Ever study a flowerbed? Even when given the same amount of sun and water and planted in the same soil, flowers bloom and blossom at different heights, even at different times. The variances can be subtle, but variances always exist. No two flowers are identical, just as no two relationships are the same. Each party in a relationship brings his or her own complexities, histories, beliefs, and thought patterns, making every relationship as unique as a single bloom in a world of flowerbeds.
What happens when a bloom begins to deteriorate? When an issue as dark and weighty as infidelity grabs a relationship at the roots, choking lines of trust, and casting shadows that block light and openness, is there hope for recovery? Is the time and energy for such a repair even worth it, or is it better just to collect the fallen petals and scatter them in the wind? There are no easy answers to these questions. Just as each relationship is different from the next, so too are the answers in determining when to mend or when to move on.
First things first. When addressing the pain of infidelity, consider the flowerbed where the relationship exists. Where exactly is it planted and how has it grown? What elements have affected the relationship to bring it to its current state?
You need to make a complete assessment, of yourself, your assumptions, and your desires. What do you bring to the table in your relationship, and what do you expect in return. The focus of such an assessment is on yourself, regardless of whether you are the wronged or the wanderer. Realize that we are never able to change another person. What is in our own power is the ability to examine our thoughts and beliefs about our relationships and our roles in them, and fully challenge any illogical or untrue underlying assumptions or thought patterns. Only after making full assessments of ourselves and our circumstances can we even begin to decide on appropriate action.
Receiving professional counseling is one way to help sift through the thoughts and emotions that arise as a result of cheating. Infidelity hurts. The loss of trust can have its own stages of grief as it is indeed a loss. It is perfectly okay to bring in a professional third party to help with both individual and/or couples counseling to address the anger, shame, or grief; to assist with making sense of thoughts and expectations; to help answer the question of where to go from here.
Like a flower in full bloom, love is a natural and beautiful part of the human experience. When at all possible, it is worth mending. However, understand that “mending” might mean adjusting self-esteem, raising standards, or accepting self-love. Mending requires careful work and nurturance from all involved if a relationship is to continue. Love is not weak, but strong. Love can be tough as it adjusts to the elements that seek to grow or destroy it. If you are facing a situation of infidelity, know that the present state of your life’s garden is not permanent. Carefully plant seeds of healthy communication and forgiveness (whether the relationship continues or not – forgiveness is never about the other person but your own freedom), and dig up weeds of insecurity, shame, or guilt.
This article is intended for general education purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional counseling or medical care. If you are interested in seeking professional counseling, please contact The Stone Foundation by clicking here, or by phone at 410-296-2004.
Leslie J. Sherrod, MSW, LGSW, is an outreach social worker at a hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. She also has experience providing psychotherapy to children, teens, adults, and families. She is the author of several inspirational novels, including Without Faith, Losing Hope, Secret Place, and Like Sheep Gone Astray. Visit her website www.LeslieJSherrod.com to learn more about Leslie. Find her on social media:
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