Is it only physical or sexual meandering that defines infidelity? Is it infidelity only if you are in a committed relationship? Is it cheating if you are single and in an uncommitted relationship, and yet look for other dalliances? Sadly, there’s no one-size-fits-all to this scenario. The answer to all these questions is subjective to an individual and how they define their relationship. Is there a right or wrong way to deal with infidelity? There is no right or wrong answer to that either.
Why does infidelity happen? “There are no specific factors that lead a person to cheat in a relationship,” says Dr Samir Parikh, Director, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare. New Delhi. “It can be related to both individual and relationship aspects that might contribute towards a person making such a choice.”
The first step in dealing with infidelity starts with the unfaithful partner. Often, individuals tend to understand what is happening but are afraid or rather don’t want to take the right course of action. While there is nothing wrong with falling in love with someone, there are the right ways to express and act on that feeling. Keeping your significant other in the dark, keeping secrets from them, not being open about your apprehensions, not giving a clear picture about what you feel and how you feel is unfair not only to yourself but a great injustice to your partner as well.
If you have been unfaithful, start by owning up to the infidelity and honestly communicate it to your partner – without thinking at that point about the consequences. The first step, then, is to come clean to your partner.
In a similar way, ask your partner for the same consideration. If you believe they have been unfaithful, ask for confirmation, and then prepare to deal with the situation.
It is also important to take care of yourself and give yourself time to understand the reason why you or your partner have been unfaithful in the first place. “There is a need to focus on the self and get to a place where one is able to make a choice about the way forward,” says Dr Parikh. “It is important to give yourself time and not be in a rush to make a decision one way or the other. Take care of yourself until you’re at a point when you can engage in a decision-making process.”
If You Choose To Continue
Everybody deals with a crisis differently. Different people react to infidelity differently. While some choose to accept it and move on, others cannot take the betrayal and walk out. Either way, it is important to address the issue and work through the problems. “It is necessary to decide to work through the problems that might exist both for an individual or that are characteristic of the relationship that has led to the situation,” advises Dr Parikh. “Getting support is important, both within the family and from friends, and, if required, from a professional as well. It is essential to not go into a space of self-blame and criticism.”
Constant fighting around the issue is not helpful either. “It would be ideal to transition to a point where one is willing to engage in interactions to determine the way forward,” avers Dr Parikh. If you have been cheated on, “Repeatedly seeking answers to questions is not beneficial; it is important instead to focus on yourself.”
Acknowledgement – and not denial – is the key to positively moving forward from this situation for the good of your partner and you. Brushing your emotions under the carpet will only make things worse and put you through greater trauma and mess with your emotional stability. Guilt and eroded self-confidence will affect your mental health, making you feel helpless and unworthy. “There will be a plethora of emotions and it’s important to acknowledge them and not try to deny your experience of the situation,” says Kamna Chhibber, Head, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare, New Delhi.
“Allowing yourself to go through the experiences would be helpful in coping in the long run. While there might be a need to take a pragmatic approach, it is also important to focus on emotional well-being. Keep redirecting yourself towards making decisions and solving the problems before you. Be gentle with yourself, and keep steering yourself through successive small steps towards thinking things through and making the decisions that you need to.”
It’s difficult being cheated on or even being unfaithful. The fact of infidelity upends your feelings and emotions, your bond over years of togetherness, intimacy, trust and many intangible elements of the relationship. Dealing with infidelity and facing the realities and aftermaths can be traumatic. Taking the right approach will ensure you can still mend what’s broken or give you the strength to walk out if you choose to.
- Take time to reflect on what you are experiencing emotionally.
- Give yourself the space to reflect on the gaps in your relationship.
- Take time to evaluate whether there were red flags that you ignored.
- Reflect on how you would like to shape things for yourself in the future.
- Consider ways in which you would like to maintain your relationship in the future.