How to deal with cheating and betrayal and get over the sex issue

  • Betrayal takes many forms and all are horrendous because it means someone you care about or even love has broken a bond of trust
  • Remember, revenge only breeds more pain
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 November, 2018, 5:03pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 November, 2018, 5:03pm

We have all seen it when our friends or people we know have been betrayed: first they feel shock, then anger, sadness, shame and confusion before sinking into a pit of despair.

A friend, Jasmine, recently told me that a girlfriend she had known for 30 years was sleeping with her estranged husband. She only found out from her son, who told her that the woman had been preparing lunchboxes for him every morning; he was living with his father at the time.

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She initially thought her girlfriend was being extremely kind by taking the trouble to prepare lunch for her child, until the boy told her that the woman was, in fact, living with them.

Jasmine had hoped to get back together with her husband after working through some emotional issues. This girlfriend was her confidante and had been supportive all along while she was going through the rough patch with her husband.

People often try to pin down what is the worst kind of betrayal. To be honest, all betrayals are horrendous because it means someone you care about or even love has broken a bond of trust. It is an act of emotional treason that many of us find difficult to pardon, and justifiably so.

Jasmine is a strong and resilient woman. She did not confront them, but made it clear to them that she knew what was going on. The next thing she did was unexpected: she put her own feelings aside and prioritised matters concerning the upbringing of her son.

It was undoubtedly a difficult decision to make, and not many people could have made it. Jasmine chose to avoid letting the anger of betrayal inflict further emotional punishment on herself – and her son.

Most people would be overwhelmed by the maelstrom of emotions and would submit to the urge to “get even”.

Don’t do it. It is dangerous territory that breeds even more pain and delays the healing process. The person who will suffer the most is you, again.

The best way to conquer these feelings is to give yourself the space and time to work through your emotions so that you can begin to process the betrayal. And you never know, you might even consider forgiving the other person eventually.

Another of my friends, Phyllis, found out her husband was having an affair with a colleague. All three of them worked together in the same office, so she quit her job and went travelling around the world for six months.

After Phyllis returned from her trip, her and her husband decided to take the time to find out why they had drifted apart and let a third party come into their life. They decided to give their marriage a second chance. They chose to do this because they realised they still loved each other and did not want this affair to end their relationship.

After getting to the root of their problems, they were able to rebuild their marriage on a more solid foundation without blaming each other for their problems. Now, the couple have two children and a much stronger and happier relationship.

Often, an affair is not simply about sex but the desire for emotional connection

Inflicting even the most hurtful revenge on the betrayer will not offload the pain or ease the sense of loss. In fact, it only prevents the wound from healing and forces you to carry the pain for the rest of your life.

Letting it go is allowing yourself to live your life again, either with or without your partner.

By giving herself head space and time away from her partner, Phyllis was able to examine the betrayal and the reasons behind it. This allowed her to overcome the negative emotions and then decide on the best course of action. However, what fits Phyllis’ situation might not fit others.

Everybody handles betrayal differently, because each of us has our own way of dealing with pain and rejection.

Getting past the betrayal and the suffering does not necessarily mean condoning the act, but nor should it consume you to the extent that you completely lose trust in other people or become reluctant to invest in future relationships. 

Jasmine and Phyllis are role models in the sense that they have both come to terms with their individual situations and decided not to dwell on the past. Instead, they opted to set their sights on the future and start life on a clean slate. 

Sadly, one common destructive reaction most people have is to torture themselves constantly over the physical aspect of infidelity: sex. Often, though, an affair is not simply about sex but the desire for emotional connection.

Infidelity is often symptomatic of other problems in a relationship. The pain of discovering your partner has “stepped outside” of your relationship is far more visceral, so it is easier to focus on the immediate betrayal rather than the reasons behind it.

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It is also easy to play the “blame game” and point the finger at your partner for their duplicitousness, while one blames the other for failing to meet their emotional needs. Ultimately, couples who find themselves in these situations need to dig deeper and evaluate the root cause of their problems.

By addressing these difficult issues, couples allow themselves the chance to rebuild the foundations of trust in their relationship. Some may come out of these situations stronger than ever; some may realise that their relationship is unsalvageable.

Come what may, it is up to you and your partner to assess your options and decide whether you are prepared to work through your problems together.

Luisa Tam is a senior editor at the Post