It’s easy to vilify a cheating partner.
Whether they betrayed you emotionally or physically, it hurts just as much.
It’s natural to be angry at a partner who cheated on you, but when you peel back the layers, you will often find a good person who is just extremely lonely.
Cheating can be incredibly difficult to move on from. It’s even more challenging to wrap your head around the possibility it was out of your partner’s control.
So, if your partner has been unfaithful, can you salvage the relationship?
From our work at the Gay Couples Institute, we have found out that it is possible to work through issues of infidelity.
Keep reading to find out how.
What Went Wrong?
Rightly or wrongly, we all start pointing the finger of blame when we discover a partner has cheated, either at them ― or at ourselves.
“Is it me? Don’t you love me anymore? What did I do to make you cheat?”
It all comes down to communication. There are a lot of unspoken truths that can drive a relationship to the tipping point.
A person may cheat because their partner has stopped paying attention.
Imagine being in a relationship and, one day, realizing you feel totally alone.
“Where’s the remote?”
“Find it your damn self.”
Words have consequences.
In these small, seemingly insignificant moments, you and your partner stop bidding for each other’s attention.
Every time you shut your partner down like this, they feel less and less important to you ― and other options start to look more appealing.
So, what can you do to stop you and your partner getting to this stage?
Throughout your life, people are communicating with you constantly.
Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, email ― it never ends.
Your partner is also trying to communicate to you. 84% of the time, it’s your job to answer their bid for attention, so look out for physical and emotional cues.
But I always buy them gifts. We spend a lot of time together. What more can I possibly do?
It is essential that you understand your partner’s love language.
But what if your partner has cheated before? How can you be sure they won’t do it again?
Let’s go deeper.
The Signs of a Cheating Partner
A cheating partner will react defensively to questioning.
“Hey, I noticed you’ve been distant lately, is everything okay?”
A question like this will often trigger a defensive reaction in a cheating partner.
“I’m fine, why won’t you stop asking? I don’t want to talk about it.”
A partner who has nothing to hide is usually more transparent in their response.
“I noticed you were busy with work. We can do something later today if you’re up to it.”
A cheating partner will also display a pattern in their responses to your questions. If they are always on the defensive, it might be because they have something to hide.
Nobody wants to be the one going through their partner’s phone.
That being said, always trust your gut.
Learning to Trust Again
It takes time and work to get over infidelity. Couples often seek professional guidance to help them recover from sexual or emotional betrayal.
However, research shows that 74% of couples do make it through.
If you are the one cheating, you might have convinced yourself you are protecting your partner by not telling them what’s going on.
Spoiler alert: you’re not.
The longer you delay telling them the truth, the more it’s going to hurt later.
Genuinely acknowledging your partner’s pain and taking responsibility for the fact you caused it plays a big role in the healing process.
Non-defensive responses to your partner’s anger and criticism will help them move past the initial shock and upset.
“I understand I’ve hurt you. Talk to me about where you are emotionally. I’m listening.”
So, is it true that, “Once a cheater, always a cheater?”
Science tells us no ― it is simply not true.
If you have been cheated on, the first step is to look inward and accept that it wasn’t your fault.
Once you’ve done that, the two of you should seek professional counseling.
Talking openly and honestly with an objective mediator present gives both of you the confidence to open up the bottle and let your emotions out.
Then, over time, you can move on and learn to trust again.
If you and your partner are in the process of recovering from infidelity, take our Communication Style Quiz to find out where the breakdown began. Talk to our experts to learn how to heal from your emotional wounds and rebuild your relationship.
ABOUT SAM GARANZINI, LMFT, LPCC, and ALAPAKI YEE, LMFT
Sam Garanzini and Alapaki Yee are Certified Gottman Method Couples Therapists and the co-founders of the Gay Couples Institute – the world’s only gay and lesbian couples counseling clinic. The Gay Couples Institute has locations in Northern California and Manhattan, as well as online counseling services available.
For more information about how the Gay Couples Institute can help you, please visit: www.gaycouplesinstitute.org