Updated: Jul 27, 2020
MJ: Many spouses have experienced what it is like to have their partner have an extramarital affair, a softer term for being cheated on. Homewrecker. Adulterer. Adulteress. One thing I know in my knower, is that God gave us boundaries not to hurt us, but because he loves us and does not want to see us hurt. When a partner turns their back on their spouse, their family, to seek after something that is not their right to seek, and IF they follow through with their thoughts, that person, in my opinion, is not only a “cheater”, but also a liar and a thief. I believe those extra labels are immediately applied upon following through with the act of cheating.
The questions to a third party that follow the anguished comment of, “I just found out my spouse has been cheating on me.” Might be, “Why? Why would they do that to me? To us?” “What did I do that was so wrong?” Percell, in that moment we want to be supportive and not psychoanalyze for them. I believe we should not place blame anywhere but offer a more generic response of, “I don’t know. I am so sorry. What can I do to help you?” Or am I missing something?
Percell: It is in being a liar and a thief that makes them a cheater. What we never consider is that the lie which is told is first and foremost to themselves. The lie is that they are capable of commitment, desirous of commitment, mature enough and knowledgeable enough to be in love. The person who cheats in a relationship is the same person who cheats on an exam in school, and for the same reason. Once we understand this, then we do not have to ask questions such as, “Why would they?” or “What did I do?”
You are correct in that it would be totally inappropriate for a third party to place blame. As for a proper response to such questions, the ones mentioned would be correct.
MJ: Once someone has entered your doors for you to help them “get over it”, what are the options that you try to assess with the client as viable?
Percell: What options does one have after a relationship has encountered a cheating situation? There is always the option to try to save the relationship. This might be possible if both persons are willing to discuss what contributed to the affair versus solely hashing over the affair itself. I do not mean to justify or ignore the cheating, or to blame it on a bunch of excuses. If both persons are desirous of being truthful with themselves and each other about what has not been working, the relationship has the potential of healing and continuing. When a couple can do this without falling into the ‘blame game’ trap, often the relationship comes back even stronger.
Some things that one must do include:
being brutally honest
that each person be truly sorry for what they have or might have done
being willing to remove temptations
not talking about it with other persons (friends, family, etc)
If the relationship is ending or has ended, real focus is paramount to healing. Firstly, know exactly where to place the anger, hurt, blame, etc. This is always tri-fold.
1. Know that the person who hurt you did what they did for whatever reasons that they did it and move on. Why really does not matter unless one certain element is in play.
2. Make the distinction between the hurt and anger that you feel toward the individual and the hurt and anger that you feel toward the demise of your illusion and expectations. Being hurt and angry at the person for their actions is justifiable. Being hurt and angry at the other person because your dream of a loving relationship did not work out is not. Why is this important? Misdirected aggression often hurts the doer worse than the intended.
3. Know that it is OK to still want the things that you dreamed of, and still want them with that person. So-called friends might say things such as, “He/She was never good for you, anyway. Good riddance. Move on!” This only causes you to feel as though you are wrong for loving the abuser, or wrong for still wanting the dream. You are not wrong. You were committed. You deserve to hold a reverence to the emotions and feelings which you had for that individual. And, yes, the struggle between should you hope for reconciliation or should you move on will be real for however long it takes. And, that, too, is OK.