By: Logan Cohen, Family Therapist, Couples Counselor, & Psychotherapist - New Leaf Counseling Group - Charlotte, NC
Are you wondering how cheating hurts a relationship? If you are asking yourself this question, then chances are you are going THROUGH it in your relationship - either as the Person that has been cheated on, or maybe the Person who did the cheating themselves.
As a long-time couples counselor in Charlotte, NC, I have worked with couples who are healing from cheating for most of my professional career.
This has actually been an area of high interest through the years as I established New Leaf Counseling Group - a private counseling practice in Charlotte, NC that specializes in relationship counseling - in both couples counseling & family therapy.
The level of emotional intensity tends to be HIGH when working with couples who are healing from cheating for a few different reasons that we will review here today, however the most important thing to remember here is that a lot of couples are able to successfully heal from cheating.
In fact, I have worked with many couples in the Charlotte Area who have hot only healed from cheating, but came out even STRONGER - with more intimacy - and with HIGHER levels of satisfaction than they had before.
This kind of situation can go in a few different directions - for the good, bad, and even ugly - so if you are wondering how cheating hurts a relationship OR healing from cheating can change your relationship for the BETTER, then you are in the right place.
How Cheating Hurts a Relationship
#1 Way How Cheating Hurts a Relationship - Traumatizes non-participating partner
For the Person who got cheated on - whether physical, emotional, or both - the experience is TRAUMATIC.
Human Beings are social at our core - a basic need called “Love and Belonging Needs” - that social psychologists have discovered is a big part of our sense of safety & security.
When we get cheated on, it feels like we got punched in the GUT with a wave of shame & insecurity, the same as if you suddenly lost a job as the primary provider of your household when you THOUGHT everything was just fine.
Except in this situation, there is no “Home” to go back to and “lick your wounds”. The very Person we associate with feeling safe and secure in the World was the SAME Person that just dealt the blow - they do not feel safe.
This combination of feelings & experiences for the Person who got cheated on creates a lot of PAIN & sudden loss for their “Love and Belonging Needs” on the most INTIMATE level - resulting in a type of psychological trauma.
- repeated intrusive thoughts
- unstable emotions- feeling “out of body” (de-personalized)
- alternating between numb & wanted to lash out
- always looking for more information about the cheating that would cause more stress
- blaming our Partner,
- personal confusion about relationship and sense of self
In order to heal from cheating, you have to be sure that the couples counselor or relationship therapist you are seeing to help you heal from cheating can honor the Partner who got cheated on and their unique experience.
A failure to do this quickly and effectively will not allow the Person who got cheated on to feel as safe enough to consider engaging fully so that everyone can heal & move on from this experience.
Regardless of your unique position, the relationship is important enough to be reading this article and if you continue on, you will see how working with a trained and experienced couples counselor is essential if you want to fully & effectively heal from cheating - maybe even stronger than you were before. Who said this HAS to end badly anyways?
How Cheating Hurts a Relationship
#2 Way How Cheating Hurts a Relationship - The Person Who Cheated is (at least temporarily) “In The Doghouse”
When there has been cheating in a relationship, the experience of relationship trauma above must first be handled safely in a way that helps the Person who got cheated on even consider “leaning back in to the relationship” again.
Remember that experience of thoughts & feelings described above? This must have temporary priority because if it doesn’t, they will continue wanting to lash out at the Person who cheated, making the underlying wounds deeper and deeper. After an experienced couples counselor helps both Partners re-establish some stability & express a few personal thoughts and feelings early on - the REAL work begins.
By this, I mean that the Person who got cheated on will need to have freedom to express openly and honestly how BADLY this experience hurt them. And in order for that to happen in a way that allow the relationship to actually HEAL from cheating, the Person who cheated MUST be able to listen, accept, and even validate their experiences.
The importance of this step CANNOT be overstated. If the experience of how cheating hurts a relationship could be compared to breaking a bone - this is where the Doctor has to “reset the bone” back into a position that allows it to utilize the Body’s natural healing ability.
A skilled couples counselor, like an experienced doctor, can make sure this important step happens as it should to make sure the relationship heals from the painful experience - rather than limiting function in the future, or even worse - getting infected.... And just like as if you broke a bone, this step is going to HURT…
But unlike with the comparison of “setting the bone”, the Person who cheated must be able to direct their pain, insecurity, even ANGER towards the Person who cheated very openly & clearly.
It is the job of the couples counselor to make sure this happens with a goal-directed focus in the safe structure of their counseling office.
At the same time, the Person who cheated will have to deal with the painful thoughts & feelings expressed by their Partner “head on”, while waiting their turn to “speak their piece.”
By the time there is cheating in a relationship, there are always at least a few underlying issues that have gone unchecked - whether the couple was consciously aware of them or not.
The Person who cheated must get through the initial hardship of being accountable for the pain caused to their Partner.
There will be a time for putting it all back together - and even STRONGER than it was before - but only after the relationship has healed enough for “physical therapy” - so to speak.
Would you like to keep learning about how cheating hurts a relationship, along with how this painful experience can actually promote GROWTH (of course as long as you are seeing a skilled couples counselor)? If you are ready to keep learning and start healing - whether you live in Charlotte, North Carolina or not - consider checking out Part 2 of this article HERE.
Care to learn more about how a Professional Couples Counselor or Relationship Therapist can help you in Charlotte, NC? New Leaf Counseling Group specializes in treating couples healing from cheating, as well as concerns related to Mental Health - with a down-to-earth approach. Find a therapist near you, or just click here for more information designed to support You AND Your most important relationships.
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