Why Infidelity Isn't As Black And White As You May Think

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Rebuilding trust after infidelity can be challenging, sometimes impossible. Many people see cheating as the ultimate betrayal and something they can’t forgive or forget.

In this TED Talk, relationship therapist Esther Perel explains that there are many complexities and layers of infidelity. It isn’t as black and white as you may think.

Here are more highlights from Esther's fascinating TED Talk:

Infidelity is increasing, and it's never been more difficult to keep a secret.

Infidelity is increasing because there are so many ways it can take place. To some people, it isn’t just physical. It can happen over text, on social media, and on dating apps. While it’s never been easier to cheat, it’s also never been more difficult to keep a secret. We live in an era where we’re constantly told to pursue our desires.

If we can so easily divorce now, why do we still have affairs?

Today, we divorce because we think we could be happier. Years ago, divorce was considered shameful. Now, the new shame is staying in a marriage when you’re not 100% happy. We feel judged if we find out our partner has cheated and still love them and want to stay with them.

Esther poses the question: if we can so easily divorce or part ways, why do we still have affairs? If you’re in a "perfect marriage" (assuming there is such a thing!), and have everything you need at home, surely there’s no need to look elsewhere. But what if passion has a finite shelf life? What if there are things that even the most amazing relationship can’t provide?

A vast majority of people Esther treats in her clinic find themselves at a crossroads between their core values and their behavior. One day they might cross a line they never thought they would at the risk of losing everything. When we seek love from someone else, it isn’t always our partner we’re turning away from, but from the person that we've become.

Affairs will continue to happen, but there are many different ways to recover from infidelity.

Depending on whether you cheated or were cheated on by your partner, there are different ways to heal. Sometimes infidelity can motivate people to start anew or redefine themselves as a couple. It can encourage openness and communication. The fear of losing someone for good often rekindles desire and makes way for a beginning.

Affairs will continue to happen. They don’t leave us with simple answers. Esther concludes that while she wouldn’t recommend having an affair, growth and self-discovery are possible whether you choose to makeup or breakup. You can create a whole new marriage or relationship with the same person after an affair, or you can break up and start a new chapter in life.


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