Have you recently found evidence of your partner cheating? “I saw multiple texts from an unknown number on my partner’s phone, and I looked into it further.” “My partner left his/her email account open on the computer, which he never does.” “I had a hunch something was off, so I combed through our credit card statements.” The stories told of how people have caught their partner cheating are endless, and all too common, but devastating nonetheless.
Whether or not you had your suspicions of your partner’s infidelity already, or you’ve just been completely blindsided, you are now called to face the reality of your relationship. A common dilemma for people in this situation is while they’re upset and deeply concerned about their partner’s cheating, this situation is also new to them. How to act, how to feel, how to respond are all unknown and in question. Especially if their partner is pushing back at all in terms of willingness to disclose all information. Most often, couples who have kids together, run a household together, or sometimes even a business catch themselves in survival mode, where they are going through the daily motions of keeping everything and everyone afloat. This is dangerous because it’s easy to just keep running your life and your family without giving yourself time to process your emotions and face the break of trust in your relationship.
For some, this type of violation is a deal breaker, and there is no solution except to pack bags and go separate ways. For others, such infidelity can serve as a wakeup call, forcing a couple to address the problems that have been ignored. This can serve as a turning point for these couples, which can reset everything. This can only happen if both you and your partner are willing to do the difficult work that’s involved. For this to happen, honesty, transparency, vulnerability, responsibility, and a true partnership must develop. The couple must be ready and willing to work through it and face some hard truths together in order for the healing to begin.
For those of you considering staying in the relationship, it’s okay if you’re confused and still processing your options. You have invested in this person and this life in so many ways. It’s not easy to just cut ties and walk away from something and someone you have put your time and your heart into. When you are faced with this as your reality, it’s not so black and white. It doesn’t mean you are going to stay in the end. It doesn’t mean that your partner will do the work to earn back your trust and partnership. But for now you are taking the time you need to assess how you feel. It’s extremely common not to know what you want just yet (stay vs. go), and that is more than okay. Don’t let that stop you from going through emotional process and asking for what you need.
Confronting your partner
Depending on your partner and his/her personality, their response to your confrontation will vary. Some people lie when confronted. It’s simply a knee-jerk reaction to manage the fallout, to not hurt you, to not expose themselves. They feel panicked and possibly in shocked, and as survival will tell you what you want to hear. Others will come clean immediately. In the initial days, take in what they are saying, but prepare yourself that there very well could be more.
How do you trust your partner again after catching them? He/she didn’t come to you with the information ready to disclose and accept the consequence of his/her actions. You just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Who knows when you were going to find out if the truth had not fallen in your lap like it did. Depending on what you knew or sensed prior to the discovery, you may have been completely in the dark. Your partner may have been incredibly skillful and covering his/her tracks, and if that’s the case, would your partner have ever come clean? These are the questions and ideas you need to really sit with for yourself, as well as ask your partner. What do you need from your partner to move forward in the initial days/weeks? Asking for passwords, access to emails, credit card accounts are acceptable methods in the early stages to help you feel like your partner is now transparent. This is not a long term solution. This is merely to help you two start somewhere in demonstrating transparency and honesty.
Once you confront your partner, you need to take the time to assess and decide how you want to move forward. Is this the information you needed in order to finally cut ties and end the relationship? Or do you feel this is something that you can forgive and understand (even partially) and want to move forward with your partner?
Something you will want to consider when assessing what to do about your relationship (i.e., rebuild or walk away) Do you feel you are getting what you need from you partner to at least start the healing and rebuilding process. Has he/she demonstrated their remorse? Did you receive a heartfelt apology? Do you sense they grasp the severity of their actions? Are you in the position to leave (i.e., kids, financial, etc.)?
It can be difficult for many to trust their gut and know what to ask for from their partner in the early stages of healing from infidelity. A therapist who has experience working with infidelity can help you navigate the early stages, help you ask the right questions, and ask for things that will help you build trust. A therapist can also keep you accountable in holding your partner accountable for facilitating change.