A lot of people who cheat on their significant other think that what their partner doesn’t know can’t hurt. They believe that if their partner has no idea they’re cheating, then neither their partner nor their relationship is impacted. The people who think this are wrong.
Even if a betrayed spouse does not know that the problem is infidelity, she/he will know there is a problem of some sort. This is because the betrayed partner can’t help but feel the emotional (and sometimes physical) distancing that inevitably occurs when the other partner is cheating.
Betrayed partners wonder why their sex life has suddenly changed (why their sex life now involves less or more or different sexual activity). They wonder why their partner doesn’t seem to have as much free time. They wonder why emotional vulnerability, intimacy, and connection suddenly seem less available. Worst of all, they wonder if they’ve done something wrong that’s pushed their partner away.
When one partner cheats, the other partner can’t help but feel less important, less special, and less wanted. And this does a serious number on both their self-esteem and their sense of security within the relationship. So when cheaters tell themselves that as long as they’re not found out, they’re not doing any damage to their partner or their relationship, they’re denying the stark reality of cheating.
Still, active cheaters will insist that they’re not harming their spouse or their relationship.
When we encounter clients at Seeking Integrity who engage in this type of denial, we ask them: If what you’re doing is not hurtful, then why are you keeping it secret? And why does your partner keep asking you what’s wrong and if she/he has done something to push you away?
An unavoidable fact of infidelity is that betrayed partners always know that something is amiss in their relationship, even if they don’t know what. And with that knowledge, their sense of connection and emotional intimacy is diminished.
It hurts to feel as if one is being shut out of one’s primary relationship. It hurts to ask questions about why this is happening and to not get an honest answer (and maybe even to be blamed or ridiculed for having these feelings). When one partner cheats, the other partner suffers, and so does the relationship. And this is true even before the infidelity is discovered. To believe otherwise is to live in denial.
To learn more about infidelity and how to heal broken relationships, check out the free webinars and drop-in discussion groups on SexandRelationshipHealing.com, pick up a copy of Dr. Rob Weiss’s book Out of the Doghouse, and consider a workshop for couples impacted by infidelity.