Infidelity and Self-Abandonment
Esther Perel, author of The State of Affairs Rethinking Infidelity says that infidelity usually includes one or more of these elements: “secrecy, sexual alchemy, and emotional involvement.” I would like to add that in the case of my practice, infidelity also requires the element of self-abandonment vs self-honoring.
My role in session is to initially explore with each couple what is behind the connection or disconnect. Many times, connection continues to exist with their partner; yet, what has shifted is the connection with self. And this is where self-abandonment gets activated.
I see couples who would love for me to play the parental figure in these very painful moments, and blame one and save the other. If you have been here, you know what I am talking about. Your desires are valid.
What I offer for all my couples is empathy, space to deal with the loss of the idea of a partner they thought they had, and very importantly — an opportunity to see their partner for who they are, shadows and all. I am aware that the loss of the idea of a partner someone thought they had can mirror the death of a loved one; the pain can be similar.
Recently, I treated a couple with a complex infidelity of many years. Children had been born from the infidelities. The extension of time living different stories eroded the trust and impacted the sense of self for all parties involved. In session, there is the denial that something of such magnitude could be done by someone they thought loved them. There is anger for the others and for self. There is also a stage of looking to fix things — the negotiation.
Here is where we go to back o the drawing board. After mourning the death of a relationship that was, can they see their partners for who they are including their shadows? And if so, would they still want to continue the relationship with practically a new version of who they thought their partner was?
In the case mentioned above, one of the gains after conducting shadow work with both partners was the recognition that both had delved into self-abandonment in different ways. In cases, marriage can be felt as an imposition of societal and cultural norms. The act of going stray from our own values, desires, and dreams can be felt by the inner self as self-abandonment.
So, can there be Love After Infidelity or Love After Self Abandonment? Yes. In short, this occurs when all parties involved begin by rescuing themselves first, loving themselves first, filling their own cup, and from there repair the bond again. It is their choice to stay or leave from is a place of self-abandonment or self-love.