In this surviving infidelity interview, find out what feelings and thoughts are normal and what you can expect in your relationship and future ones after discovering your partner cheated on you. Expert Danine Manette is an infidelity survivor, professional investigator, and the author of Ultimate Betrayal: Recognizing, Uncovering and Dealing with Infidelity. She has also appeared on talk shows such as Oprah and the Today Show as a media expert.
Surviving Infidelity Interview with Danine Manette
LTK: What are some of the reactions people have when they first find out their partner cheated?
Danine Manette (DM): Typically the betrayed partner struggles with a mixture of outrage and pain. Regardless of whether the betrayed partner suspected the infidelity or not, there is still an enormous amount of disbelief that someone you love and trust to this degree has betrayed you. It is difficult to comprehend how a person could have looked you in the eyes and lied repeatedly.
Cheating victims also struggle with what is reality versus what the partner presented as truth during the deception. Some betrayed partners lash out physically in an attempt to express their rage while others withdraw and become an emotional wreck. Once the initial anger subsides, however, the betrayed partner is usually left with a deep sense of sadness and a devastating amount of pain. This phase may last for a very long time as the betrayed partner struggles to come to grips with the reality of his/her relationship and the direction he/she wants to go following the discovery of infidelity.
LTK: How long does the shock and devastation last?
DM: This depends on how long the affair lasted, how intense it was, how long the couple has been together and the cheater's response to the discovery. The shock of discovering that your partner has had a long term affair, as opposed to a one night stand, is certainly the most difficult to get over because of the sheer degree of lying and deception that took place during the infidelity. Because so much of the relationship between the cheater and the betrayed partner now appears to be a lie, the betrayed partner spends much of the time immediately following discovery piecing together the facts, playing "information catch up", and ascertaining what was real and what was a façade. With each new discovery comes a new level of shock, rage and disappointment, which leads to an extremely drawn out period of pain and devastation for the betrayed partner. The cheating partner's reaction to the discovery also determines how long the devastation lasts. A cheater who continues to lie, remains in contact with the affair partner, refuses to accept responsibility for his/her actions or withholds information which is vital to the betrayed partner's recovery only prolongs the healing process and often derails it altogether.
Moving On with Your Partner After Infidelity
LTK: What is the first step in moving on from the initial reaction of infidelity?
The betrayed partner must recognize that the initial days following the discovery of infidelity are pretty much an emotional rollercoaster. The betrayed partner will go back and forth from being angry, sad, hostile, empty, loving, confused and disgusted, perhaps all within the same day. This is normal and expected when one is betrayed to this degree. In fact, some experts have compared the aftermath of emotions following the discovery of infidelity as being similar to those seen in cases of people dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It is also important for the betrayed partner to recognize that no decisions need to be made within the first few days of discovery. Victims of betrayal typically think much more clearly after a few days have passed and they are able to make rational decisions as to which direction they feel is best for themselves and for their family. They must also recognize that the initial rage can lead one to want to act in ways which might not be in the best interest of anyone involved. For example, although violence against the cheater's affair partner or a revenge affair may seem alluring, they are really not the best response to the situation and often cause a far greater problem than anticipated. Therefore, the best way to move past the initial emotional trauma following discovery is to step back from the relationship, decide over a few days whether or not it is worth salvaging or even able to be salvaged, and take a full and complete assessment of what is best for the betrayed partner in the long run. Being betrayed leaves people with a sense of having a loss control over a facet of their life. Taking a step back and evaluating what is best for the betrayed partner, without taking into account the needs, desires or statements of the cheater, helps the betrayed partners regain a sense of control over the situation by allowing them to make decisions for themselves as to what they will or will not choose to deal with in the future.
LTK: Can a betrayed partner ever move past infidelity and continue the relationship?
DM: Yes, but that mostly depends on how the cheater handles the period following discovery. In order for the betrayed partner to get past an affair and continue in the relationship two things must occur. First, the betrayed partner must feel as though the cheater is truly empathetic, in other words, the cheater "gets it" and has somewhat of an understanding of the damage they've done to the betrayed partner. Secondly, the betrayed partner must feel that he/she is safe in trusting the cheater again with his/her feelings and investing themselves again emotionally into the relationship. Unless these two things take place, it will be extremely difficult for the betrayed partner to move past the affair and reinvest in the relationship.
LTK: If the partner who cheated wants to reconcile with the betrayed partner, what needs to happen in the relationship?
DM: The cheater needs to be willing to lay all of the cards on the table. This means no more lies, no more secrets, cutting all ties with the affair partner, being totally accountable as far as his/her whereabouts, schedule changes, and so forth, making his/her life an open book, answering any and all questions pertaining to the affair that the betrayed partner has a legitimate right to know and make sure the betrayed partner has access to all cell phones, email accounts, passwords, online social accounts, computers and any other area that the betrayed partner deems necessary to make him/her feel safe and secure. Cheaters must also fully and completely acknowledge their wrongdoing and not make excuses or blame the betrayed partner for "driving" them to have an affair. There will be plenty of time later on during counseling sessions or heart to heart conversations to pass the blame around for what went wrong in the relationship, but the initial reaction must be one of contrition, humility and remorse. The cheater must also not attempt to dictate the length of time it should take the betrayed partner to "get over it" but instead be prepared to provide the betrayed partner with whatever is necessary to help with the healing process.
New Relationships After Infidelity
LTK: What does a victim of infidelity have to keep in mind when moving on to a new relationship?
DM: Victims of betrayal must recognize that they cannot bring the baggage from a previous relationship into the new union. Of course a burnt finger always remembers the fire but a new partner must not be held accountable for the sins of another. If a betrayed partner feels as though they must go into a new relationship snooping, checking up, or not allowing his/her partner to have a basic expectation of privacy then he/she is not ready to be involved in another relationship. As difficult as it may be to give someone a clean slate after being hurt, it is imperative that the betrayed partner allow a new love interest to be free from the burdens of a previous partner. Of course, there is always a heightened sense of alert following betrayal, but that should translate into being more determined to be your new partner's best friend and confidant rather than a need to plow through his briefcase or dismantle his wallet. Being overly insecure or needy is not attractive, so acknowledging that your partner has free will and that if he/she has intent on cheating on you there is nothing you can do to stop it, helps a betrayed partner to enter into a new commitment with the confidence and peace of mind necessary for a healthy relationship.
LTK: How can victims of infidelity learn to trust again and should they?
I don't believe betrayed partners ever completely trust again, even though some state that they do. Because a betrayed partner deals with mental and emotional triggers following the discovery of an affair, it is difficult to not feel moments of insecurity or distrust again when triggering moments arise, either in the betrayed relationship or in others in the future. An affair creates a new reality for the betrayed partner in which his/her radar is sharpened and his/her instincts are on a heightened state of alert. Although some couples successfully work through infidelity and go on to have wonderfully loving, committed relationships they are more inclined to question their partner when times of emotional disconnection arise instead of trusting that everything is okay. They learn to recognize the signs of trouble earlier and take steps to minimize situations and friendships which can be threatening to their relationship. Following betrayal, people realize that temptations will always be present and understand that they need to constantly work to ensure the sanctity of their union and not allow outside influences to permeate their bond. So, although there should not be any need to snoop, back check or interrogate a partner after the relationship has healed from betrayal, with heightened awareness comes the knowledge that vigilance, not blind trust, is the only way to ward off negative influences which sometimes lead to committed partners going astray.
[[Image:Ultimate Betrayal.jpg|right|150px|[Ultimate Betrayal book]|]]
Support During Infidelity Recovery
LTK: What types of support does someone need when going through infidelity recovery?
DM: It is always good to get involved in either a local or online support group to help with the healing process. An excellent online support group can be found at the website, Surviving Infidelity, and an excellent in person support group can be found through BAN (Beyond Affairs Network), which is a national organization hosting workshops and support groups in numerous locations throughout North America. Being in the company with others who are similarly situated acts as a way to not only discuss and get support during a critical time, but also helps provide reassurance that the feelings and emotions one is experiencing following betrayal are normal.
LoveToKnow Dating would like to sincerely thank Danine Manette for her knowledge and time for this surviving infidelity interview. For more information and resources on recovering from infidelity, visit her website.