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Infidelity: How Do I Forgive My Partner?

By: Bridgette W. Gottwald, LPC, NCC

As a couples and marital counselor, infidelity is one of the common trends that comes up often. Clients often ask me if it’s possible to overcome infidelity within a relationship and the short answer is yes. However, there needs to be a desire to overcome it on both ends of the relationship and it takes a large amount of mental, emotional, and psychological work.

To begin, three main factors are involved in overcoming infidelity: identifying, understanding, and resolving.

Identifying

Take an honest and open approach to figure out and dissect the reasons that this may have happened within your relationship. Why did it occur in the first place and what was lacking? There could be many reasons why but here are a few examples:

  • Loss of sexual desire or interest
  • Emotional abandonment
  • Physical or emotional attraction to someone else
  • Retaliation for past hurts

Understanding 

Both members of the relationship must understand their role in an affair taking place. Taking ownership and holding yourself accountable are crucial. During this step, it might be helpful to discuss love languages and how you feel they are properly being met – or where there is a deficit.

Resolution  

The resolution to infidelity must be mutually agreed upon and understanding here is “paramount.” It might be helpful to define the terms of the resolution. The following questions might be useful as resolution and moving forward is discussed:

  • What does each person want out of the process of resolution?
  • Why do you want to stay in the relationship?
  • What does returning to normal look like for you?
  • What would help you to build trust within the relationship?
  • What can you do to fully immerse yourself in the process of healing?
  • What can you identify that makes you want to stay in the relationship?
  • What do your needs look like moving forward?

Returning to Normal 

When thinking about returning to normalcy, it’s imperative to realize that “somewhere within that normal lies the problems that caused the infidelity.” It will be helpful to determine the root cause of infidelity and perhaps creating a new normal would be in the best interest of both people. Establishing these new norms paves a solid path to resolution. Staying emotionally connected and making time for each other’s feelings, thoughts, and emotional needs are key. Resolution cannot happen without forgiveness. Not only does the person who cheated have to be forgiven, but they have to forgive themselves, too. Ultimately, both individuals are hurting, just in different ways, and “regardless of who perpetrated the act of cheating, the decision to forgive one’s self and each other is a necessary step toward resolution.”

Trust 

We all know that it takes “a lot to build and very little to destroy, but it can be reestablished.” This passage below from “Treating Infidelity: An Integrative Approach,” which was published in The Family Journal explains this process:

“Rebuilding trust is a lengthy process that can be accomplished through patience, accountability, and honest communication. Accountability refers to accepting responsibility for one’s actions, the pain one has inflicted on the other, and the damage done to the relationship. Accountability and trust are facilitated by the development of a specific communication plan in which partners keep in touch regularly and inform each other of their schedules and plans. Betrayed partners do not want to be deceived or hurt further, so unfaithful partners must adhere to the agreed-on schedule and plans. Failure to do so perpetuates mistrust and pain.”

Paying attention to personal choices one makes within the relationship and this has the power to either make or break the relationship. If you’re struggling in your relationship, and you’d like someone to talk to, reach out to Symmetry Counseling today to get paired with a Chicago therapist. Contact us today!

Reference: 

Northwestern University. (2017). Maintaining relationships: How to overcome cheating. Retrieved from: https://counseling.northwestern.edu/blog/how-to-overcome-cheating/

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