What you need to know:
- Triggers include certain actions done by the unfaithful partner, certain words and phrases, locations and places, or even events that peel the healing wound afresh by reminding the betrayed partner how the infidelity came about.
- Once a cheat always a cheat is not a fact.
- You must be able to respond to any of your partner’s fears regarding your whereabouts without feeling attacked or doubted.
According to Rick Reynolds, a marriage therapist whose marriage survived infidelity, if a couple is trying to rise from an act of unfaithfulness, they are bound to suffer from post-infidelity triggers long after they have resolved to save their marriage or relationship. “This will occur long after you have committed to work on your relationship and will scorch any progress you might have made,” he says.
Triggers include certain actions done by the unfaithful partner, certain words and phrases, locations and places, or even events that peel the healing wound afresh by reminding the betrayed partner how the infidelity came about. According to psychologist Patrick Musau, a partner who went wayward should be extremely careful not to do things that will breed suspicion. For instance, if you cheated while working late, try and avoid staying at work late. If you met the mate you cheated with online, go slow on the net, if you had the habit of exchanging messages on your phone for hours or taking phone calls at a distance, stop. “If you do not change the things that you did during the affair or things that precipitated the affair, you will download immense anxiety and suspicions onto your partner, no matter how innocent such things will henceforth be,” he says. “If you have committed to work on the relationship, the last thing you want is to have your partner worrying that perhaps you are out cheating again.”
Additionally, according to Mellie Smith, the author of After the Affair, you must be able to respond to any of your partner’s fears regarding your whereabouts without feeling attacked or doubted. However, she is quick to note that you should not allow your suspicions and distrust to escalate. “Your marriage doesn’t stand a chance if you’re going to get stuck on distrust,” says Ms. Smith. “Instead, set a time limit for yourself to question everything and let your spouse prove to you that they aren’t going to do it again.”
Triggered to cheat again
If a partner who has cheated sees or comes into contact with the person they had an affair with, memories from the affair may overwhelm them. “When this happens, they may have a subconscious urge that might push them to want to relive their emotional and sexual experience with that person,” says Musau. Additionally, according to the online journal Marriage Advocates, the finest way to deal with such memories is to stimulate positive emotions and feelings of your current relationship or marriage and your history together with your spouse. “Choose to think about your spouse first and this will redirect your emotions towards your marriage partner instead of the affair partner.”
What are the odds of a second affair?
Caroline Madden, a relationships counselor and the author of Fool Me Once: Should I Take Back My Cheating Husband, says that a partner who deflects blame from themselves to the victim is more likely to cheat again. This is primarily because he sees you as the cause of his infidelity. “What he is actually saying is that he’ll cheat again if he thinks you’re not good enough at meeting his needs,” says Ms. Madden. She is also quick to point out that blaming you for causing him to cheat is very different from explaining why he cheated. “For cheating not to occur again, he will need to explain in a mature and repentant manner why he went astray,” she says. This is echoed by Sheri Meyers, the author of Chatting or Cheating. Ms. Meyers says that until a cheater accepts full responsibility for his actions, he will stray again at some point. “If he blames you or lacks insight into what caused him to stray, chances are, he’ll cheat again,” she says.
The cheaters’ myth
Once a cheat always a cheat is not a fact. Dr. Jay Kent Ferraro, the author of Surprised by Love, and whose affair nearly ended his marriage says that believing that a cheater will always cheat is a form of defense mechanism that victims of infidelity use to protect themselves from getting hurt again. “This myth could either stop you from trusting again, forgiving and, or cause you to tolerate acts of infidelity by assuming that every man is a born cheater,” he says. He recommends that instead of resigning yourself to this statement, understand what drives an affair and the purpose of affairs.
Reginah Mwanzia, a family therapist based in Nairobi says that while a certain percentage of philandering men carry on their ways in their various relationships, there are men who deeply regret and abandon their cheating ways on their own volition. “By being cognisant of the betrayal their actions have caused, these men endeavor to salvage their relationship, build trust, and restore the intimacy and emotional connection,” she says.
The repentant vs the unrepentant
“The biggest indicator that they are repentant is the termination of contact, communication, and engagement with the person they cheated with,” says Ms. Mwanzia. Nonetheless, this cut-off should be done in a manner that is not abrasive. “The cheater must clearly and maturely explain to their lover that their affair has caused irreparable damage to his primary relationship or marriage and must end.” This means that he must not be just friends with his lover henceforth because that will be toxic for your relationship. On the opposite extreme, Diana Kirschner, the author of Love in 90 Days says he’ll cheat again or be already cheating again if he starts strange phone calls with abrupt hang-ups, lone trips, wants less sex, and has bills for unexplainable hotel stays and gift-type items.