Friday, August 15, 2014

Surviving Infidelity - Part II

Allegory of Love, I: Infidelity by Paolo Veronese
So, your spouse or committed partner promises to “love, cherish, and forsake all others.” In the meantime, however, while you were earning a living for the family or changing the oil in the family SUV or hunting woolly mammoth, she was with another man. (Honey, look up the definition of commitment in the dictionary).

Upon learning of that his allegedly committed partner had an affair, a man may react by experiencing a range of emotions in a bitter cocktail of anger, disappointment, confusion, sadness, and more. It is likely that he hadn’t experienced anything like the reactions that resulted from the realization and he may not know what to do next.

As I have often written in The Single Father’s Guide Blog and in The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball, “Men don’t ask for directions.” There aren’t many support groups for men whose spouses have been unfaithful. Men don’t typically call therapists “to talk.” So, what do you do?

Well, here’s what you do, also know, as “The Five Things to Do if Your Partner Had Sex with Another Dude:”

1)     Step Off. Take stock of your situation and all of the variables that exist in the relationship with your partner. If at all possible, get the hell away for a day, a weekend, a week, or whatever. Go fishing with a friend. Go to Florida and play golf. Find a distraction and, if you can, a wingman who you trust, to allow you to clear your head and think.

2)     Decide. You may have children together. You may have a business together. You may still be in love with your partner, or you may not. Decide whether the relationship is even worth saving. This is a big one, so take as much time as you need. If the answer is, “No,” then you can stop reading. End it. On the other hand, if you truly want to try to make it work, then continue on to step #3.

3)     Forgive. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, but once you decide to forgive, then you simply forgive. Through the uncomfortable feelings that infidelity creates, forgiveness is a cathartic experience. It’s also liberating. Forgiveness simply means that you have released the pain that resulted in the injury done to you from your heart. It means that you won’t use the event as a means of punishment of resentment. Forgiveness does not mean that you have forgotten about the infidelity, though and it does not mean that your partner is not responsible for her actions.

4)     Full Disclosure. When your partner has had an affair with another man, one of the most difficult things to deal with is your imagination. Conceptualizing the woman you love with another man can, and will, make you sick to your stomach. It’s the stuff insomnia is made of. What you need, then, is full disclosure. You’ll need to ask your partner, in as much detail as you require, what exactly happened. She has to tell you. It’s again unfortunate, but you don’t have control over this step. Your partner does.  If she doesn’t want to talk to you about the specifics as you need to hear them, then you can stop reading. End it. If she has the courage and takes responsibility to talk candidly with you, then continue on to step #5.

5)     Rebuild Trust. It’s not that any of these other steps are easy, but rebuilding trust requires time, a LOT of time. Rebuilding trust may take months, but likely it will take years. Unlike forgiveness which is a personal decision, trust is forged over time. Sadly, trust can be destroyed in a moment. As with the rest, your partner has to be willing to help. She must let you know where she is and what she’s doing when you feel like you need to know. She’ll have to share her cell phone and text logs with you. She has to not feel threatened when you feel like you have to check on her. She has to be honest and open. If she’s willing to do that, however, and she and you have a reasonable chance to regain the trust in your relationship.

There’s a little more to it than that, of course. If you want to prevent infidelity from occurring
Price of Infidelity by Amy McClosky
again, you or she may have to address the causes of the infidelity and, in some cases, be willing to change some behaviors. That will certainly require an openness and honesty with which may be outside of your comfort zone. It may actually require "asking directions" in the form of therapy.

Regardless of anything else, or everything else for that matter, there remains one immutable fact a man has to understand, “The things you know, you can never un-know.” The affair your partner had will have changed your relationship forever. Your connection, your feelings, and your love may not be the same.

Ironically, the affair may have also changed your partner in some profound and unalterable ways. She may have learned something about herself that she didn’t previously want to believe to be true or possible. She may no longer be the woman with whom you fell in love, and that means you just may have another decision to make.