Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Dealing With The Threat Of Infidelity

In one of the most popular TED talks, Esther Perel brought it to our attention that happy partners can cheat. And if that’s true, how can you ever let your guard down in a relationship? 

What signal can give me peace of mind and reassure me my partner won’t stray?

If you were to ask Esther? 

She’d reply, nothing. 

Nothing you do can prevent your significant other from wandering outside the confines of your romantic entanglement.

In a weird way, entering a relationship is like moving to a country that’s vulnerable to natural disasters.

You hope you won’t be victim to an earthquake or tsunami. But you do accept it might happen.

Curiously, many of us are pretty fine with putting ourselves at risk of flash floods, tornadoes and vulcanos. Californians aren’t in a constant panic that Mount Shasta will erupt, even though it spits out hot lava every few hundred years.

But when catastrophe hits us in the form of an affair, we often react as if our heart just got gored by the horn of a unicorn.

It’s inconceivable.

Yet infidelity is very real. Even in happy relationships.

And that’s because people have affairs for countless of different reasons. Like the desire for novelty and excitement, a need for appreciation by someone else than our partner, to cope with feelings of loss or trauma, or to regain a sense of power and control in our lives.

So where should the threat of adultery lead us?

To mental readiness. If our good relationship gets torn apart by betrayal, we need to have the strength and courage to rebuild it.

Without preparation and staying power, we’re much more likely to walk away from a crisis than to fix it.

And if your relationship is worth keeping, then it’s a shame if you let one major tragedy eclipse all the years of love, affection, and comradery. 

That’s a tall order, I know.

Even though you did nothing wrong, you now have to suck up all your anger and resentment to rebuild something that someone else not only smashed to smithereens but also took a big shit on.

How dare they give something that was ‘ours’ and give it to someone else they met on a business trip in Cuba?

These feelings are entirely justified. And you have every right to be boiling with rage when your spouse hurts you so badly.

But a broken heart isn’t a command to break everything off.

What about all the positive things your partner did for you? How they supported you when you wanted to change careers and go back to school, how they showed up when your mother was hospitalised, and how they were simply there for you almost every single day?

One bad deed doesn’t have to make them a bad person or partner.

That’s for you to decide.

But if they’ve invested in you for years, helped you through adversity, and given you countless good times and memories, it’s unfair to reduce your entire relationship to one painful slip-up.

Especially considering it’s such a human mistake to make. Even more so if you’ve been together for decades.

The trouble is that leaving a two-timing partner is so much easier.

Giving them another chance can easily make you feel like you’re a romantic, gullible, fool who allows themselves to be stepped on. But only when you don’t see all the other ways to show your strength and worth besides erasing your cheating partner from your life.

And there are plenty.

You can’t take the risk out of love. Whether that risk takes the form of a lapse in appreciation, improper communication, or an affair.

Yet for whatever reason, certain kinds of marital neglect are seen as worse than others. We see some as worth resolving with a therapist, while others as a reason to end it once and for all.

But one thing remains clear: never give up on a relationship worth fighting for. 

P.S. Do you believe and feel that sexual fidelity is the ultimate sign of a loving commitment? Why is that? Do you feel loved when your partner always keeps it in their pants, even though they’re not emotionally invested in you? It’s an important question to ask yourself.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach