When the “relationship contract” has been broken by an infidelity in a gay couple’s partnership, the foundation of trust and respect has likely been damaged. Some men opt to sever their ties, unable to cope with the boundary violation that’s occurred, while others decide to work at rebuilding their relationship. Each couple must decide for themselves which option best suits their needs and will be determined largely by the level of investment and commitment each has to endure through the painful tasks involved in recovering from an affair.
Surviving and healing from an affair is possible and requires both partners to take responsibility and channel all their energies into repairing their relationship. Part 1 of this 2-part article series addressed the possible reasons why we cheat and the impact this can have on a relationship. In this article, specific tips and strategies will be offered for those couples who are motivated to overcome the non-monogamy that has occurred in their relationship, thereby promoting their chances for a successful resolution to this crisis.
Tips For The Man Who Was Cheated Upon:
* You are likely experiencing a lot of emotional ups and downs as you process what’s happened. Give yourself time to grieve the loss of the relationship you thought you had with your partner and be kind to yourself. Ease the pain with self-nurturing activities. Also manage any triggers that may signal unfinished business from the past for you (eg. being cheated on by a former boyfriend) so this doesn’t contaminate your current relationship.
* Especially in the beginning, anticipate a period of obsessing and being preoccupied with the affair and its details. This is normal as you come to make sense of what’s happened, but set limits with yourself so as not to let it become all-consuming. Keep your focus on the fact that your vision is to come through this a stronger couple. Work hard at countering negative thoughts.
* It could be easy to get stuck into feeling like “the victim.” Avoid this by identifying the role you may have played in the affair’s existence. While you’re not responsible for your partner’s choice to cheat, how may you have contributed to the unfolding drama? Become an active participant in making things better between the two of you.
* Your partner made a mistake and is trying to make amends now. Don’t make any unfounded accusations or assumptions. Avoid blame, verbal aggression, passive-aggressive “pay-backs”, or behaviors aimed at making him feel guilty or attempts to punish him. This will only create more division and nobody will feel any better. Find healthy outlets for your anger and hurt. And don’t turn on yourself either. Identify what you need to be able to forgive him and yourself.
* Your biggest challenge is going to be risking being emotionally vulnerable again with your partner. This will take time. Pace the relationship at a rate where you can gradually “let him back in” again. Have your boundaries to protect your heart, but not so solidly-built that he has no chance of proving his trust and commitment to you. As time passes and your trust strengthens, the boundaries can loosen.
Tips For The Man Who Cheated:
* First and foremost, end any and all third-party relationships. No more contact! Your relationship won’t have a chance if it’s competing for your attention and energy. You may need time to grieve the loss of your relationship with your lover depending on if there was an emotional attachment.
* You’re human and made a mistake. Avoid beating up on yourself and channel that energy into your partner and rebuilding a relationship with him. Take responsibility for your indiscretion and identify the reasons behind the affair. Develop a plan of action so it never happens again.
* Your partner is hurting and requires your support. He will likely go through a period where he asks you a barrage of questions about a whole host of issues pertaining to the infidelity. His distrust in you will take such forms as suspiciousness and insecurity. Even when you feel like you can’t take it anymore, it’s important to tolerate his moods and answer his questions honestly and non-defensively. This is part of his healing process that he needs to go through and helps to plant the seeds of his beginning to trust you again.
* Be aware that your partner will most likely be afraid to re-commit to you. Focus your efforts on regaining his trust, communicate more, acknowledge and validate his feelings, and help him to feel special and wanted.
Tips For The Recovering Gay Couple:
* Make your relationship the #1 priority! Work hard at identifying and meeting each other’s needs, increase communication, and negotiate your differences. Never take the relationship for granted again and keep it alive with shared, meaningful experiences and rituals. No more secrets!
* “Court” each other all over again. Set a “first date” and build from there. Encourage each other and share your appreciations for one another frequently.
* Be cautious about telling too many of the people in your support system about the affair. This can create additional stressors for you with the possibility of torn loyalties being created and your relationship not being supported. Keep your boundaries on this private couple issue and be very selective in who you confide in.
* Becoming sexual again with each other could be a “loaded” issue here because of the infidelity. Ease into this if you’re not comfortable and start with nonsexual expressions of affection first to re-establish the foundation of intimacy. Be sure to communicate your expectations about monogamy vs. non-monogamy in your relationship moving forward.
It’s not always easy, but relationships do triumph over infidelity, and you can even come out better and stronger if approached the right way. Don’t hesitate to contact a couple’s therapist who specializes in gay relationships if you still struggle with “putting the pieces back together” again. View the affair as a wake-up call to attend to the unmet needs and unresolved issues that likely exist between the two of you.
Finally, patience and dedication is key and keep focused on your vision for the type of relationship with each other that you’re ultimately dreaming of…and make it happen!
© Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, The Gay Love Coach
( The suggestions and feedback offered in this column are but one perspective of multiple approaches to dealing with problems or challenges. Information provided in articles and advice columns should not be used as a substitute for coaching or therapy when these services are needed. None of this information should be your only source when making important life decisions. This information should not be used for diagnosing or treating a particular problem, nor should it take the place of a consultation with a trained professional. It is your responsibility to consult a professional prior to making any life decisions. )
Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, contributing author to GAYTWOGETHER, is one of the leading love coaches for the gay community. As a licensed dating and relationship coach, Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, DHS, MSW has over 18 years experience as a psychotherapist and life coach specializing in helping GLBT individuals and couples develop and maintain successful and fulfilling intimate relationships. He holds a doctorate degree in human sexuality from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality and a master’s degree in clinical social work from Western Michigan University. He also runs a successful private therapy practice, Personal Victory Counseling, Inc. http://thegaylovecoach.com