The Impact of Infidelity on Relationships

Now that we have looked at intimacy in romantic relationships in our last few articles, we should examine what happens when that intimacy is profoundly negatively affected – when trust is broken. Many people think that they can continue on as before when they have been unfaithful to their partner. But what exactly is the impact of infidelity in relationships? Relationships, and people, can only flourish where there is trust.

The cultural idea of “relationship” has been shifting over the past several decades.

Fewer people are getting married. Traditional relationships are becoming less standardized. Open relationships have been on the rise. Even the word ‘infidelity’ is somewhat dated.

Regardless of these changes in how relationships are defined, some things remain the same. People cheat on each other. People lie. It’s ugly, but it’s true.

If you are in a long-term monogamous relationship, there is a possibility that you may experience the effects of infidelity.

It is a painful reality that many couples contend with during the course of a relationship.

How Cheating Impacts a Relationship

Infidelity impacts a variety of factors in a relationship. While individual circumstances vary, there are some common themes that many couples experience after cheating happens.

Trust is lost:

The first and most obvious change after someone cheats in a relationship is the loss of trust. Once trust has been violated it is difficult to regain.

It is possible for people to rebuild a relationship after infidelity, but there is always a grain of uncertainty that remains.

Makes you question everything:

Infidelity cheapens the history of the relationship. The person who was cheated on begins to question everything else they’ve been told over time and wonders what other falsehoods there have been.

Disturbs the power balance:

When someone has cheated in the relationship, the power differential becomes skewed. The person who cheated abused a trust, which is an abuse of power within the relationship.

If the affair is discovered, the power shift may change if the couple is trying to work it out.

The shift in power is difficult to re-balance after infidelity and will likely sway back and forth as the couple attempt to find stasis after this disruption.

Elephant in the room syndrome:

Even after a couple has made amends following an infidelity, the fact of the affair remains and often becomes the ‘elephant in the room.’ It is a factor that cannot be undone and will always be a part of the relationship history.

Whether it is discussed or not, it will still be there, taking up a lot of space in the room. It may even become a landmark for the relationship, such as “B.C. (before cheating)” or “A.D. (after discovery).”

It can become an escape mechanism or repeated pattern:

When people first make the decision to cheat, it makes it easier to do it again. Once we break one of our own internal values, it can seem like less of a stretch to continue to engage in the behavior because it’s no longer ‘off the table’.

Irreparable damage:

One possible outcome of infidelity is a relationship that cannot be repaired. Cheating doesn’t have to be the end of a relationship, but it can be if a couple isn’t able to come to terms with it and make peace.

Couples who experience infidelity can and often do, find a way to work through the pain and recommit to a loving, monogamous relationship.

If couples are aware of the potential pitfalls and work to stay honest with one another, a loving relationship can be rekindled.

[This blog post originally appeared on Teyhou’s website]

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