We have smoke detector and first help kit at home, because we know something could go wrong, a fire could start or someone could get wounded even if we are really careful. However we are often not prepared for the possibility that an affair could impact our relationship.
We are also not ready in case of depression or burn out. Why is that? It could very well be that each of us has a different answer to this, my personal impression if I listen to people is that there are some things so scary and so difficult to deal with that we close our eyes to it and live hoping it will never affect us. In this group of scary things we avoid is infidelity, depression, burn out and few other things that could happen in life.
I recently read a book that got me thinking about what infidelity means for a couple. I come across infidelity in my practice as a relationship therapist and I started to wonder: what if couples would have honest conversations about what they consider cheating and how they look at infidelity?
Would those conversation make them less vulnerable to infidelity?
Some expert believe this is the case.
My purpose with this blog is to offer some tips on how to have this conversation within the couple, if you want to have it.
Of course such a conversation may bring up differences in the way you and your partner look at infidelity and this could be disappointing or painful, I am well aware of that and the question I would ask myself if I was experiencing those thoughts is: do I rather take the risk of having the talk about infidelity and getting disappointed by what my partner think or do I rather take the risk of going through life without knowing how my partner looks at infidelity?
Consider also that for how much risk you may perceive by starting to talk about infidelity on purpose, there is a chance that it will bring to a deep conversation about intimacy, emotional safety and love that can bring you closer.
It is likely that it will challenge you and make you grow, is that so bad?
The questions that you can ask if you want to have this conversation are inspired by the book ‘The state of affairs’ from Esther Perel.
When you think of infidelity, what are the first words, associations and images that come to mind?
Do the words and associations change if I use the words ‘love affair’ or ‘romance’, ‘friend with benefits’?
Do you find your reaction leaning more towards disapproval or towards understanding?
How would you describe your believe about what is ok or understandable and what is just wrong and unacceptable?
Which experiences in your life have influenced your view on the topic of infidelity?
What do you believe drives people to be unfaithful?
You may notice that there are different kind of affairs that in your view deserve a different reaction to and feel free to elaborate around that and go deep in what you and your partner believe and have experienced in this area.
Always notice how you feels while having this conversation: is there tension? Fear? Or it is getting more and more relaxed and reassuring the more you dive into the topic and you realize how your partner see things?
You may have already come to the part when you talk about how you want to negotiate within your relationship what is accepted and what is not. What are the boundaries that you want to create and how to guard them.
Make sure none of you has to sacrifice who he/she really is to be in the relationship. If accepting the terms of your partner means giving up a bit of who you are, it is likely that you won’t enjoy this agreement in the long term.
And if you feel really afraid at the idea to have this conversation and ask these questions, it is ok. You may want to consider the questions alone and find your own answer first. Then you can look at what makes you uncomfortable. Maybe there is a fear that the other would disappoint you with his/her answer. It is really understandable that this theme and the idea of a conversation with your partner about it feels really scary and uneasy. This blog is just an invitation to reflect, use it as you see fit.