What is infidelity?
The definition of infidelity, also known as cheating, adultery or having an affair, is not as straight forward as you may think. Is emotional infidelity, for instance, really cheating? Is having a sexual affair worse than emotional infidelity? For every couple the answers may differ. For some couples a sexual affair is not a problem as long as there is no emotional attachment with the other. For other couples emotional infidelity isn’t a problem as long as there is no sex involved. Either way, sexual or emotional infidelity is a very tough test for a relationship and many couples or marriages don’t survive such a traumatic event. However, there are a lot of couples and marriages saved by following the tips:
At Barends Psychology Practice, we treat couples troubled by sexual and emotional infidelity. For more information, please read Online marriage counseling. For a first, free of charge, session, please contact us. (Depending on your health insurance, treatment may be reimbursed).
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Overcoming emotional infidelity – talking to each other.
Step 1: talk about your feelings. Don’t keep them in. Talking about your feelings, how silly they may seem like, reduces tension, anger, frustration and calms you down in general. Even if the same feeling returns over and over, keep bringing it up. Apparently there is still something you need to say or know. Make sure you pick your time for such a conversation. Bringing up this topic in the supermarket may not be the best idea. Bring up the topic when you are at home, alone, and have some time to talk. Please, be aware of your partner’s mood. If your partner is stressed or upset, then it may be better to wait a little.
Step 2: take turns listening. Despite your anger or feelings of shame and guilt, listen to what your partner has to say. Try not to interrupt your partner when she is making her point. Just be patient and respectful. It’s not about who is right or wrong, it’s about listening to the other and allowing her to express her feelings and thoughts. Even when you’re hurt, allow your partner to explain how things evolved or happened.
Step 3: tell the truth. Full disclosure is very important if you want to regain your partner’s trust. Talk about your thoughts and feelings and explain how everything happened. Don’t hold back details (about when things happened or how many times), because your partner finds out about them anyway. And IF your partner finds out, it’s even more unlikely your partner will ever trust you again. But don’t talk about the details of sexual positions or similar things. Don’t compare between your partner and the other. Even though your partner wants to know everything in full detail, this part of the conversation can only hurt and will do no-one any good.
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Step 4: keep it personal. Talk about your feelings and thoughts and keep it personal. So say: ´I felt ignored for so long´, and not: ´You ignored me all the time´. For more information about how to communicate please read: communication in relationships.
Overcoming emotional infidelity – acceptance.
Step 5: accept the past. This is a difficult step for more couples. If you want to continue as a couple, you have to start accepting that this bad thing happened. It’s a part of your past now and nothing can be changed. In stead, try to focus on the present and the future.
Step 6: accept each others emotions. Try to accept your partner’s emotions in regards to all that happened. The betrayed partner will feel hurt, angry and emotional and this may take a long time. Allow him or her to express these emotions when needed. Don’t defend yourself, don’t counter the comments… simply accept that these emotions are there and that your partner needs your support more than ever.
Step 7: seek for professional help. Couples or marriage counseling can help you understand why things happened and bring you back together. Allow the therapist to help you. Overcoming emotional infidelity or sexual infidelity is very difficult without professional help.
Step 8: build trust. You can only build trust if you do this together. Stick to your promises, keep your word and back your words with actions (If you say you love your partner, then show it as well). This process takes a long time, because infidelity is devastating for trust in a relationship.
Overcoming emotional infidelity – doing things together.
Step 9: do things you both like. In order to grow closer as a couple, start doing things you both enjoy(ed) a lot. If this means going to the movies or hiking long distances, then please do so. By doing things together you understand again how much fun you guys had and why you are together in the first place.
Step 10: make an effort. Make your partner feel cared for. You don’t need to treat your partner like a prince or princess, since this is counter effective. But be attentive, be gentle and sweet/kind. Be interested in your partner and pay attention to the things she tells you. By making an effort you grow closer to each other again.
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Step 11: have a laugh. This may seem tough, but overcoming emotional infidelity or sexual infidelity is easier when you guys have a good laugh every now and then. Try to set aside your frustration or anger and allow yourself to enjoy your partner again.
Step 12: develop more intimacy. Infidelity is almost never about sex. Infidelity is about needs that haven’t been met. So listen to each other and explore each other’s needs. See where your partner needs you and how you can make each other happy. Allow your partner to get closer to you.
Overcoming emotional infidelity – looking past your emotions.
Step 13: will you ever trust your partner again? An important step in overcoming emotional infidelity is to find out if you are willing to give your partner another chance. Do you want to give up everything you’ve build up in the past years? Is your partner as a person worth fighting for (separate behaviour from person). If you don’t feel like you can ever trust your partner any more, then it may be time to move on.
Step 14: can you forgive your partner? Forgiving may take a long time (years) and is a slow process. But it’s essential in overcoming emotional infidelity. If you can’t forgive your partner, you may continue to pick fights with your partner, you may always be suspicious and you simply won’t be able to enjoy your relationship any more.
Step 15: see past your emotions. Now sit down and close your eyes for a moment. When you think of what happened you probably feel anger, frustration and sadness coming up. Now realize that these feelings belong to your partner’s behaviour, not your partner as a whole. Try to see through these feelings by focusing on your partner and all the good things you guys did. You’ll see that there are much more feelings present than just the anger, frustration and sadness.
Step 16: focus on the present and future. Make plans for the near future and the far away future. Planning for the future is fun and brings back the smile. Try to set up some goals to achieve those long term plans.
Overcoming emotional infidelity – professional help.
Overcoming emotional infidelity may seem impossible to some couples, because of the damage that has been done. In some cases professional counseling may be a solution. Together you can see where things went wrong, how to overcome future struggles and how to kick-start your relationship again.
In case there are children involved, professional help is recommended, because it concerns your children’s development. Sometimes staying together isn’t in the best interest for the children, especially when the partners keep fighting and arguing with each other.
We offer relationship and marriage counseling for couples. The first session is free of charge and without obligation. For more information, please check: online marriage counseling.
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