Relationships: The daunting impact of infidelity

They were married for almost a year when Alex found out that his spouse was cheating on him. His gut had warned him but he had chosen to ignore the signs, and when he finally discovered the truth, he was devastated. 

He felt betrayed, he blamed himself for not being enough for he had done all he could to be a good husband and this is how his wife was paying him. 

Alex was broken; he resorted to drinking to numb the pain. And though the couple never divorced, Alex says their marriage was never the same. There was no trust, and with this, he says he wasn’t sure if he still loved his wife.

Just like Alex, a number of couples have been unfortunate to suffer the daunting pain of infidelity and going by a number of experiences, the consequences of an extramarital affair have never been simple.

Counsellor Kibogora Nsoro clarifies that infidelity is the act of having a romantic or sexual relationship with someone other than one’s husband, wife or partner.

At times, he says, some people cheat as a result of unmet needs from a romantic relationship. He, however, notes that people should always think twice before engaging themselves in an extramarital affair because the cost of infidelity is insurmountable.

“It leads to emotional dysfunctional to the victim such as severe depression and other manic disorders which may arise from such dysfunctional relationships,” he says.

Infidelity is also known to cause divorce hence leading to broken families, according to the counsellor.

Nsoro goes on to highlight that some victims (those who are cheated on) can go to the extent of committing suicide.

Being cheated on is a painful experience that can possess both mental and physical effects, according to Counsellor Shadia Nansasi.

People need to understand that infidelity is one of the most disturbing and destructive experiences that a couple can face. The one who was cheated on can experience a wide range of feelings such as emotional and psychological distress, she highlights.

Victims go on to face anxiety and depression, she adds.

“Others can go to the extent of engaging in risky health behaviours, they tend to eat less or not eat at all or worse resort to certain habits like alcohol use and also engage in unprotected sex,” the counsellor notes.

Annet Uwamahoro, a married woman and a mother as well, says cheating can trigger feelings of betrayal, hurt and a lack of trust.

This she says can cause a lifelong effect on someone and that these can last a long time to the extent that this kind of pain can haunt one with all the other relationships they have.

“When you are cheated on, it is hard to trust again. Even when you move on into a new relationship, you will find it hard to trust your new partner because you think they will do the same and hurt you again,” Uwamahoro says.

Teddy Mugabo says the damage caused by infidelity is irreparable.

He is of the view that people need to understand how painful this experience can be urging them to think twice or even choose to end a relationship other than cheating on a partner. 

“This can shatter one’s self-esteem, you blame yourself for your partner’s mistakes thinking you didn’t do enough to make them happy. But this is not a fair way of treating someone you claim to love,” Mugabo says.

Overcoming the betrayal 

According to Nsoro, though some relationships end in separation, some romantic partners who cheat stay in a relationship even when they are caught cheating, therefore, infidelity can remain an inevitable phenomenal among societies. 

He shares his view noting that this problem can be dealt with at a personal level and that the third party involved in settling the issue should either be a family member friends or elders. 

“Infidelity is still a common problem within societies; I think reconciliation is the best way forward to reach a settlement. Escalating a problem to a professional could be the second option,” the counsellor says.

Relationship expert Anita Yok Sim Ho notes that no one gets married so that they can get a divorce. And definitely no one expects an affair to rock their marriage. So, how does one move on if this happens?

She says you may feel pressure from external forces, like your family, society or even your spouse to stay in the marriage. But only you know if this is possible — for many, the broken bonds and breach of trust are irreparable. Moving on from your marriage won’t be easy, but if it’s the right thing for you, it will be worth the journey. Luckily, there are many ways you can ease the pain and make the process as healthy and productive as possible.

Allow yourself to feel. You cannot heal what you do not recognise consciously. Be aware of your thoughts, bodily sensations, and reactions. This is a time when you may think you’re going crazy with mood swings and harsh self-criticism. Feel and dive into the pain without denial of its presence. It won’t go away if you constantly shove it aside, she advises.

She also notes that it is important to learn to express emotions instead of just talking about them. Deal with the anger constructively, without harming yourself or others. Find a support system with a trusted friend or professional who can give you space to just be with your feelings.

“Realise you always have a choice. Life can seemingly throw stuff at you out of the left field. However, with every circumstance that comes your way, you have a choice in how to deal with the situation. Where there is life, there is always hope and possibilities to come.”

She also counsels victims to forgive. Realise that forgiveness is really more for your benefit than for the other person’s. As the famous saying goes, “Holding onto anger is like drinking the poison and expecting the other to die.”

“Trust the process. Keep going. Every step, no matter how small it is moving you forward. It may not always seem that way, but you’re making positive progress towards a healthier future without infidelity.”

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WHAT'S THE BEST WAY OF DEALING WITH A CHEATING SPOUSE?

Decide whether you want to stay with your partner or if you want to move on. Either way, you need to forgive them because it is the best way of letting go of the pain and anger.

Aidah Kayitesi, Wife

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Dealing with a cheating spouse can be so hard, and building a relationship after this can even be harder. I always think it is best to end a relationship instead of being with someone you can’t trust. 

Roger Seam, Businessman

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I think it is better to talk to your spouse and understand why they cheated in the first place. At times people have reasons they step out of their marriages, however other times they don’t.

Vianney Muhawenimana, Stylist

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If your partner is truly sorry and they promise never to betray you again, I suggest it’s better to give them a second chance and work on building your trust towards them. However, if your partner is disrespectful and doesn’t show any sign of being remorseful; that is a toxic relationship and it is better to move on.

Maureen Katushabe, Businesswoman  

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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