“If my girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife/lover ever cheated on me, I would be gone so fast!!!” I have heard some variation of this statement so many times. Having sat with many couples as they worked through affair recovery, what I think they mean to say is: “Don’t cheat on me. EVER! I mean it! It would totally destroy me and put me in an impossible situation.”
Deciding whether to stay or go after learning that your beloved has had an affair is never a simple decision. So many other things are tied up in the choice.
Trust is complex.
Trust is multidimensional and each dimension varies in level. Most people think of trust as “Can I trust you with other people?” And this is certainly an important part of the trust. However, trust is made up of many parts, such as:
• Can I trust you with our kids?
• Can I trust you with our money?
• Can I trust you to listen to my feelings and care about them?
• Can I trust you to hear me out?
• Can I trust you to be there for me in a crisis? In everyday situations? For no reason at all?
• Can I trust you to seek me out?
• Can I trust you with my future?
These are just some examples. Together we could probably quickly identify 30+ categories of trust. Not all of them have the same importance to every relationship, but they are all a factor to some degree.
In each of these categories, our trust is at a level. Rarely is trusted at 0% or at 100%. Usually, it falls somewhere in between.
When we are evaluating our relationship after an affair, all of these areas come into play. An affair can make us worry that the trust in other areas is also damaged, but rarely does it wipe all areas of trust to zero.
This is one of the reasons why people often decide to stay in the relationship—deep down, they know that the relationship is more than just this part of it. The choice is wrapped in the decision of whether to give up the other good parts, too.
Making a Decision:
If you are trying to decide whether to stay or go, know that only you can decide what you can live with and what is too much. You have the right to take your time and make the decision with a clear head. That might mean waiting six months before you can get your bearings again and evaluate whether the relationship can be saved. Be present in the relationship and watch how your partner tries to make repairs.
Consistency is a key:
If you had an affair and want to save the relationship, don’t rush your partner to make a decision about the fate of the relationship. Give them the time and space to incorporate the new information about what happened, and decide what to do based on clear-headed thinking. You will need to incrementally improve the trust in all of the areas that have been damaged, and maybe some areas that were not very strong, to begin with. Work at it consistently with the long game in mind. As much as you can, do what is asked of you. But don’t overpromise. If you won’t be able to follow through with a request, don’t agree to it.