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You have been cheated on: What should you do?
One of the greatest relationship fears that people have is a partner being unfaithful. Infidelity happens throughout many of the relationship stages and not just to those who are long-term unmarried or married partners. It also occurs in relationships where the couple has recently become exclusive. However before they make that first commitment, monogamy may be expected or assumed by one of the individuals, but without an explicit agreement, it really isn't cheating, just a sign that he or she is not that into you and ready to stop seeing others. Therefore if you believe you have been cheated on by someone you have been dating for a while, you might want to take another look at the understanding you thought you had, and if your belief is accurate.
Should you stay or should you go
* There are often many conflicting feelings to deal with and a lot of advice being thrown at them about what they should and should not do.
* The conflict often comes down to being torn by love for one's partner and a desire for the relationship and a belief that they should send a message that they will not tolerate this and then begin the process of ending the relationship.
* Leaving is easier said than done, for many practical reasons.
Common concerns that factor into a decision
* If the couple lives together, one or both will have to move and this is expensive and has an impact on lifestyle.
* If they are unmarried but have been together for years, there is the concern that if they leave, all that investment will be wasted, and if they want marriage and children, they may believe there isn't enough time to have these with someone new.
* If they are married, there are all the financial issues that come into play when divorce happens.
* If they have children, there are the concerns about the impact a divorce could have on them.
* All the logistics of separating, learning to co-parent when living apart and perhaps moving on to new relationships must be dealt with.
What Options are best for you?
Depending on the couple and their circumstances, certain concerns might be important enough to override the anger, hurt, and loss of trust and to set a goal to work towards repairing the relationship and moving forward together if at all possible. For others, if the relationship is not long-term, and if the financial involvement and/or investment is minor, a clean break should be considered upfront. Other situations may be less clear and require something in-between these two options.
* Attending couples counseling and setting specific and measurable goals should be considered if the other options can't be agreed upon or if one or both of you are just not sure what you want and need time.
* If you decide you want a divorce but need to live under the same roof for financial or other family related reasons, you can agree upon a set amount of time to work together on having a good divorce.
* If you feel the need for a break but are unsure about divorce, a trial separation and counseling to address the infidelity and work towards forgiveness and healing is an option. The only potential problem with this one is that separations often makes it easier to move towards divorce. One individual might like the new freedom and want to start dating during this time. Therefore, if you choose to go this route, make sure you lay out the specifics around how much contact you will have, any limits or expectations on your relationship, (intimacy or no intimacy), and if seeing other people is agreed upon by both. If not, this should be negotiated before making the move.
* If you live together and are unmarried, or married but childless, it might be much easier and more cost efficient in the long run to cut your losses and move on quickly if it is clear that your issues are serious enough that counseling may not be useful or appropriate and eventually splitting up appears to be the most likely outcome.
Whatever path you choose, make sure you carefully consider and think through not just your feelings, but any options and the consequences that they could bring. Acting in haste leads too often to divorce remorse, yet doing nothing and hoping things will get better only delays the inevitable demise of the relationship. There is no one right way, only the right one for you. Oh, and when your well-meaning friends say "I would never put up with that, I would be out of there," tune it out. No one knows what they would do if they were suddenly confronted with infidelity. It's one of those experiences that you can't know how you would feel or behave until you have been there.
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
© Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.
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