We think of the past as a series of fixed events, and we form a sense of who we are based on the things we’ve lived through. When someone cheats on us it forces us to question our past, and in doing this, disturbs our sense of self. This is the worst part of cheating. How it destablizes your identity – how it creates a sense of derealization.
Coping after Infidelity
If you’ve ever been cheated on you know what this feels like. “Were they cheating on me then? What about then? Was that smile for me? That moment I thought was special – did they lie when they said it was special to them too?”
In the experience of infidelity, perhaps the most damaging piece is having to question what was real and what wasn’t?
Leaning Out Of Commitment
There’s often a window prior to infidelity in which the unfaithful partner begins to lean of commitment. This doesn’t mean that they’re leaning out of love. It means that they’ve forgotten –or are ignoring– the promises they’ve made to you, themselves, and the relationship.
They detach from the relationship in order to make the infidelity possible.
In doing this I think they often create two selves – the self that is cheating, and the self that would never cheat, except for this, which isn’t exactly cheating, I mean, we’re just friends, we’re just talking, it was just kind of an accidental kiss.
If it’s any reassurance to someone who has been cheated on, I think that it’s possible for these two things to coexist. A person can both experience joy in a relationship they are pulling away from, and be unfaithful.
However, I don’t think that anyone can fully experience joy in a relationship that they are actively pulling away from.
Moving on from painful infidelity
When you begin questioning the past, I think it’s important to ask yourself questions that you can answer. Were you fully living in those moments? Were you fully partcipating in the relationship? It’s hurtful to wonder if your partner was fully present, fully loving, but the weight is not on you to navigate that mental arena. If that person was not fully present, that’s their wound to heal.
A flashbulb memory is an exceptionally vivid memory – a memory that was extra emotional. Because of it’s emotional significance, we seem to remember this memory with extra clarity. When our partner is unfaithful we relive these memories all at once, over and over, looking for clues. Psychologists also suggest that every time we recall a memory, it’s a little further away from the truth of what actually happened. We fill in the blanks.
Maybe the kindest thing we can do when we feel that our history can no longer be trusted is grab hard to a future that can be, and give peace to the past.
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