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  • Writer's pictureEmily Kerr

What Can Infidelity Teach Us?


Infidelity has a bad rap in many cultures. It can cause immense pain and sadness, but it can also lead to immense growth, challenge, and inspiration. Often we spend our lives trying to avoid infidelity, either acting on it or being on the receiving end, yet few of us look at what infidelity can teach us. I am by no means advocating that betraying someone’s trust is worth it if it teaches you something, however, there may be useful information in this betrayal.

 

Firstly, Infidelity can encourage us to explore what parts of ourselves show up with this other person or in this other setting that aren’t present in our current relationship. I’ll often ask clients what makes it hard for these parts to be present in their current relationship dynamic which can lead to fruitful reflection and discussion. Sometimes this information can then be used to inform unmet needs that the client has buried for a variety of reasons, or been told that their partner cannot or does not want to meet.

 

Trust is built on reliability and consistency. Can you depend on this person week after week? If so, what are the ways you depend on them? Often the grieved partner focuses on how their spouse can rebuild trust so they check their phone, ask them not to go out with friends, or engage in other activities deemed “high risk”. However, the many other things the spouse does daily which contribute to trust often go unnoticed. This lack of acknowledgement can sometimes lead to a sense of frustration as the spouse tries to rebuild this trust. Ask yourself, do they  pick up the kids on time, complete chores in the home, ask you how your day is and truly listen to your response, keep confidential information of yours or the family’s private? How else are they consistent in your daily life?

 

I often encourage clients to explore what trust means to them and has meant to them throughout their life. How did they learn about trust? Who do they trust in their life and why? When has trust been broken and what did that feel like? Was trust rebuilt? If not, what led to that outcome?

 

Often there’s an embarrassment factor with infidelity wherein the partner who suffered the betrayal feels shame in sharing this information about their partner because they feel it means something about themselves. Exploring what story they’re telling themselves about how this reflects on them can be important information. We have choices in viewing things as shameful or not. This was your partner’s choice, does it have to mean anything about who you are as a person? Perhaps it does mean something about the present dynamic in your relationship and is worth deeper exploration. Asking yourself if you’re assigning meaning to your partner’s behavior as reflective of something about you and why you’re choosing to that can also be a helpful place to explore more around the meaning this holds for you and what control you have.

 

Not everyone will judge this behavior as representative of who your spouse is at their core. Is it significant? Perhaps, but it’s not the only choice this person has ever made in their life. Sometimes we lose sight of the many small positives our partners perform on a daily basis, and instead, we jump on them the moment they deviate in a negatively perceived fashion. In working with couples, I often try to remind both of them that their partner isn’t all bad. Being close to others often means we experience both the positive as well as the negative. Being vulnerable enough to love someone means we can also be hurt by them—whether that hurt is unintentional or intentional is often the subject of debate on the therapy couch.

 

I hope this brief write-up serves to stimulate some conversation around this topic and shift the narrative of what you previously assigned to the subject.




 

Dr. Emily A. Kerr is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and owner of EK Counseling, LLC,a Denver therapy practice. With over thirteen years of experience treating individuals and couples, she brings her candor, humor, and motivation to each session. She specializes in eating disorders, body image struggles, sexuality and gender, life transitions, general anxiety, and building self-esteem. If you are struggling to make a transition, or you just need extra support to create lasting lifestyle changes, please call to schedule an appointment.

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