Your relationship after cheating

Mo & Phindi are cast members of M-Net’s Power Couple SA, radio contributors and co-authors of the book Love Isn’t For Cowards

Last week’s column on avoiding the opportunities to cheat elicited a lot of feedback. And much of it was in the form of questions, some of which were sent through our Facebook page, Mo & Phindi.

We wish to address one of the most commonly asked questions in two parts, mainly by those on the receiving end of this unnecessary situation. This question is also one of the most commonly asked in our counselling room. As such, we’ve taken a summarised extract from our book, Love Isn’t For Cowards, in addressing the issue. We will complete answering this question next week.

“What do I do if I’ve caught my partner cheating?”

While being cheated on may be seen as a universal negative, the question of what to do when your partner has been unfaithful is a tough one. It’s very easy to decide what to do in the abstract and to armchair-coach other people’s relationships on something you may not have experience of.

But when it’s your relationship, suddenly what seems clear-cut and simple is actually a lot more complicated. If you’ve not yet established as a matter of fact that your partner is cheating but your instinct indicates as such despite their repeated denials, you need to make a decision to either respectfully probe some more in order to satisfy yourself, trust what your partner tells you, or just leave the relationship.

There is no middle ground when it comes to this kind of relationship struggle.

When you start breaking into your partner’s phone, you’re highly likely to reduce yourself to desperate actions and may end up engaging in the same kind of inappropriate behaviour that your cheating partner engaged in to begin with.

The number one goal in a circumstance like this is that you’ve conducted yourself in a self-respecting manner.

Even if you sense that the relationship is going to end because of your partner’s cheating, never let your primitive anger get the best of you. Say to yourself that your goal is to be proud of the way you end the relationship, if that’s the direction you are going

You should never put yourself in a situation with your cheating partner where you look like the crazy one, because you’d be throwing yourself under the bus and distracting from the fact that what the cheater did was wrong.

Though it’s never easy to walk away, and we do not support doing so especially if you have not satisfied yourself with hard facts, it’s better to leave with your integrity intact than to end a relationship adrift in a sea of self-doubt and paranoia.

We’ve been there ourselves

Having gone through this experience ourselves, there’s a long list of things to do and not to do.

This is largely because very few people navigate infidelity gracefully. Accept that you’re most likely going to wobble and fail sometimes. It’s okay. There’s a good reason.

The goal however, upon factually finding out that you’ve been cheated on is to take back your power, maintain your dignity and not be destructive.

Firstly, you have to ensure you have evidence before you can confront your partner. Most cheaters will lie unless you catch them red-handed.

Even then they usually only admit to what they think you already know. If you confront them before you have the evidence and hard questions that demand hard facts, there’s a good chance they’ll take the affair more underground.

Put all your evidence in a safe place. Never reveal your sources.

Furthermore, there is no greater disservice you can do to your relationship than to attempt to trivialise the impact of an affair or to just downplay it.

It is imperative that you articulate your disappointment and hurt very clearly.

American television and practicing child psychologist and life strategist Dr Phil always says you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.

You know your partner, at least to some degree. If they want to work things out with you, what do you predict will happen in the future, should you decide to still pursue the relationship?

Where do you draw the line?

If your partner has cheated on you repeatedly and now swears they will stop, what are the chances that this is true? Where are you willing to draw the line?

Your decision to stay in the relationship must never be based on whether or not the two of you have children; or how your economic standing will be affected; or even “what will people – including family – say”.

Your decision to leave or stay must be a lot soberer and independent; and be about the bigger picture of your relationship and what you want for your future.

Lastly, stop blaming yourself for why you think your partner cheated on you. It’s not your fault. Never accept the manipulative guilt trip your partner may try to put you through by claiming it’s your fault.

It’s a sorry Machiavellian attempt to try and shift blame on you, in order to control you and take little to no responsibility for their wayward behaviour.

People cheat because they feel entitled to it. Cheaters are 100% responsible for their decision to cheat. If they were unhappy, they could have gone for counselling, left the relationship – really anything other than cheating.

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