Relationship Fitness

P22 E6: Practicing Empathy When You’ve Cheated

Infidelity is one of the most challenging crises any relationship can face. Its aftermath can shatter trust, wrench hearts, and often, end partnerships. But beyond the act itself lies the potential for healing through empathy. In a profound discussion on the “Relationship Workout for Men” podcast, hosted by Vince Vasquez, Dr. Rivka Edery highlights how empathy is not just a feeling but a transformative action, particularly for those who have breached trust.

The foundation of empathy after cheating starts with genuine understanding and acknowledgment of the pain caused. Dr. Edery emphasizes the importance of the cheater engaging deeply with the emotions stirred by their actions, suggesting an exercise where the cheater visualizes their partner’s pain as if it were their own. This could involve recalling their partner’s emotions on significant days, like their wedding, and contrasting those with feelings evoked by the discovery of infidelity. Such practices do not merely invoke remorse; they pave the way for a deeper relational understanding and sensitivity.

Empathy in this context also requires absolute honesty and transparency. The cheater must come clean about their actions, detailing the onset, progress, and cessation of the affair. This disclosure, while painful, is crucial for rebuilding the foundations of trust. Dr. Edery notes that transparency isn’t just about admitting to the wrongdoing but also about sharing the emotional and cognitive processes that led to the infidelity. Was it a moment of weakness, a lack of satisfaction, or something more profound, rooted in earlier life trauma? Addressing these questions can help prevent future breaches of trust.

The next step in practicing empathy involves active repentance and repair. It’s not enough to simply feel sorry; actions must demonstrate a commitment to change. This might include ending the affair definitively, changing the patterns or environments that enabled the infidelity, and engaging in couples therapy. It also involves regular, ongoing reassurances to the injured partner, showing through actions and words that the betrayal will not recur.

Moreover, understanding the impact of one’s actions extends beyond the relationship to the broader family context, especially if children are involved. Dr. Edery discusses how parental infidelity can affect children’s future ability to trust and form healthy relationships. Thus, the cheater’s efforts to rebuild trust also model responsibility and accountability to younger generations, underscoring the importance of integrity.

However, empathy must be a two-way street. While the onus is on the cheater to make amends, the healing process also requires openness from the partner who was hurt. They must be willing to express their pain, participate in creating new relationship dynamics, and gradually open themselves to forgiveness. This does not excuse the infidelity but acknowledges the complexity of human relationships and the possibility of growth after mistakes.

In conclusion, practicing empathy when you’ve cheated isn’t merely about managing the aftermath of infidelity. It’s about transforming an act of betrayal into an opportunity for deep, meaningful growth both individually and as a couple. This process is challenging and often painful, involving much introspection and change. Yet, through dedicated empathetic actions, trust can be rebuilt, making the relationship stronger and more resilient than ever. As discussed by Dr. Edery and Vince Vasquez, this empathic journey is not just about recovery but about reaching a new level of relational depth and understanding.

Listen to the Episode

Dr. Rivka Edery is a highly respected psychologist deeply committed to advancing mental wellness and guiding individuals through the intricate journey of trauma recovery. With over 15 years of hands-on experience, Dr. Edery is a steadfast beacon of support for those on the path to healing from trauma. Her unwavering dedication to the field of psychology is underscored by her remarkable accomplishments, clinical expertise, and profound philosophical perspective.

Scroll to Top
Powered by

More Fun, Less Drama