Welcome to Part 2 of our 3 part series exploring decision making after infidelity. The question that anyone who has ever experienced this traumatic relationship injury has asked him or herself is, “Should I stay or should I go”? Within the two obvious ‘Yes or No’ answers are a full spectrum in degrees of pain, fear, longing, willingness to compromise and reconcile; the desire to put it all behind you and the desire to heal the relationship and keep the family together.
There are so many considerations when you’re making these difficult decisions. Our goal here is to break it down for you so that you can look at each of these issues individually and together. This assumes you and your partner have gotten over the worst of the extreme emotions surrounding the infidelity and are ready to have serious conversations about the future of your partnership. Here are some of the issues that you need to take a look at. Remember, you and your partner are going to probably have differing perspectives on these issues due to the fact that one of you is the injured party in this infidelity scenario, and one of you is the one who cheated. Don’t expect it to be easy, do your best to think practically and keep the extreme emotions out of these conversations when at all possible.
If you’re the injured party in this scenario, you may have been blindsided by the news that your partner has cheated on you. Your first reaction may be to get away or get your partner to leave, but upon further consideration, you may be thinking about staying. After all, this is your home, and you didn’t have anything to do with your partner’s decision to cheat, though you do need to look at the problems in your relationship that led to the infidelity. If you DO decide to stay, there are going to be struggles and challenges to overcome in your own individual experience, and with your partner. Think about his very calmly and clearly so that you can make the correct decision for your future health and happiness.
Triggers are everywhere. You’re going to have an emotional rollercoaster ride until you and your partner are able to repair and heal your relationship. There will be no end of thoughts running through your mind about your partner and the affair. You’ll be triggered when you least expect it. This is possible to overcome but it is not easy. Both of you will need a very strong commitment to one another to get through the pain.
Anger and emotions vs forgiveness – As the person who did not violate the trust in the relationship you may have a lot of resentment and anger, both very strong emotions around the subject of your partner’s infidelity. You can expect to have these feelings for a while before you can work through them and find your way to forgiveness and healing. This is one of the toughest issues.
Trust issues – Infidelity is one of the most heinous breaches of trust. You’re going to have a great deal of suspicion and many questions about where your partner is going and what they are doing. It takes a long time to rebuild trust after this kind of relationship injury if you stay together. It could take years before this is settled. Be kind to yourself as well. It’s worth the effort
Stigma/guilt – You may feel guilty as though you somehow caused your partner to cheat, you may worry about the social stigma, especially if the person your partner cheated with is /was a friend or in your social circle. Sometime the loss is the inability to maintain those friendships if the person was a friend. Don’t worry about what others may think. This decision is yours to make, and only concerns you and your partner. As for the guilt, you may be complicit in the cause of the infidelity but you don’t bear any guilt for the actual infidelity.
Financial considerations – If you and your partner have been in a long -term relationship you may have a lot of common financial accounts and /or investments. Staying together will mean you don’t have to worry about financial matters or being self -supporting and can carry on as you have always done. Don’t let the finances guide you though, the decision should be based on what the relationship is like and are the two of you committed to creating a new love story for one another?
Family stays together – Staying in your current relationship will also keep your family together. If you have children, this can be a major factor in your decision making process. Don’t let the devotion to your children overshadow what is best for you individually as the partner in your relationship. Many children from broken homes do just fine when both parents do their best to keep their adult issues out of parenting and focus on what is best for the children. Children deserve healthy relationships as role models.
History and love you’ve shared – This is another thing that may weigh heavily in your decision to stay or go. You may love your partner still in spite of the infidelity and the time you’ve invested and the love you bear my cause you to want to stay together.
Repair and heal – The desire to repair and heal and move forward together is a powerful incentive to stay and work things out. Be aware that both of you must be equally committed to this goal. If not, you will not succeed. One person cannot fix this.
Should you go? Going it alone is difficult at best and for someone who’s been the injured party it can be emotionally challenging beyond what you may have ever experienced. This is not a good enough reason to stay. If you truly feel the relationship is beyond repair, or if you or your partner are unwilling to do the work it takes to heal and reconcile after infidelity, leaving may be the correct option. As with any decision, it’s smart to weigh the pros and consequences of leaving. Here are some of the things to consider if you’re thinking about leaving the relationship for good.
Housing – Where will you go? Where will you live? It’s important to consider housing in your decision. Not only do you need secure housing for yourself and your children, you have to know that you can provide that on your own without any support from your partner if you need to. Often this can be addressed once the decision to leave is made. Your partner likely will be someone who will be financially responsible to help with this.
Family responsibilities- How will you handle custody and shared parenting responsibilities? Who is going to take care of driving the kids to appointments and extra-curricular activities? Do you or your partner intend to move away ? How will visitation be handled? These are legal questions and it would be wise to consult with a lawyer about this if this is something you may be considering.
Ugliness of separating lives – Uncoupling can be an emotionally fraught and painful process. You and your partner will have to go through every aspect of your lives and history and divide up your assets and belongings. This requires reliving the good times and the bad in your past.
Finances – Beyond the emotional considerations of leaving your relationship, there are also practical considerations. Money is always a thorny subject when relationships end. Will you continue to support each other financially? Will there be alimony or child support after divorce? You have to look calmly at your financial prospects. Can you afford everything you need to live on your own? If not, how will you adjust your life so that you can live without each other? If the breakup is particularly ugly, you may have to face these hard realities.
Freedom- After the pain and anguish of dealing with infidelity in your relationship, having the freedom to be on your own without any romantic ties can be very enticing. Finding your own balance and self- worth outside of a relationship is important in healing after a relationship injury.
Independence- After feeling dependent on another person and being betrayed by them, being independent and not relying on a partner can feel empowering and freeing. Standing on your own two feet after being knocked down so hard is a great feeling.
Ends the conflict – Once of the most important things about leaving the relationship after infidelity is that it’s a permanent solution to the problem of cheating and ends the conflict between you and your partner for good and all. But will it? If there are children you will need to interact on an adult level this isn’t always easy.
As the injured party you have a lot of difficult choices to make and your partner may or may not be helpful in the decision- making process. The Couples Expert recommends that you seek the counsel of someone you trust a counselor if you decide to leave. If you’re going to try to work on the relationship and stay together, you need the assistance of a counselor who is trained in helping couples get through infidelity to the other side where you both can heal and rebuild your bond.
Next time in part 3 of our 3 part series “After Infidelity, Should I stay or should I go?” we’ll look at these issues as they apply to the person who cheated and caused the relationship injury. There are both the same and different considerations about staying or leaving the relationship when you are the one who had the affair.