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How to move on once the ice is broken

CAUGHT red-handed, the fate of your marriage now depends on how you handle your spouse’s infidelity. Do you throw them out? Or you try to find a way to forgive? It can
be difficult to imagine ever getting over the fact your partner cheated.

Yet some people find that they can give someone a second chance—particularly if there are children to think about. So how do you know forgiving your cheating partner is the right thing to do?

Dee Homes, a counsellor working with a relationship support charity says she sees lots of couples who come for relationship counselling after an affair. But she says everyone is different when it comes to being able to forgive an affair. She explains: Whether you can forgive or not depends on many factors: such as your upbringing, any religious beliefs, as well as your own experience. For example, if you saw your parents have an affair as a child that might make you decide you can never tolerate that.” Dee says that some people come to counselling after an affair, adamant they would never be able to forgive, but they are surprised to find they could—and vice versa. “Some people might always said an affair would be unforgivable, but they came to counselling because they don’t want to throw away everything they’ve built or they want to keep the family together,” she says. “There are other considerations such as splitting the finances or selling a home that can make people calm down and consider working at their relationship.” So if your other half has been unfaithful, how can you decide if forgiving is the right cause of action? Again, Dee says it is down to each individual. “First we have to ask what does an affair mean?” she says. “I’ve met people who are more upset that their partner was texting or meeting another person for lunch in secret, even if there was no sex. Others only consider an affair is a true affair if there is sex involved.” People’s definitions of infidelity are different—some find an emotional attachment  more upsetting than just sex’ on one night. Others cannot forgive sexual activity with another person. But if you do want to work at staying together, can a ‘cheater’ really change? Ebierin, a 36-year-old industrial nurse doesn’t think so. “When I first got together with Kingsley 12 years ago, I was just 24 and he told me he had lost his partner and was now staying with his parents. He’d often stay over at my flat but didn’t actually move in. I never saw where he lived. Two years later, I got pregnant. Kingsley was forever disappearing for hours running one errand or the other,”she said. “I was in labour in hospital when I learnt his ex-partner was also pregnant. She was due just a month later than I was. I was in too much pain and stressed about the baby to react. It was only days later, back at home with the new baby that it hit me. He’d been cheating during the pregnancy and had been staying at her place while we’d been together. I was furious and upset. But he begged me to give us another chance because of our baby. I was emotional and hormonal, so I agreed. “Two years later, we had another baby. But he started disappearing again for hours. Then I found lipstick in his car and a pack of condoms. I thought: ‘I’m not having this again’ and threw him out. A few years later, I met my current husband. We now have a child and I trust him completely. He’s never let me down. I tried forgiving an affair and it backfired on me. Once a cheat, always a cheat.” Dee, however, believes that cheaters can change, “But again it depends on the person,” she says. “Most of us nowadays have the opportunity to have an affair. When people do cheat, it can sometimes mean there have been other problems in the marriage before the affair itself takes place. The key thing in being able to move forward as a couple is to accept the stages of getting over the betrayal. It is natural to feel anger at first. That’s stage one. Once that has passed, you both need to be able to take responsibility—not for the affair itself but responsibility for moving the relationship forward if that’s what you both want.” According to her, an important consideration is allowing the wounded party to dictate the terms. “Some people want all the gory details, others don’t want to know. But it’s down to the victim of the affair to decide this and then they can work through it before starting to rebuild the trust. For some, of course, it can make trusting again impossible. They may want to check their partner’s phone and the partner may not like that. Couples counselling can be useful to help any couples who are serious about trying to get over an affair and stay together.”

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