When one partner cheats on the other but both decide they want to remain together, it’s easy to place the entire burden on the cheating partner when it comes to making the relationship work from that point forward. In reality, this is a sure-fire way of guaranteeing that the relationship is not going to survive this extremely testing time. While the cheating partner obviously carries some major responsibilities going forward, the victimized partner plays a leading role in her own ability to move forward.
The only person who has total control over whether the partner who cheated cheats again is the partner who cheated. But the victimized partner needs to be able to trust again in order for the relationship to have a chance. It is the victimized partner’s responsibility to figure out how to trust and to move on emotionally from the infidelity, through counseling or other means (always assuming that the cheating partner is not doing anything that would inevitably provoke suspicion).
Overcoming fears about being betrayed and hurt again is a big part of moving on after a partner cheats. The cheater may swear up and down that it will never happen again, but the reality is that the betrayed partner has no guarantee. And, strange as it may seem, feeling secure and trusting in a relationship can mean knowing that you will be able to take care of yourself and be OK without the relationship. If your happiness and security is entirely dependent on someone who has some work to do to prove that she’s reliable, it is very hard to let go of fears and suspicions.
One of the greatest challenges for betrayed partners is hearing their cheating partners’ grievances and accepting the ways that they can work on their own relationship skills and commitments. This is not the same as sharing the blame for the infidelity, which is entirely the fault of the person who cheated. But if poor communication, lack of intimacy or other relationship problems contributed to one partner’s decision to cheat, then the other partner will commit to mutually addressing those issues if she is truly committed to the relationship succeeding going forward.
It can be tricky to know how much to insist on and how much to concede when you are the partner who has been betrayed by infidelity. You have every right to insist that your partner take the lead when it comes to making counseling appointments or working on the relationship in other ways, as well as every right to establish clear boundaries and expectations until your partner has earned your trust again. But partners who once cheated can’t live on a tight leash forever, and at some point formerly-betrayed partners need to be comfortable not knowing where their significant others are at all times and whom they are with.
Amid the struggle to balance the responsibility of repairing a relationship after infidelity, partners who have been cheated on should not forget their responsibilities to themselves. They need to trust in themselves just as much as they trust their partners, which can mean—in addition to trusting themselves to survive another possible betrayal—trusting themselves to recognize if things go wrong in the future and trusting themselves to realize if the stress of continuing in the relationship stops being worth it.
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