For many couples, the range of emotions that are experienced with infidelity is not dissimilar to a death. All emotions are fair game, from anger, denial, depression and just as in any grief cycle are changeable and forceful. The discovery of infidelity often marks the beginning of the end for many relationships. In the US more than many European cultures, it is a breach of trust that carries much more meaning than other types of dishonesty and betrayal. Considering the many forms of dishonesty that couples are willing to forgive and forget, acts of sexual betrayal are charged with something deeper and often unnamed.
Indeed, the work of forgiveness and coming to terms with each other again is a deliberate exercise in understanding and naming our own needs. The weaknesses in the communication abilities between the partners takes on urgency and learning to articulate honestly and clearly is key to healing. Many of our values which we may have previously taken for granted as known and shared have to be re-examined and agreed upon. Both partners must willingly agree to a new level of transparency and vulnerability in the relationship if the new bridge of trust between them is going to hold.
For couples who get to the other side of the infidelity breach, the relationship in many ways does feel like a new one. Coming to understand one’s sexuality and feel safe about sharing it within the relationship takes time, but is often the reward of the healing work after infidelity. If the relationship had not held a shared language for the sexuality of both partners, the one that emerges from this crisis will. Resolving to stay together after infidelity can mark the beginning of a more open and daring intimate life. It isn’t an easy journey back, but it can be done.