By: Dr. Dean Aslinia
Infidelity. A word that seems so terrifying to so many. It sparks so many negative and panic feelings that most individuals don’t even want to think of the possibility of it happening in their relationship, much less actually having a plan for it when it does. I say, “when” it does, as to not paint a grim picture or outlook that all relationships will face infidelity. In reality, when we look at the topic holistically, that notion no longer becomes so impossible.
To start, let’s define what infidelity means. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as: unfaithfulness to a moral obligation. But for a more practical operating definition, one could define it more broadly in today’s world. After having provided more than 10 years of couples therapy, I have come to find it as any in unsanctioned behavior that remains a secret and its exposure can negatively impact the relationship. With such definition it’s clear to see how an extramarital relationship easily falls into such category. However, it doesn’t end there.
Think of a less trivial behavior that potentially can have a similar impact. Let’s say you have a passion for playing online poker. Over the years, you’ve increased your game and now even make some money playing. Let’s say, your partner is not a big fan and so not to upset him/her, you don’t share your online gaming activities. Yet, you continue spending time and money, when your partner is not home. This is officially, financial infidelity, as it is an unsanctioned behavior that remains a secret and will negatively impact the financial status of the relationship.
With that in mind, you can see how a sexual affair can have a parallel impact. Other forms of infidelity may include emotional, professional (work), technology (social media/computer), and many others. The best way to prevent or to address such concerns in a committed relationship, is to address them honestly. Meaning, not to act like that somehow you and your partner are inculcated from such undesirable life behaviors and such things would never happen in your lives. As an experienced therapist, I’m here to tell you that no one is immune, and with that mentality, chances are you won’t survive the crash in the event that your relationship experiences such turbulence and malfunction.
The healthier option would be to openly discuss your deal breakers or boundaries as early in the relationship as you can. I start these conversations with my couples that come to me for premarital counseling. Once you process such conversations, you begin to realize you and your partner, in reality, are just as susceptible to life mistakes and acts of indiscretion than any other human that’s come before them. Then the conversation changes from a fantasy-led “this will never happen to me” to “hopefully it will never happen, but if it does, this is my prepared plan in addressing it”. Because with the former option, any such event only results in blaming and an outlook that only perpetuates hate, shame, paranoia, and demoralization.
Such events are never easy to face, but a major part of a committed relationship is to look at your partner, not only when they are at the top of their game, but also when they have come down crashing, and hurt you along the way. You have to see and to seek the true reasons, and then to decide. In our fast-paced world, we now too easily reach conclusions that often we end up regretting. Sometimes we throw away valuable parts of our lives, and impact those that we love, without fully looking at all the underlying currents that perhaps have been making our relationships have less stable foundations. This is where a professional who is experienced in this tumultuous journey can help guide you. Just remember, regardless of how bad it might seem, you’re not alone, there is always hope, and this night shall also end, and the sun will rise again.