Not every couple wants to recover from the betrayal of infidelity.
Couples that do seek to repair the damage from infidelity are sometimes successful, and sometimes not.
There are two primary reasons why couples that want to recover from infidelity fail. One reason is not seeking specialized relationship counseling to contribute to the recovery journey.
The other reason is because they fail to fulfill the necessary requirements.
This is analogous to a person who wants to give up smoking but doesn’t take the required steps needed to overcome the addiction. It is this second reason; not meeting the criteria required to recover, that is addressed in this post.
Here are essential attitudes and behaviors required by the victim of infidelity. In a previous post, I addressed the requirements of the cheater.
Essential attitudes and behaviors required of the victim of infidelity:
1. Decision. Willingness to explore reconciliation versus continual militancy
The victim has been terribly injured by his or her unfaithful partner. Trust, safety, comfort, and more have all been sacrificed on the altar of infidelity.
Often, victims have no interest in making peace with the perpetrator of their injuries. On the other hand, for a variety of reasons, some victims of infidelity do want to recover and maintain the relationship with their betraying partner, and keep the family together.
It is natural for many victims to be ambivalent, uncertain regarding what they should do. However, such a position as reasonable as it is, keeps the door closed to reconciliation.
If there is to be relationship reconciliation, the victim has to make a decisive decision to at least try to reconcile.
2. Objectivity. Willingness to take responsibility for one’s reaction versus absolute blame
Yes, the “victim” is a victim. However, in addition to being the victims, individual injured by their straying partner must take a reasonable position and acknowledge that his or her reaction to the hated event — the cheating — influences in some way the current relationship dynamics and what will happen in the future.
In other words, some reactions to infidelity are reasonable and constructive, and some are not. The victim needs to acknowledge that he or she can choose to some extent what his or her reactions will be. Without this, there can be a position of never-ending anger and blaming which will certainly doom the relationship to failure.
3. Position. Willingness to consider forgiveness versus never-ending damnation
At some point in the relationship recovery process, the victim needs to recognize that forgiveness is a goal worth striving towards and that true forgiveness with the heart is a valued prize.
After all, when infidelity recovery is genuinely successful, revenge, anger, and devastation must transform to trust, love, and friendship. This can only occur when forgiveness has been earned by the philanderer and bestowed upon him or her by the victim.
4. Responsibility. Willingness to consider the needs of each family member versus only his or her entitlements
When trying to decide how to respond to a cheating partner, it is necessary to take into consideration the needs and interests of other family members, such as one’s children.
Considering the needs of each family member does not mean in any way that the betrayal is to be swept under the rug or just forgotten. Not at all. Considering the needs of others will help set goals and motivate future efforts, whatever they may be.
5. Open-minded. Willingness to consider the broad context in which the infidelity occurred versus a single black-and-white view of the infidelity event
Infidelity is only a single aspect of a marriage or committed relationship. There are many other aspects that need to also be taking into consideration.
Naturally, when the truth of the betrayal breaks upon the relationship, the shock and hurt is the story.
However, over time the victim needs the strength of character and position of honesty to also consider the needs and circumstances in which the betraying partner committed his or her acts of betrayal.
Doing so does not in any way diminish the responsibility that the betraying partner has for his or her shocking and bad behavior. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that even the betraying partner has a legitimate position as does the victim, even if it is not agreed with and that this right to an explanation must be acknowledged.
Infidelity is a shared experience. It is not at all like the impression that is conveyed with the well-known saying, “What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas.”
No, it does not stay in Las Vegas! Rather, infidelity is like a virus, it spreads from individual to individual. Everyone becomes sick. And since everybody gets sucked into the after effects once infidelity is known, everyone has a role to play — both the betrayer and the victim — if recovery is to be a relationship reality.