One of the common causes for divorce is infidelity. If it’s sexual, it may or may not involve an emotional connection. A very common encounter, which often becomes an affair, is one that happens with a partner’s close friend. Many friendships have been irreparably damaged in these circumstances. Many professionals have affairs with their secretaries or colleagues, for example. Sometimes the encounter doesn’t have an emotional component, it’s purely sexual, a one night stand or a visit with a prostitute. Of course, infidelity can also include affairs of the heart, which may never be expressed sexually. Whatever the nature of the infidelity, once it’s exposed it typically results in anguish and a extreme hurt.
How then is it possible to be mindful when you find yourself the victim of such circumstances? In other words, you’ve been ‘faithful’ but your partner has strayed.
Since we typically function day-to-day 95% subconsciously (habitually), we are going to respond to this situation in the way we have been programmed. Social, familial and cultural programs will dictate our reaction. Popular culture as expressed through movies, books, television and the internet mostly promote reactions of righteous indignation, getting even, non-forgiveness, a variety of forms of anger, and raging jealousy. Although at the other extreme people have learnt not to ‘bite the hand that feeds them’ and suck it up and do nothing. The result being internalised anger etc. Or the shame of a failed marriage may be too much and you would rather pretend that everything is ok, and just get on with living a lie. There are too many reactions to list them all.
Now, I want to be clear that I will not be giving you advice on what is the right thing to do. What I will be doing is explaining how it’s possible to stay mindful in this situation, which allows the best possible result to self-manifest, while allowing you to maintain your inner-peace and to live your life in a way that is self-loving and that sustains your health and wellbeing.
This is why being mindful is such an important way to manage this. I define mindfulness as having the presence of mind to remember that in any moment you have a choice between doing ‘life’ how you have always done it (resulting in getting what you have always got), or doing it in a way that is both loving to yourself and to others, having first become aware that there are more serving strategies for dealing with things.
It’s this simple, it is almost impossible to be truly mindful if the only way you can relate to what has happened is through your programming. To be mindful there has to be a choice, and as I will shortly explain, through becoming more aware you create the possibility for even having a choice. In fact, reading this blog is about you identifying a choice. It’s you becoming aware that there is another way of relating to infidelity. This then makes it possible for you to be mindful, to remember that there is a choice.
The greatest challenge in all of this is having the faith to believe that just being mindful is sufficient to bring the most beneficial resolution. So many of us have no understanding of the dynamic capacity for mindfulness to heal, to bring resolution while maintaining inner-peace and wellbeing.
Developing new knowledge for how to approach a situation like this is called being more aware. Awareness is having an expanded appreciation about something. This awareness, as previously stated is necessary in order to be truly mindful. This was fundamental to something Jesus taught when he said, ‘If you can see with your eye’s, hear with your ears and understand with your heart…I will heal you.’ He was explaining that if you wanted healing you had to possess the presence of mind to observe with your eyes and ears, but also to do it with a heart of understanding.
So what is a heart of understanding? It’s one without judgement, one where no meaning has been attributed to what has happened. It’s having the presence of mind to see what has happened and immediately respond with an enquiry that goes something like this, ‘What could this person tell me that would help me understand why they are the way they are?’ (And not be tempted to answer it with something like, ‘because they’re a jerk’.)
There is an obvious question one would ask at this point. Why would you want to approach infidelity in this way? Because it results in inner-peace! Inner-peace, like happiness is a choice and not a consequence. Take a moment to consider this, you can choose a path in your response to infidelity that either brings a lot of grief and emotional, mental and physical pain, or you can choose to be peaceful, which maintains stillness, gives clarity and sustains your health and wellbeing.
Of course if there are children involved, the path of inner-peace is the most loving thing you can do for them. Too many times children suffer in these situations when its totally unnecessary. You could almost say that not being mindful is abusive to children.
Most relationships begin with a ‘trade agreement’, mostly an unconscious commitment to meet certain needs for each other. It could look like this. I’ll trade providing a home, a livelihood and fidelity for regular sex, house keeping and you always looking gorgeous. With the passage of time the conditions of the trade agreement are no longer being met, and the person who feels most hard-done-by feels justified in breaking the agreement. In fact they look else where to have those needs met. Typically both parties have contributed to the breakdown in the trade agreement.
In order to be mindful in this situation, you would be wanting to become more aware of what it is that you are responsible for in the breakdown of the trade agreement. To do this, you might seek the assistance of a counsellor. Only when something is authentically observed can it change. Of course when you change, your reality changes. It is from this place that you invite your partner to turn up differently, that being an energetic invitation.
Being more aware of what you own in this breakdown of the trade agreement you are now in a position to be mindful, in other words, remember that you have a choice. On the one hand you can expend your energy (emotion, time and money, which is only stored energy) on justice and retribution for how you’ve been hurt thus producing the stress and pain for yourself and others while doing so. Or you can maintain the awareness of what you owned in the breakdown with the commitment to be self-forgiving, and exploring ways to turn up in relationship without needing a trade agreement. With this alternative you recognise the peace and freedom it could bring.
So literally speaking, to be mindful in this situation you do neither, you stay committed to observing the choices with their associated outcomes. You stay aware that the one option is more serving since it is more self-loving and that the other option is less serving being more destructive. Each time you remember this choice you create and build a new neural pathway for a new approach to relationship. The more mindful you are the more you want to expand your awareness, so you gather more knowledge about how to turn up more whole in a relationship not requiring a trade agreement.
You still haven’t made a choice, you remain committed to being mindful, remembering in each moment that you have a choice. The temptation is to want to go down the path, the neural pathway that everyone else chooses. But you recognise the pain that accompanies that and instead, you find yourself more easily seeing the alternative. As the new neural pathway gets stronger from you being more mindful of it, the old one atrophies and you find yourself entertaining the justice pathway less and less.
By now you are committed to being more self-loving and without effort you naturally begin to act in ways that support your inner peace and wellbeing. In this place you invite someone to turn up in relationship who ‘sees you’ with your clarity of purpose and self worth, who being in a similar position wants to share the journey, actively supporting each other, no longer requiring a trade agreement. That person may or may not be you partner.
Sure, I’ve simplified all of this (this is a blog and not a book), but the principle remains the same – sustainable change is the result of being mindful. In my next blog I’m going to discuss how our personal narrative is responsible for our struggles in relationship.
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