Pain. Resentment. Fury. These are the first things a person feels when he/she learns about the betrayal of a loved one. Consciousness refuses to accept a new reality. But when the first wave of the storm of emotions subsides, a person faces a choice about how to live on.
In this article, we will talk about where the boundaries between the concepts of infidelity and betrayal go, what makes men and women follow the temptations, whether it is possible to forgive an infidelity and what to do if it repeats over and over again.
- What can be considered an infidelity?
- Infidelity and betrayal: is there a difference?
- Reasons for infidelity
- Five questions to figure out whether to forgive the infidelity of a loved one
- How to survive an infidelity and continue to live
- Revenge will not help
- How to let it go and forgive without self-cheating
- Hacking the system: we solve the problem of constant infidelity
What can be considered an infidelity?
First, let’s try to understand the concept of infidelity. Someone sees it only in regular intimate relationships outside of a permanent relationship with a partner. Someone else will say that it cannot be where there is no marriage. For another, frivolous correspondence or even a prolonged conversation with an attractive colleague after a corporate party will be considered an infidelity. Different points of view on the fact of betrayal can even exist within a couple. What seems to one partner to be completely innocent behavior sometimes hurts the other.
Why is it so difficult to determine the boundaries of infidelity? One of the reasons for this can be considered in the development of civil society and law. Quite recently, by historical standards, infidelity was recognized as a crime in European countries. According to the Civil Code of Napoleon, the wife’s infidelity gave her husband grounds for divorce. Male infidelity was considered such only if the husband brought his lover into the house. The difference in relation to female and male adultery was associated with consanguinity and inheritance procedure. A man who doubted his wife’s loyalty could not be sure that his property would be inherited by his own child. 
In modern secular states, the law does not regulate issues of marital fidelity, giving citizens the right to independently decide what they consider to be a good reason for divorce. The emancipation and increasing contribution of women to family welfare removed the urgency over the question of inheritance. Marriage is no longer the only socially approved opportunity to lead an intimate life. Additionally the advent of gadgets gives more options for secret flirting outside the partnership. This has led to the fact that today every couple interprets the concepts of infidelity and betrayal for themselves. However, it often happens that such issues are simply not discussed as a couple. At the dawn of falling in love, there is a feeling of unconditional unity of opinion on all issues, and it may seem that close relationships by default imply loyalty.
Perhaps the only interpretation of the concept of infidelity, which does not cause contradictions as related to the actual action, is the sexual intimacy of a married person with a person outside of the marriage. In other cases, a betrayal can be considered as a violation of obligations in relation to the partner established in mutual agreements.
Infidelity and betrayal: is there a difference?
Much depends upon what the relationships between partners are based. For some, their relationship is a profitable project from the point of view of economic coexistence (it is convenient to rent housing together, share costs on products), and a family becomes a project on raising children and accumulating property.
Political scientist and business coach Irina Khakamada, when speaking in an interview on the YouTube channel “Tender Editor” about her relationship with her fourth spouse, openly admitted that each can calmly cheat. The partners agreed on this at the dawn of their relationship.
“We have a partner marriage: he is free, and so am I. But we exist together, because we both enjoy it”, Irina said. 
We can conclude that infidelity can be a betrayal or not if the partners deliberately discussed this possibility. But this example is rather an exception to the generally accepted paradigm of the relationship between a man and a woman.
Another approach to understanding betrayal is related to the internal sense of attachment to a partner. The issue of attachment is key to our sense of self and our sense of security. And security is everyone’s basic need. For our well-being, we all need a reliable and secure attachment. Flirtation, long-lasting correspondence, an affair – all of these threaten such security. Therefore, many painfully perceive the loss of an emotional connection with their partner, which inevitably follows any connection with a person outside the couple, and regard it as a betrayal.
Reasons for infidelity
“Can I forgive my boyfriend’s infidelity? Misha and I have been together already for 1 year. Recently, everything was fine until friends told me that after work, he went to the café almost every day with his colleague. And he told me that there was more business at work, and he was forced to come home very late. When I directly asked him what kind of relationship they had, he asked me a counter-question: “You and I are not married, what right do you have to ask about this?” I was completely at a loss and did not know what I should say in return. Today it turned out that things were not limited to going to the café only. It’s too painful for me”.
– Angelina, 28
The situation faced by Angelina is familiar to many. Of course, not all men are ready to express their positions so openly as her partner Mikhail. But a denial of responsibility and relationships with occasional partners during a period of prolonged cohabitation, unfortunately, can become a trend. In society, the joint living of a man and a woman without official registration of marriage is already considered an entirely acceptable form of relationship (46% of Russians, and 56% of unmarried people consider this normal).
At the same time, 85% of men living in a civil marriage consider themselves single, and only 8% of women consider themselves unmarried. 
However, for many, officially registered relations do not become an obstacle to external relations. Why is this happening?
Why do men cheat?
“I cheat because I do not want to miss my chances. Nature has rewarded me with extraordinary masculine power and one wife is not enough for me. Who knows how much time is left for me to be a real man? Maybe tomorrow I will not need all this, maybe in a week or ten years, if I’m lucky. While I have the strength, I will do the maximum, and then will have a rest in my cool matrimonial bed. The wife knows and of course, she does not like it. But I think she has no particular problem with “forgiving husband’s infidelity”. She has everything: house, money, car, I provided her all of this, I give her the gifts that she wants. She is very dependent on me. She knows that if she begins to fight with me, I will find a replacement for her very quickly – there are more than enough candidates for her place”.
– Victor, 42
In our society there is a stereotype that “all men cheat”. There is a simple “commandment” in many families, where forgiveness of infidelity of a husband is considered a natural norm. It is passed down the female line from generation to generation. There are reasons for this: long decades of post-war demographic imbalance forced some women to hold on to their husbands, protect them and forgive infidelities, and other women to become lovers. The structure of life, the well-being and safety of the family depended on the man. The existence of this stereotype seems to relieve men of the responsibility for misconduct, forcing them to submissively surrender to a polygamous nature. But cheating is a choice. Each choice has reasons and motives.
We will give some typical examples, but there are certainly many more.
- The ability to increase self-esteem
Even the most confident of men sometimes need to find confirmation of their masculinity and attractiveness. In a relationship on the side, a man feels a surge of vitality and receives a lot of compliments about his masculinity, reliability, and attentiveness. It is possible that at the same time his behavior in relation to his new passion is not very different from that in his marriage. But his spouse already takes it for granted, ceasing to value and pay attention to it.
- Thirst for an adventure
Sometimes a man needs to experience the risks of exposure, provoking bursts of adrenaline. Such behavior manifests itself in conditions where there is tight control by the spouse. The man perceives his philandering as a challenge to his ingenuity and resourcefulness and inwardly triumphs when he succeeds in a “glorious affair”.
- Infidelity as an antidepressant
Everyone is in need of stress relief, but a man is less likely to admit to psychological problems. In an attempt to cheer himself up and break out of the daily work-home routine, he would rather begin to lead a secret life than seek the help of a specialist.
- The ability to adopt a different role
As a rule, such a desire also arises in conditions of total control in the family. It’s more difficult for a man to accept others’ rules and it’s easier to dictate his own. Thus he finds a place where he can establish them – next to another woman. Infidelity becomes a form of expression of freedom.
- The crisis of middle age or “there is no fool like an old fool”
Awareness of old age approaching is frightening not only for women, but also for men. A man after 40 can have an affair with a young girl in order to relive the whirlwind of emotions that he experienced 20 years before. Next to her, it seems to him that so much is still possible in life, and his energy is endless.
Why do women cheat?
“My husband is a biochemist and very passionate about his work, practically never being at home. We met at the Institute. I literally listened to his every word and thought that I was the happiest one, because he chose me. Now we have two children, both already adults. We are still interested to be together and we travel a lot, discuss books and watch arthouse movies. But he is intellectual, my feelings are not interesting to him and he is also silent about his own.
My first lover appeared shortly after the birth of our eldest son. I wanted to feel loved again, and my husband was completely absorbed in his research project. Then I realized that I could get the attention from other men which I lacked from my husband. Does my spouse know about my double life? I do not know. I think it doesn’t interest him”.
– Lyudmila, 49
The motives of female and male adultery are somewhat similar. A woman is pushed along a curved path by the loss of mutual interest between partners and a feeling of dissatisfaction, or resentment. We describe a few typical situations, but in specific cases, everything can be much more complicated and confusing.
- Indifference of the spouse
After several joint years of life in a relationship, romanticism becomes minimal and attempts at courtship are often futile. For a man, this seems logical and legitimate, because he has already fulfilled his hunter’s instinct. But a woman can stop feeling desirable and may look where she will be given attention again.
- Tiredness of routine
Each day becomes a series of repeated situations: breakfast on the run, work, household chores, taking care of children, quick dinner, sofa, TV and sleep. In such cases, they say that “the love boat is broken by everyday routine”. A woman decides to cheat in order to make her life diverse and interesting.
- Jealous husband
Constant outbreaks of jealousy, total control and improper suspicions on the part of the husband do not foster more interest in him. On the contrary, in a woman who did not even think about adultery, the reverse reaction may occur. She may begin to look for an opportunity to “justify” the accusations imposed upon her, acting on the principle “you invented it – I’ll do it”. Such a desire can be both intentional and unconscious.
- Physical dissatisfaction
The physiology of a woman is such that it is more difficult for her to reach the highest point of pleasure in intimacy than for a man. The question becomes more acute if the partner is not the most sophisticated lover, behaves selfishly in bed and does not show much attention to his lady’s needs.
- A way to avenge offense
Everyone tends to be angry and resentful towards their partner. Continuous, even small, grievances can develop into mutual dissatisfaction. This is a direct reason for a woman to go looking for happiness and understanding elsewhere. “You never listen to what I say”, she says, and finds solace in the arms of her lover, ready to listen to her and support her.
One of the danger times for betrayal in marriage by both a woman and a man can be the crisis of relationships after 5-7 years of marriage. Spouses suddenly begin to feel like strangers, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to find common topics for conversation and there is no satisfaction in bed. But they do not file for divorce for the sake of children or for some other reasons. In this situation, betrayal may seem the easiest and most logical way to end a relationship that has exhausted itself. Sometimes such logic may arise even unconsciously.
Five questions to figure out whether to forgive the infidelity of a loved one
“A banal story happened to me: I was the last to know about my husband’s infidelity. It turned out that his relationship on the side had been going on for 2 years. He says that he was not going to leave the family, he wanted to end the relationship before I found out about it. He asked not to file for a divorce, but to help deal with this situation. Is it worth forgiving my husband’s infidelity?”
– Margarita, 25
There is no clear answer to the question of whether to forgive infidelity. Everyone who has had to deal with such a situation, decides for himself/herself in their own way. Some cannot allow any thought of continuing the relationship after such a disaster. Others decide to forgive the infidelity and save the family. If you are faced with infidelity by your partner, no stranger will be able to give unambiguous advice and guarantees for a happy resolution of the story. In such a situation, it is important to take care of yourself and honestly answer the following questions.
- What feelings do you have for your partner?
Infidelity always highlights the shaky “health”, for which both partners are responsible. Think about the reasons that led you to this event. Do you really love and feel the pain of losing contact with your loved one? Or are you more worried about your wounded pride? Is it possible that you have lost mutual feelings, and in these circumstances, the partner has only made the first move in the inevitable conclusion?
- What happens if you do forgive?
Infidelity divides the life of the couple into “before” and “after”. Perhaps you know of examples of how friends and acquaintances who have forgiven infidelity are living. Think about how your life together will change and what rules you will need to set for each other. If there are children in the family, think about how the decision will affect them. But do not only think about the well-being of children. Happy, though divorced, parents are better for children than an unhappy couple living under one roof.
- What happens if you do not forgive?
Think about how you will continue to live outside of the relationship. At this stage, many fears may arise, because much, if not all, will have to be changed. But fears should not become the determining factor in the decision. Try to see the opportunities that a new life will open for you.
- Are you able to forgive?
Life after the infidelity is a new distorted reality. Be prepared for the fact that in the first year, and possibly for many years, flashbacks will follow you. From time to time you will feel the same anger and despair as you did the minute you learned about the infidelity. Anything could be the reason, perhaps the headline of a magazine, a book, or a movie in which dialogue about extramarital affairs suddenly comes up. You will begin to scroll back in your head to all you have experienced. All bodily sensations, as well as the anger and pain that you went through at the time of the sad discovery, will instantly return to you.
This reaction is understandable: your psyche is trying to recover and it provokes sudden intrusions of unpleasant memories. The question is whether you have the courage and self-control not to constantly remind your partner about this event and not to hold him/her in the grip of guilt.
- Is your partner capable of evaluating the depth of your action?
An important point in finding answers to questions about how to forgive infidelity and live on is to think about whether your partner understands your sacrifice? Does he/she repent of his/her action or perhaps pushed you to a decision, maybe the most difficult and serious in your life? Can this happen again?
Read also the advice of a psychologist on how to forgive a husband’s infidelity.
How to survive infidelity and continue to live
“Recently I learned from my wife that she had cheated on me with some guy for three months. Now she says that their relationship has already ended, and she is disgusted with herself and her act. I realized that she loves me and our child. How can I forgive the infidelity of my wife?”
– Vladislav, 35
The clinical psychologist Janice Abrams Spring is the author of the book “After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful” and she has been advising couples in crisis for over thirty years. She believes that it is possible to survive infidelity and stay together, but on the proviso that everyone is ready to honestly look at himself/herself and acquire the skills that will be required to see through the fog of the crisis. 
In the process of overcoming the crisis of relationships, Janice sees three stages.
Stage one: bring feelings back to normal
When the betrayal is revealed, a hurricane of emotions is enveloped. The injured partner is tormented by a sense of injustice and loss and the unfaithful one suffers the torment of choice and experiences a conflict of passions. It will take time for the senses to subside and cool.
Stage two: decide: reunite or separate
Both partners need to resolve the controversial issue of leaving or staying. Having worked out all the options, everyone should make a deliberate decision based on individual circumstances and needs.
Stage three: restore relations or recover
If partners decide to reunite, it will take months, if not years, to restore trust and closeness within the relationship. Separately, the path does not promise to be easy either. But having found harmony, everyone will be able to recover from the consequences of infidelity. 
Revenge will not help
In the heat of emotions and in the hope of quick relief from pain, you may want to take revenge. This could take the form of having an adultery in response with a random guy or girl, giving the partner an act of publicity, raising shame among friends and relatives or spoiling things – car, equipment, etc. These methods may help to temporarily push out anger and resentment, but most likely they will exclude the ability to maintain and restore relations.
How to let it go and forgive without self-cheating
What do you do if you recovered from the first shock associated with your partner’s infidelity, but time passes, and the pain does not go away? You are afraid that you can never forget or forgive the betrayal of a loved one, and that the relationship will never be as good and calm as it once was. You doubt that you made the right choice by deciding to continue the relationship. Try to adopt the advice of family psychologist and psychotherapist Andrew J. Marshall on how to forgive infidelity without deceiving yourself. 
Accept your feelings
Do not blame yourself for not being able to magically leave memories in the past and live on, as if nothing had happened. Perhaps cheating was the biggest shock in your life. There is nothing surprising in the fact that the pain keeps returning, and you still can’t come to terms with the situation.
Work on your thoughts
Many feelings arise as a result of obsessive thoughts. People tend to believe everything that an inner voice broadcasts, as the ultimate truth. But often the unconscious connects events from different life periods to provide us with irrefutable evidence that the situation is catastrophic. Keep a diary or consult a psychologist – this will help you understand your thoughts and feelings.
Think what memories of infidelity give you
Memoirs of infidelity come back for a reason. Most likely, they are trying to tell you that some issues in the relationship have remained unresolved. For example, your sex life has become less bright or you have less time to devote to joint leisure. As long as you continue to ignore these signals, the unconscious will send them back to you again and again.
Do not expect the impossible from a partner
It may seem fair that after the forgiveness of cheating, in gratitude for this, you will receive many times more attention and your partner will change and become a different person. But do not overestimate. Try to accept in your partner not only their strengths, but also their weaknesses.
Do not demand the impossible from yourself
At some point you may be overwhelmed by shame for being cheated on. You will conclude that you are not good enough, as this incident has happened. You may feel awkward or have outbursts of anger. As a result, you will try to become perfect for your partner in everything. Of course, it is worth aiming to become the best version of yourself, but your right to have flaws should also be reserved. 
What do you do in order to prevent the situation from happening again?
People who cheat often say that in a relationship with a lover, they are looking for those emotions and feelings that they can no longer get in their marriage. Therefore, from time to time, a “revision” of relations should be carried out: talk heart to heart, be honest with each other, discuss spiritual and intimacy matters. Set the boundaries of what is permitted and agree on what forms of communication with the opposite sex are unacceptable, since they pose a threat to the well-being in your partnership.
Try not to discuss what happened with strangers and do not return to this episode in communication with your other half. Also do not be stingy in your feelings. Take care of your partner, pay him/her attention, often point out what you like about your partner and why you value him/her.
Hacking the system: we solve the problem of constant infidelity
The tendency to constant infidelity may not be just the partner’s irresponsibility, but a psychological problem. And the point here is not in the contradictions within the couple, but in a stable model of behavior. In such situations, the solution to the problem is facilitated by a deep and focused consideration of the attitudes that push one partner to infidelity.
The problem of pathological adultery can be solved with the help of the 7Spsy behavior modification technique. This is a patented method based on the theories of the founders of behavioral psychology. Using this method, you can change the learned model of behavior and come to a conscious understanding that all needs can be met in marriage without destroying the family. The work is carried out under the guidance of a psychologist remotely and individually, without the presence of the second partner.
The specialist will do everything plausible to help change the system of attitudes. The successful result of the course depends on the desire of one partner to change and the willingness of the other to support the loved one.
Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics.
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