Surviving Infidelity

Surviving infidelityIn my experience as a counselor, I’ve come across a variety of cheaters and cheating styles. There are those who cheat with one-night stands where there is a one-off never-again-to-be-repeated episode (hopefully) of infidelity. There are those who have long-standing, deep emotional and sexual affairs, where very often the individual fancies himself/herself to be in-love with someone else. Then there are those no-sex affairs ; those close friendships and soul-ties which can prove lethal to the marriage or primary relationship even when they remain only at the emotional level. There is also serial infidelity, as in, sex with a different person every time even when trying to maintain the semblance of a primary relationship. Flirtatious infidelity, describes the behaviour of one partner which is inappropriate either through language, touching or looks, even when this never leads to sex; the problem here is that the affair is alive and well in the heart. Finally, there is cyber-sex or techno-sex; sex that is aided and abetted by the use of technology and or the internet.

If you’ve been cheated on, chances are you may not be interested in an intellectual or academic discussion of the thing. So much has already been said and analyzed as to why people cheat and many of us already understand that cheating occurs for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the cynics among us will say that as long as there are relationships, there will be cheating. As long as there are rules, boundaries or parameters for relationships, people will break and defy them; that’s just human nature. If this is at all true, how then does a victim of infidelity cope? How does such a person live with the reality of betrayal, especially since cheating is evidently here to stay?

Factors like relationship philosophy, personality, and even gender will to a large degree significantly influence the way we choose to respond. The following represents some of the options which victims may have at their disposal after an experience of infidelity. Please note that these do not refer to initial responses but to the ongoing or long-term way an individual chooses to handle being cheated on.

Going It Alone

Some decide that they want out of the relationship that has caused them so much pain. The hurt from the betrayal has lodged in such a deep place that a separation or divorce seems like the only viable option. For such an individual, infidelity has already sealed the deal on the question of loss. Since in their books their partner is already lost to them, walking away is just a formality.

Deciding to “go it alone” has the distinct advantage of giving individuals the option of starting over again in the future. It can also provide a vital space for clearing the head and soothing the emotions. The down-side can be seen when the decision is based on unresolved anger and bitterness.

While being alone is sometimes a good thing, it is seldom a permanent state. Failure to deal with the why and the how of the infidelity as well as failing to forgive can be lethal to the victim’s sense of self and can affect the “peace” of future relationships. At the same time, a decision to distance oneself from any romantic involvement and to take the time to reflect and regroup, can lead to an amazing experience of self-discovery, especially when victims grow to understand their own self-worth.

Infidelity in a pre-marital arrangement can and perhaps should halt or delay wedding plans. It provides a window of opportunity for the engaged couple to re-evaluate their choice of a life-partner before a serious covenant vow is made. Of course deciding to leave an already established marriage is serious business and should be well thought out from all angles before a separation or divorce is finalized.

Seeking Revenge

Deciding to do a “tit-for-tat” is perhaps one of the more common and understood responses to cheating. This can be a well thought out and premeditated response or it can occur almost inadvertently because the victim’s hurt causes him/her to more readily let their guard down with another. Those who themselves pursue an affair in response to being cheated on, have decided to maintain their primary relationship but seek to exact revenge for being hurt.

Such individuals are intensely angry and seek to salvage their own hurt by inflicting pain on the one who caused it to them. Some pursue an affair in an attempt to repair damaged self-esteem and to assure themselves that they are still desirable. While some will themselves keep their affair secret and allow it to function more as a psychological boost, others will deliberately engineer a discovery in order to inflict a similar wound on their partner.

More often than not, however, the satisfaction obtained from revenge is short lived, since it is built on a faulty notion that causing pain eases pain. The retention of anger and bitterness which motivates this behaviour means that the source of the first affair is never exposed and dealt with. Such a decision of revenge is likely therefore to be counter-productive and simply ensures that the cycle of pain and disappointment continues.

Staying Depressed

A decision to stay in a state of depression usually exposes a significant problem with low self-esteem. There are admittedly different types and levels of depression and this is not meant to trivialise the issue. It is obvious that an incident or incidents of cheating cuts at the core of a marriage or of an exclusive relationship. Because we look to others for love, acceptance and affirmation of our worth, we can misguidedly take on the opposite message when infidelity occurs. We can believe that we are undesirable and unlovable. Many women especially blame themselves when their spouses cheat and this can be debilitating to the psyche. Dwelling in self-pity encourages depression and a feeling of powerlessness. This can rob victims of the belief that they have the power to act on or change the challenging situation in which they find themselves. Victims find it easier instead to focus on their pain, to own it and to repeatedly re-live the details of the affair in their minds, until the effect is emotionally crippling. This response spells disaster for the future of the relationship.

Flying Free

In Tyler Perry’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman”, the main character played by Kimberly Elise describes herself as being “mad as hell” after her husband turns her out of their house so that he can finally be with his other woman. Although she subsequently meets a very charming guy who turns out to be everything that her husband was not, she is unable to totally relax in this new love. Instead she discovers that she must process her anger, hurt and pain, articulate it to the one who hurt her and then choose to forgive. Her decision in fact “frees her” to love and live again.

Forgiveness is an act of ultimate self-empowerment. It reflects the choice to extend grace towards an individual who has done us wrong. This should not be interpreted as weakness or as an act of cowardice which condones what was done. Instead it reflects an inner resolve to be free from the hate, anger and bitterness which places the victim under the emotional power or control of their partner.

Forgiveness in fact places victims of infidelity in a psychological and spiritual space where they are better able to assess what happened to them and make the right choices. Forgiveness should never be rushed prematurely. Although it is an act of the will, it is a process and not an event. This means that it involves the articulation of anger and hurt and individuals must believe that they are “ready” to forgive, before they can actually attempt to do it.

Many individuals are unable to arrive at this place on their own but often need the intervention/assistance of a counselor, therapist, pastor or friend to help them through the process. Because women are socialized to articulate emotion, they tend to be more comfortable with the expression of anger and pain through sharing, crying and journaling. This often makes forgiveness an easier process for women than it appears to be for men. Men who have been cheated on are in fact more likely to hold on to anger and bitterness because they see expressing pain and hurt as a sign of weakness. This affects their ability to ever be free from the effects of the cheating and this baggage they take to subsequent relationships.

While forgiveness will not cause an automatic erasing of painful memories, it at least robs those memories of the power to control an individual’s pursuit of happiness or peace. If individuals are to survive infidelity and live to tell the tale, this means getting in touch with a well thought-out response which should be in their best interest. For those who choose to walk away, without forgiveness, all future relationships will suffer the effects of the infidelity. If both parties value the marriage and want to make it work again, then choosing the path of forgiveness is the better option.

“OOOOO Baby!”: A Guy’s Guide to using the “Language of Love”

It is a scientific fact that women are more language oriented than men. This perhaps explains why we tend to be so turned on by talk; words just have a way of getting to us.There have been so many songs and poems written by men, to women, to express their deep and abiding desire and love. From Shakespeare to Wordsworth to Robert Blake, to the sultry lyrics of popular R and B singers Trey Soundz or Robin Thicke, men have been using the jargon of love, sex and desire, to sway the heads and hearts of women.

Some words used are delicate and flowery like those you would find on a Hallmark card while others are clear and forthright, reminding a girl in no uncertain terms of why she’s wanted or needed. Then there are those hot, steamy and sensuous words, designed to create that auto-response in a woman that will usually lead a guy to candy land; if that’s what the girl wants that is.

Whatever the case, there is no doubt that the right words spoken or written and shared, can have a tremendous effect on a girl, and guys know this. I personally believe that deep in every woman’s heart is a desire to be told that she is beautiful and desirable. There is a part of our brains that definitely connects our sense of worth with the words spoken to and about us. A woman’s response to amorous words is, however, not as automatic as some guys might expect. That’s where we women become completely complicated and unpredictable. We don’t all drop like flies because you decide to spray us with the choicest lingo. A woman’s response is shaped by a number of pertinent factors.

First off the bat; does she love or even like the guy trying to language his way into her heart or her “you know what”? Has she ever been actively pursued by a male or are these words a whole new world to her? Has she led a conservative or sheltered lifestyle and would she therefore be shocked by certain “terms of reference”? Is she a good girl gone bad? Is she a good girl with every intention of remaining good and getting even better? Does she normally throw all caution to the wind the second a guy even looks her way? And if that guy happens to be her husband, does she trust and believe him or does she feel used and manipulated by his words? Does she feel valued as a whole person? Does she understand or is she aware of the power and impact of her own sexuality on the men around her? Does she care?

When it comes to impressing a woman, there are no guarantees. There is a lot of background static that could erect plenty roadblocks or even provide assistance for a smooth course to her heart. If a guy, however, is to use words to attempt to win a girl over, then there are a couple of things he must first recognise and put into practice:

  • Never lump all females into the same mould; the word-tricks and smooth talk which you used with Suzy in high school won’t put a dent in the armour of the professional woman you’re trying to impress.
  • Never deliver well known crappy lines like “heaven must be missing an angel” or ‘I’ll give you my heart and work off of batteries”.
  • Make deep eye contact when you attempt to woo with words to convey that those words are at least coming from your heart.
  • Use your eyes without being overly intrusive; give the lady some space.
  • Make sure your breath is absolutely fresh (brush, floss, gargle); “sweet” words from a stink mouth just won’t do.
  • Be original; find something you really like about the woman you’re trying to win and tell her so.
  • Yes, they may be in your face but try hard not to ogle a woman’s breasts when talking to her (except you’re really, really short and not at eye level).
  • Talk intelligently; even if you’re intimidated by her beauty and poise, try not to show it.
  • Even if you falter over words, most decent, worthwhile girls will find this endearing and won’t laugh at you behind your back.
  • If the woman is well known to you (like your wife or long time girlfriend) hold and caress her hand while looking deeply into her eyes; this will heighten the connection between you.
  • Try not to be premature in terms of the “depth” of your expression; if you’ve just met the lady for heaven’s sake, don’t tell her that she’s the one you’ve been waiting for your whole life (tacky, tacky, tacky).
  • Read the woman accurately, as in draw upon all of your instincts to assess the “girl-type”; in other words don’t try for the shock effect; if the girl appears shy or conservative, match “word-type” with “girl-type” where possible.
  • Since all men appear to have a one-track mind which is skewed in one well known direction, think, pause and breathe deeply before speaking; are you sure you really want to tell her what’s on your mind?
  • If this woman is your wife, be free to get as hot and juicy as your own comfort level will allow; if you want a wild and uninhibited lover, then you must also be prepared to be one with your words.
  • Even if the woman you approach appears “liberated” and willing to try anything (including you); surprise her with words and an attitude which conveys respect for her womanhood, who knows, she just might “wise up” and view herself as more than a sex-object.
  •  See a woman as a whole person with all types of wants and needs; avoid viewing her as just a living, breathing vagina which needs to be “sexed” by you; this understanding will perhaps influence how you decide to use words to win a woman’s interest.