The process of healing from infidelity does not always go smoothly. In fact, many former cheaters will relapse at least once or twice. When this occurs, the best they can do is admit what they’ve done and amend their future behavior. With a bit of preparation, however, these setbacks can be avoided altogether, especially if you know the warning signs to keep an eye on.
The most common warning signs of a potential backslide are as follows:
- Overconfidence. “This is going really well. Maybe I have the problem licked and I can let my guard down.”
- Denial. “See, I can stop cheating any time I want. Now that I’ve proved this, I can look at and flirt with other people the same as anyone else.”
- Isolation. “I can handle this on my own. I don’t need to go to therapy, and I don’t need to be in constant contact with people who support what I’m trying to do.”
- Blame. “If my spouse hadn’t gotten that new job that takes up so much of his/her time and energy, I wouldn’t feel the need to go online to socialize.”
- Excuses. “I know that being alone with my computer is a danger zone, but I need to stay late at the office to finish this important project.”
- Slippery Situations. “The buffet at that Chinese restaurant across the street from where the prostitutes hang out is really good, so I’m going to have lunch there.”
- Minimization. “I’m only looking at a little porn. It’s not like I’ve gone back to having affairs.”
- Devaluing Feedback from Supportive Others. “The people in my therapy group just want to control me. The stuff they want me to do might work for them, but they don’t understand my situation.”
- Feeling like a Victim. “I don’t understand why I have to deprive myself when everybody else can look at porn and have webcam sex without fear or problems.”
- Rationalizing. “It’s OK for me to sneak around a little when I’m traveling for work. My sexual sobriety plan doesn’t count when I’m in a different state, right?”
- Ignoring Previously Agreed-Upon Guidelines. “I know that I promised my spouse I wouldn’t look at porn or flirt on hookup apps, but what he/she doesn’t know can’t hurt her.”
- Feeling Entitled. “I’ve been putting in double duty at work, and nobody seems to appreciate the effort I’m making. I deserve a little something just for me.”
- Taking or Returning Calls, Texts, or E-mails from Former Cheating Partners. “I can’t help it if that person won’t leave me alone, and it’s mean if I just ignore the texts.”
When you are faced with any of these warning signs, it is best to be honest about that right away with your therapist and/or an accountability partner. You might also be honest with your betrayed partner if you’ve done something that violates your relationship boundaries and his/her trust.
If you and your partner are struggling to communicate and heal your relationship, you may want to read Out of the Doghouse. You might also be interested in our six-week online Out of the Doghouse workgroups for Cheating Men, our six-week online workgroup for Betrayed Partners, and our six-week online workgroup for Couples Impacted by Betrayal.