When a relationship has been plagued by an affair, there is tremendous fallout. Suspicion, the loss of trust, blame, humiliation, intense anger, hurt and grief all follow as natural results of relationship or marital betrayal. Infidelity is any act which brings a third person emotionally or and sexually, into an exclusive or covenanted relationship. Whatever motivated the affair, the wronged party, will begin to self-doubt and question the genuineness of the relationship. In the case of a wife being a victim to infidelity, these thoughts may extend away from her own marriage to focus on the external party, causing a barrage of understandable questions. Was she better in bed? Was she more loving and attentive to my spouse? Is she really a “whore” with no moral compass? Is she a threat to my long-term happiness?
While these questions may never be completely answered, their existence reveals a trend, found especially among women affected by infidelity; the tendency to project outwards away from their partner to enable them to blame the other woman. This is especially true of women who are considering letting their man off the hook by overlooking the real source of the affair. Apportioning blame to the other woman can become a vital part of what I shall call “the psychology of acceptance”. If a woman can convince herself that her partner’s cheating ways are not entirely his fault, then she can permit herself to either accept his waywardness or accept him again post-affair. This trend of thinking may also cause her to justify confronting the other woman. But is this ever a good idea?
In order for a marriage to “benefit” from infidelity, if I may be allowed to use that term loosely, the infidel must be willing to accept total responsibility for his act of indiscretion. He will not be encouraged to do this, if his partner, in an attempt to fix things, rushes off to put the other woman in her place for messing with her man. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with being territorial with one’s partner in the face of an external threat, a man who has erred must have the courage to face the music of his own making. His wife should stay away from jumping into the fray as his saviour but should allow him to feel the full weight of his actions. Does this mean letting the other woman off the hook? Well not entirely; she of course is also responsible especially if she knew that the man was involved in a relationship.
Confronting her to my mind is, however, conditional. If she is a close friend, an acquaintance, work colleague, family member, member of the same church or organization, then there is some scope for direct confrontation regarding her involvement in the affair. Confrontation is understood within the context of this woman having had a prior relationship or association with the wife. A prior relationship with the wife means that her sense of betrayal will be double-edged; and this is a difficulty she may need to reconcile in her emotions, with respect to coming to terms with the infidelity. If the woman is a stranger, however, such confrontation is ill-advised and the wife may well spare herself the pain that such a meeting might cause.
In any respect, a woman’s desire to move on in her relationship may also be hinged on her ability to forgive or “let go” the other woman, whether or not she is known to her. Affairs can create a context for relationship introspection and ultimate improvement. Repair and restoration, however, lie first within the purview of the infidel. Honest evaluation of why the relationship was vulnerable or an explanation as to why the cheater acted on its vulnerability should be forthcoming. If this is perceived as an honest attempt to explain his actions, then this can open the door to deeper understanding. Taking the initiative to repair the relationship, accepting responsibility or admitting to individual weakness also shifts blame from the other woman and can convince the wounded partner that a man means business and is ready to grow up.
Forgiveness after infidelity is desired for both personal and relationship growth; it should not, however, be viewed as an instant one-shot action. At best, it is a process involving active dialogue which should lead to a decision to forgive. This is an act of the will and not a feeling. Engaging the grief and forgiveness process after an affair is a mutual act required for healing. Vocalizing apologies in clear terms and setting conditions for fresh accountability in the relationship, are all needed steps towards eventual relationship renewal.