Sunrise Couples Therapy

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After the Affair. Who takes responsibility?

April 19, 2017

 

Suppose they cheat to say, " its over." Sometimes when affairs occur it's very intentional & meant to signal the end of a relationship. Very rarely does the partner that is cheated on respond accordingly.

 

Internalization, family, social, religious, and other pressures can often weigh so heavy upon the betrayed partner, that it impairs their ability to self-soothe, interpret, process or react in ways consistent with their own personal truth.

 

In other cases affairs occur for a litany of other reasons; none of which justify the act, or truly console those most injured by the lies, and betrayal which accompanies infidelity.

 

Many of my client have lamented that the method or manner by which they learn of the infidelity can serve to exacerbate the suffering and impair their ability to heal.

 

They suggest that it is difficult to began the healing process if their partner does not take full responsibility for the affair, including the motivations behind it. Remember, the affair wasn't about them it was all about the partner who cheated.

 

Guy Winch, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist, authored a article for Psychology Today entitled: "How to Take Full Responsibility for an Affair."

 

This article offers (8) steps to rebuilding trust, focused on actions, not words. Dr. Winch suggest, admitting wrongdoing is an important first step but it is just that—a first step. 

 

Unless the person having the affair is willing to take honest actions, deal with consequences, and put in the hard work of rebuilding and repairing their damaged relationships, they are by definition, not taking responsibility.

 

How to Take Full Responsibility for an Affair

 

There are many things one should do when taking full responsibility for an affair; by no means is the following list exhaustive. Reforming a broken relationship, healing emotional wounds, and rebuilding trust is difficult, painful, time consuming, and not always successful, but it can be done—especially if the person who cheated commits to the following:

  1. Stop the affair (obviously). One cannot repair a relationship with a partner while one has contact with the other person. Taking full responsibility for one's actions means stopping the affair and ceasing all contact.

  2. Figure out why you had an affair: including the reasons, motivations, triggers, excuses, justifications, opportunities, and circumstances that allowed it to happen.

  3. Figure out what you plan to do if and when each of the reasons, motivations, triggers, excuses, justifications, opportunities, and circumstances appear again—because they probably will.

  4. Be ready to listen—and talk—when your partner needs you to. Taking full responsibility means being ready to help your partner recover when they need you to be there for them, whether you're "in the mood" to talk or not.

  5. Avoid promising it will never happen again until you’ve figured out the "why." Taking full responsibility means not promising things you cannot guarantee. Unless you’ve dug deep and figured out why you cheated you do not have sufficient grounds to believe you won’t do it again—fear, regret, and remorse are not sufficient deterrents; they fade with.

  6. Contain your partner’s feelings. Your partner will go through cycles of feeling close and distant, loving and hateful, trusting and suspicious, as well as other emotional extremes. Taking full responsibility means it is your job to be understanding, supportive, and sympathetic as they go through these cycles. For example, they might feel trusting and loving one moment, then feel stupid for feeling trusting and loving, then feel rage at you for making them so unable to trust their own feelings. Yes, it’s difficult to contain another person’s rapidly shifting emotional states, but since you caused them, it is your responsibility to do so.

  7. Provide transparency. If you want your partner to trust you again, you have to demonstrate that you’re trustworthy. For example, if they want to look at your phone—let them. Don’t roll your eyes and don’t ask them why they need to check your phone. By rolling your eyes, you’re minimizing the fact that your actions made it difficult for them to trust you. Taking full responsibility means understanding that building trust takes time and cannot be rushed. Instead, try to welcome such requests as opportunities to soothe your partner’s suspicions and prove yourself trust-worthy. So hand over your phone with a simple, “Sure, here it is.”

  8. When it comes time to examine what aspects of the relationship were not working—what the "betrayed" partner might have been doing wrong—it is crucial to do so with the clear and expressed understanding that whatever wasn’t working in the relationship in no way excuses or justifies the affair. Taking full responsibility means recognizing it was your job to discuss your dissatisfactions with your partner and not act them out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

​The bottom line is truly taking full responsibility for an affair should always be followed by weeks, and months of actions and consequences. Otherwise you’re not taking responsibility at all—you’re just admitting you got caught. 

 

The partner that cheated does not get to decide this process. You both do. If I can provide any support or a non-judgmental hear, let me know. miles@cachealthwa.org

 

 

 

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