After infidelity

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

Portrait of Gwen Randall-Young

Only those who trust can find love and happiness.  And only those who love, can be betrayed. – Unknown

When you find out a partner has cheated, it can be devastating. So many emotions immediately arise: shock, disbelief, anger, hurt, sadness and anxiety about the future. Perhaps you have been cheating and your partner has found out. Whatever the case, the relationship is now in jeopardy.

Every situation is different. For some, the relationship is automatically over. Cheating is a deal breaker and there is no going back. The trust is broken and the relationship can never be the same. Sometimes, the relationship has been over for a long time and the affair becomes the catalyst for both to move on.

But often there is love between the couple; perhaps there are children and a life they have made together. They see it is all about to crumble and neither really wants that to happen. Can there be healing and the ability to move on together?

The answer is yes, this is possible. When there has been an affair, something has been missing in the relationship. Seeking that missing piece elsewhere is not the answer. If the problems in the relationship had been addressed all along, perhaps with professional help, things could have been different. Now the couple has to deal not only with what was not right about their relationship, but they also must deal with the hurt and trust issues.

It is important to acknowledge that whatever happens in a relationship, it has been co-created. It is rarely just one person who brought it to the point where it starts to fall apart. Often, the communication was poor or non-existent or there was a lack of connection and emotional intimacy and perhaps a lack of mutual appreciation.

When the relationship breaks down, it also breaks open. Frequently, a couple will have more real communication during the crisis that follows an affair than they have had in a long time – or maybe ever. With the help of a good therapist, they can figure out how things went wrong and build a foundation that is stronger than they ever could have created without the crisis.

Polish psychiatrist and psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski developed the theory of Positive Disintegration. He says that while we may think a breakdown is a negative thing, he sees that what breaks down is an old structure that no longer serves the individual and does not allow for growth.

Somewhat like demolishing an old house to build a home better suited to its occupants, so the breakdown of a relationship can allow the couple to build one that allows both to grow and thrive in a way they previously could not.

I also believe we draw ourselves into relationships with people with whom we have some learning to do. Crisis can lead not only to a healing of the relationship but also to the healing of the individual who has carried old wounds that were broken open by the crisis.

Sometimes, the lesson is to have the strength to walk away. How can we tell what it is? If both people still love each other in spite of the hurt, there is still learning to do together. That love is keeping them together because there is still more to do. It may be they do the work but still end up apart. This may help them avoid repeating similar patterns in a new relationship.

It has been said the Chinese symbol for crisis is a combination of danger and opportunity. It may not be a direct translation, but certainly in every crisis, opportunity for growth and healing exists.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, Deep Powerful Change hypnosis CDs and new Creating Healthy Relationships series, visit www.gwen.ca. See display ad this issue.

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