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May 10, 2018

How to Deal With Infidelity in Your Relationship

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Apparently, Tristan Thompson has been caught cheating on Khloe Kardashian once again. And your immediate response may be “who cares?”, but regardless of whether or not you keep up with the Kardashian’s (I’ve never seen an episode), there is some insight to be gained from considering and discussing celebrity relationship headlines.

For example, you might use Tristan and Khloe’s story as an impetus to start a conversation about how you define monogamy in your relationship. Or you might use it as an opportunity to discuss your own insecurities with your partner. We’re all insecure — some of us are simply brave enough to face our insecurities head-on. (Listen to Brandon and I discuss our relationship insecurities in this podcast.)

But back to Tristan and Khloe…

Jess sat down with Global TV’s Jeff McArthur to discuss how couples can learn from their experience and move on after sexual infidelity. Check out the summarized notes and video clip below.

Summary of video discussion:

1. Tristan has been caught cheating before. Do you believe in the notion that “once a cheater, always a cheater”?

No. We are defined by the sum of our actions, not by a brief snapshot of them. We all make mistakes and evolve and cheating represents only one component of our rich personal history. We can choose to change our behaviour moving forward. Sexual impulses are not uncontrollable.

However, some people who cheat have little desire to change. Some actually get into relationships with the intention of cheating and others have affairs to seek revenge, hurt their partners or otherwise sabotage their relationships. Though everyone has the capacity to grow and change, these “cheater types” typically blame others for their actions and may be more likely to cheat again.

2. So how do you know if they’ll do it again?

Their response to why they cheated matters.

Accepting wrongdoing and forsaking of any rationalizations and excuses are effective first steps toward recovering and rebuilding. There are many understandable reasons why one may be motivated or tempted to cheat, but in the end, it is always a choice.

3. In Tristan’s case, he has done it before and Khloe knew about it. What do you make of this?

It may not be a popular response, but I believe that many people know that their partner’s cheat and privately accept it; their outrage is often in response to the public finding out — not to the cheating itself. It’s possible that Hilary Clinton knew this was happening and accepted it, but can’t do so publicly because the shame and judgment she faces for “allowing” it to happen is what makes it unbearable.

4. What about the claim by some cheaters that they’re sex addicts and it’s beyond their control.

Sex addiction is a very profitable industry, but it’s not a diagnosis. It has been repeatedly rejected as a diagnosis and the label itself is iatrogenic; this means that the symptoms of so-called sex addiction arise after you call yourself a sex addict and seek treatment — not before.

5. So if you’re in a relationship and one of you has cheated, how do you recover?

a. Get help. You may not need months of counselling, but set up at least one session with a professional you can set you on the right track. If you don’t prioritize this then you’re really not prioritizing the relationship.

b. If you cheated, take responsibility. Don’t blame other people. And be honest with yourself. Are you really okay having sex with only one person for the rest of your life? If not, step up and admit it. It’s okay if you don’t want to be monogamous — just don’t sign up for a monogamous relationship. I also suggest that you try to better understand why you cheated; this can help you to make behavioural and cognitive changes to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

c. If you’ve been cheated on, give yourself permission to really express what you feel — whether its anger, grief, anguish, fear or abandonment, you get to speak up and be heard without reaction or excuses from your partner. Tell them to step back and just listen until you decide what you need to move forward. Make a plan and include a timeline; there will need to be a time when you stop referring back to the incident as a weapon in upcoming fights and arguments, but you should also have permission to talk about how it makes you feel moving forward (e.g. ask for reassurance as often and for as long as you need to).