Q. You confronted your boyfriend and he admitted that it happen. He explained that he was so drunk at that time, and the girl, who happens to be a friend of his friend, is flirting on him. How should you as a person in a relationship react with this? Would you give him a chance or what?
A. There are two main things to consider in such situations: the fact that he says he was so drunk as to have a one night stand without thinking too much about it in the first place, and the fact that he also did that, which betrayed your trust.
If I took his word for it that he was too drunk to control his behaviour, then I would have to ask myself if I wanted to continue to live with a drinker who could easily lose control on occasions and shag anything in sight. I would need to ask whether that will be a repeat occurrence every time he drinks, as he is blaming it on the drink, and whether I could trust him again to drink without repeating his actions. Those would be very real concerns for me because we are all responsible for our actions. No matter what state we are in, self control indicates that we are thinking, feeling human beings who know how to act in the company of others. If he is saying that being drunk leads to that kind of behaviour, what is he saying about himself and the future?
Second, if he thinks nothing of sleeping with someone else, though he is dating you, would he have been happy if you did that too? Does he expect you to accept it and carry on as normal when trust is the essence of any relationship?
Only you know how you can treat him after that folly, depending on how much he and the relationship mean to you. But I think once the indignation is out of the way, the first question to ask your fellow is what attracted him to that woman in the first place. When people start to stray it is a sure sign that something is missing from the relationship. Partners can feel mad and angry at a betrayal, but if they ignore its underlying causes, it is likely to repeat itself. You have been going four years. Are things taken for granted? Is there an element of boredom creeping in? Is the attraction between you wearing off? Does he not feel affirmed and valued enough? Why he is drinking so much? Could it be that it is simply time for you both to seek new pastures?
Time for some self reflection and examination here because once attraction goes between two people, it does not return, neither can it be manufactured. Things just gradually get worse. My guess is that the one night stand is a symptom of something deeper. Perhaps it is time to begin the communication to see how you can save the relationship, or to simply call it a day. But if you do decide to stick with him, then you have to really forgive hi for it to work, and not keep reminding him of it. Of course, if it is repeated, you then have your answer about your future.
A relationship in trouble is often not addressed by the two people involved perhaps because they prefer to be in denial about it, or they might feel something is wrong but are not quite sure what it is. They might also fear the consequences of what could happen if they actually face those problems early on and so choose to do nothing, and things merely get worse. But the signs that a relationship is in trouble are always there, revealing themselves in the shape of five main factors.
1. The couple has long since taken each other for granted. Acts of loving and giving are likely to have faded leaving very little in their place except needy companionship. Both parties might feel resentful of the situation, but they probably only complain, or are silent about it, or take it out on each other in mean little acts of disrespect. But the emphasis here is on a loss of mutual respect as they lose the capacity to appreciate each other. They gradually become two strangers living in the same house through expediency and familiarity and because of the neglectful way they come to treat each other.
2. Communication lessens. People tend not to communicate when a relationship is hitting the buffers because communication is often used as criticism instead of reinforcement. They find it hard to express what is really affecting them and so certain subject areas become taboo and they often seek friends or others outside the relationship to confide in instead. Conversation soon becomes mechanical, predictable and functional, because the joy of communicating has gone and real communication, which would reveal true feelings, or expose resentment and anger, is avoided as often as possible.
3. Shared activities begin to decrease. In troubled relationships, people often retreat into their own world because there is little joy in doing things together. The attraction would have gone entirely, or dramatically lessened, and with it would go the desire to do anything with that person because of the negative feelings which are developing between them. This is a time when a spouse might take up going to the pub/club a lot and leaving the wife on her own, or she might wish to be with friends at every opportunity, having lost the desire to even share a holiday with her spouse. They gradually prefer to do things by themselves. Altogether, they begin to become single people in their actions without even realising it.
4. Sex gradually becomes non-existent or perfunctory. Often sex might be the only thing connecting the couple still, as the genuine love, care and attention, would be on the slide. But soon the sex will disappear too, with one or both parties beginning to feel lonely, rejected and unwanted, regardless of what the other might do or say. Often it is the physical side of the relationship which reveals the problems first. People who are feeling resentful of each other seldom wish to even embrace or affirm each other, because the increasing resentment would be too much, and so there is a lot of loneliness where people should be feeling appreciated and loved.
5. Emotional connection is eroded. Attraction, affection, affirmation and reinforcement all drive the emotional connections in couples. When a relationships starts to go downhill, emotions are usually high but in a negative way, because the couple begins the switching-off process from each other in a resentful manner. Their emotions are disturbed, having turned from positive to negative. It is difficult to affirm or reinforce partners who have little attraction for us, or who do not validate us in turn. Gradually the affection between couples goes too because of the low emotional connection between them.
Relationships have to be worked at from the first day in order to be successful, but many people mistakenly believe that once they set up home with someone, that's it. They've got them in the bag, their work is done; no more need to impress and nothing more to do to keep their partner. That is sad because the less we put into any relationship, like everything else in life, the less we will actually receive in return and we ultimately lose what we value through neglect.
This is a difficult situation to be in: to witness something you believe is wrong, yet are not quite sure what to do about it.
On the face of it, the obvious answer is to do nothing. After all, that person's life is their own and no matter how close you both are in friendship, they have to make the standards and decisions for themselves. You cannot police their behaviour or judge them harshly for it. That is not the role of a true friend.
A good friend would have a quiet chat, be honest about how you feel regarding what is happening, and then leave it there. It is not your place to report that kind of behaviour to anyone else. Everyone has to experience life for themselves, especially when it comes to relationships. The only people who should be taking action are the two people involved because one never knows what is happening behind the scenes.
For example, your friend could be cheating to attract the attention of his/her partner, especially if they feel they might have been taken for granted or things are not going as they wanted. Difficult for people outside to get the measure of the true situation. So have a friendly chat and wish them well. Most important, be there for them later on if things don't go quite right. That is the best and most supportive thing you can do.
If it gets too much for you to deal with, because of your own values, the best thing to do is to find another friend. But doing anything else might well backfire on you and won't help the situation either.
According to a recent survey in the UK, more than 55% of people are unfaithful to their partners. The rise of the mobile phone, Internet dating sites/chat rooms and greater work freedom for both men and women, ensure that it is far easier to have an affair, or start a new relationship with someone, without current partners knowing about it.
It is also very easy to get indignant when our partner strays, to condemn them in vitriolic terms and accuse them of being 'bastards' 'whores' or 'terrible cheats'. But sometimes getting self-righteously angry, without acknowledging one's part in the process, simply delays the inevitable: the final break-down of the relationship.
There are many reasons why partners cheat, each specific to that relationship, but four main ones seem to cause the most damage: 1. Loss of Attraction and Communication 2. Lack of Gratitude and Appreciation 3. Lack of Affirmation and 4. Loss of Significance and Value. No matter why the partner finds someone else attractive, that infidelity will be tied to at least one of those major causes.
1. Loss of Attraction and Communication
Often, partners change in unexpected ways, like physically getting bigger in size, or getting more mean and selfish in their actions, which were not there at the beginning. That might cause attraction to wane because it is then tempting to compare others to our partners and find them wanting. In those situations, we tend to find it hard to express our feelings as we are not quite sure what to say.
Nothing tangible has caused the discomfort and unhappiness with our partners, but it is there like a bad smell, constantly making us unhappy. We cannot make someone find us appealing if they don't. So the only certain thing with this reason is that, once attraction goes, communication quickly follows and the relationship is doomed. It is likely to disintegrate gradually or continue in a very unhappy and resentful way after that.
2. Lack of Gratitude and Appreciation
There are many relationships in which one party might withhold praise, expressions of love or verbal thanks. BAD MISTAKE! Never assume the other partner should 'know' how you feel. We all want to hear it, see it and be the physical recipients of any appreciation. If we have to wonder about that gratitude or value, the rot has already started to set in. Sometimes gratitude is perceived to be missing because of how we express such thanks.
For example, one party might love to give gifts like flowers, chocolates, clothes, etc., because they believe giving gifts show their love. But the other party might just want to be hugged or TOLD they are wonderful. They do not wish for gifts. Just having the presence and ATTENTION of their partner regularly is thanks enough, and that's their way of showing of love. In this mismatch of expectation, the parties are hardly likely to please each other unless they discuss their needs!
3. Lack of Affirmation
Unfaithfulness occurs in relationships for a variety of reasons, depending on the individuals involved. However, there are some key triggers for such behaviour which always include the following.
1. Lack of Value: People who feel insignificant, unappreciated and low in value will seek the remedy to that elsewhere. We all desire a feeling of being wanted, or to belong. When that is absent, some people believe that the answer is to find someone else outside the home who will affirm them and make them feel good about themselves. Initially, the heady feeling of romance, or having new attention, will temporarily resolve the issue. But once reality sets in, or the new liaison is discovered, it merely makes the unfaithful person feel worse and cements the original negative feelings about them.
2. Unhappiness and Disappointment: This situation is primarily caused by unfulfilled expectations, especially around affection and sex, the true killers of relationships. People set up home with differing, and often unrealistic, expectations of what should happen between them. When these are not fulfilled, disappointment and resentment gradually creep in, which change the personal perception from positive to negative. It is easy to become unhappy in such a situation, especially if the couple hasn't learnt to communicate freely with one another. Many partners suffer in silence until they feel they have no option but to seek solace elsewhere.
3. Unable to Express Feelings: For many men and women, it is not so easy to express themselves, their desires or their needs. They tend to be afraid of what the other partner might think, or how their complaint might be interpreted. They stay silent and put up with things which make them increasingly unhappy, or until they cannot take it any more, and then they act. Communication is the key to a great relationship but often people are afraid of hearing things which might affect their ego or for which they have no solutions, especially in relationships where there is a lack of respect. Often one partner's controlling manner, or reluctance to talk/listen, keeps anything from being addressed or resolved. Some people deal with that by pretending it is all the other person's fault then go outside the relationship to be unfaithful themselves.
4. Inability to Commit: Many couples make vows but find them difficult to keep, perhaps because of failed expectations, their own feelings of low esteem and insecurity, their desire to be affirmed and wanted and, most important, their desire for perfection in their partners which leads to disappointment. Some people find committing truly to just one other person difficult because of their own hurt or trauma in the past. No matter how great their partner might be, it is never enough to keep them in the home because they have a different need for approval, or a fear of total commitment, which cannot me met by their spouse. They will always stray because that is how they get their reinforcement as someone of value, especially as a lover.
5. Finally, unfaithfulness is often governed by perception, as the betrayer is likely to feel they are not doing anything wrong. In their eyes their action was merely a response to something they could not control at home. They are likely to convince themselves that they were forced to do it because of the unreasonable behaviour of their partner, which tends to lessen the guilt they might feel and also provides justification for their actions outside.
I posted an article: Should Cheating Spouses Be Forgiven? with a poll and the avalanche of outpouring emotions on it set my mind exploring the subject further. It is clear that a lot of people have been affected by cheating in one way or another. Cheating has left much heartbreak in its wake, lots of bewilderment and incomprehension and, of course, an awful lot of resentment and bitterness. But if we stop focusing on the actual act of cheating and look to the main reasons behind it, it would make better sense to us and make us more aware of how we could stem it.
Forget everything else in a relationship: the vows, the commitment, the love, etc.. There are two stark reasons why people cheat on every single occasion and one of them is like the invisible time bomb waiting to happen.
1. Human beings do not stand still, otherwise we would not develop emotionally or physically. We all evolve from one position in our lives to another. Evolution is inevitable, but also invisible, so it is seldom noticed.
2. Humans desire ATTENTION, SIGNIFICANCE and VALUE; someone to make them feel like a king or queen, which they are NOT getting at home, for whatever reason.
First, very few couples take human evolution into account when they take vows or settle down together. They believe that the person making the vows will be able to keep them forever because they will be the SAME person 10 or 20 years down the line. But nothing could be further from the truth. If we did not change, we would be the same person at 45 as we are at 25 with the same looks, aspirations and behaviour. If we were also meant to behave at 50 the way we were at 30, we would remain stuck in our tracks in a time warp. Natural evolution ensures that we are always growing, always thinking new thoughts to aid our development and realise our potential and ALWAYS experimenting to feed a need within us for continuous change and growth. It means that if our partner has not evolved in the same way, if he/she has not kept up with us so that we can relate to them comfortably and lovingly, we will look elsewhere for that affirmation of our new status and new meeting of minds, no natter what vows were made on the big day!
Scientists have proven that our bodies change physically in their cells every 11 months. It means that we are a new person almost every year! Five or 10 years of change would result in almost two strangers living together, especially if the mindsets no longer align with each other. The real wonder is that far more people don't cheat, but many couples choose to live lives of quiet desperation, sexless and loveless, resigned to their increasingly emotionally arid state, rather than to rock the boat or start again. In this way which is dominated by fear they are tied to age-old vows which have long lost their meaning and relevance. The people who took them then would be behaving very differently from when the vows were taken, yet still expect solid adherence to them. Hence when the cheating happens it normally comes as a shock because one partner is likely to be more in the past than in the present.
The need for Attention
In these days of breaking relationships, perhaps we need a new approach to commitment to take account of our evolving process. Vows that only last three years and are renewed frequently might be a good idea. That would concentrate the mind wonderfully, because both parties would probably make a bigger effort to appreciate and value each other, especially if one fears that the other might not renew at the end of the three years!
We can call cheaters cowards, lacking in integrity, spineless, or whatever we like. It won't remove the underlying REASONS why people cheat, neither will it stop the cheating either until people take a good, hard look at their relationships regularly, stop the blaming and treat each other with the attention, appreciation and value they both secretly desire.
By the way, 78 people took the poll on the last article so far and, at either extreme, 32% of voters (22 people) said they would never forgive while 22% (15) said they would forgive over and over: "as many times as I feel they deserve". Both extremes are inappropriate in a relationship. One stance is too inflexible, given our evolution, and the other is too accepting, which denotes low self esteem and a desire to please at any emotional cost. Life is full of grey areas and twists and turns, therefore being firm but flexible in one's actions and intentions is always the best way to be.
Only once. If you keep forgiving that person, respect for you will gradually go as they repeat the betrayal for good measure. You then become a 'soft touch' or doormat while the person pleases him/herself.
The reason why cheating spouses deserve forgiveness at least once is because no one leaves a fulfilling and satisfactory relationship to seek happiness elsewhere. Something is missing from that home, more likely communication, sex, attention, appreciation, affection or simply being heard. Often wives do not want to address the issue, pretending there isn't a problem and the man is simply being unreasonable. Instead, they are likely to put all the blame, hurt or pain squarely on the the cheating partners while continuing in the same vein. Of course, nothing gets any better while the resentment and mistrust get worse.
The problem with many relationships is that women tend to cope differently with problems than men. Most women would prefer to discuss it or sulk etc., until it is sorted or addressed. Many men genuinely believe that if they are unhappy, they should bear it quietly or seek solace outside. In that way 'no one gets hurt', especially as they believe they won't be found out. Except, of course, that they are found out in many instances and then things get even worse. The simple reason is that any kind of remedial action we take makes us feel better and act differently, which then makes it easier to detect!
Everyone is entitled to one mistake or negative action. However, repeated behaviour by one party which clearly hurts the other, means there is a basic lack of respect for the spouse. Forgiving an act which is hurtful only to have it repeated clearly demonstrates that the situation will never get any better, that the person prefers to apologise than to change behaviour. Most important, we never get change by trying to change others. Change comes only from changing ourselves!
That's why once is clearly enough. If a person is truly penitent, and their needs are also addressed, instead of the situation being glossed over or ignored, they won't repeat their actions again. As to forgiveness itself, one should forgive every time simply because we free ourselves too with the act of forgiving. But NOT continually in the same situation, otherwise forgiveness gradually takes the place of addressing the misdemeanor which will merely be repeated. The best thing to do is to leave him/her because constant betrayal also makes the wronged spouse feel rejected, inadequate, low in self-esteem, neglected and unloved...and that's not a very nice or uplifting feeling to live with on a daily basis.
UPDATE This article generated so much emotion and discussion, I have written a follow up one which could be of value. Two main things bbout Cheating that couples do not take into account
For most men, sustaining a dream of being rich, successful and untouchable is a natural part of their life, especially from their teenage years. They spend many years trying to climb the greasy pole of success, to make it right to the top, to be the ultimate powerhouse in charge. During that time, everything takes second place to that career. Wives/girlfriends, in particular, become attractive trophies to aid that ambitious journey, or they are the power behind the throne, encouraging their men to great heights while keeping well out of the way. The men often don't mind if the affection is reduced, or the sex is non-existent because work becomes its own substitute, a kind of aphrodisiac that leads them to to the ultimate pinnacle of achievement. Nothing is too good to sacrifice on the altar of ambition, especially in their mid-30s and 40s.
Then they reach where they want to go (late-40s or early 50s), they taste power in all its untrammelled glory, but their youth is no longer there, certain things are sagging and greying, and a huge kind of disillusion takes place. They also realise just how lonely a position it is being at the top, on all fronts. What next? Is this all there is to life, they might wonder. Of course, by this time, many of them have lost their marriages in all but name. The neglect and the ambition would have taken their toll on the partners and relationships are now largely empty and superficial. Loneliness, on both sides is the order of the day, but the material rewards are great and so the couple now stay together to enjoy it while slowly dying inside of them. Except, of course, that the man is now powerful enough to do something about it, to have his cake and eat it, without rocking the boat at home.
In essence, powerful men like Bill Clinton, John Ensign, Mark Sanford and Elliot Spitzer (John Major and John Prescott in Britain) cheat because they come to see it almost as a right. Having the power to do almost everything else, they extend it to affairs. They also have the means and the opportunity to have those liaisons.
Moreover that power is like an aphrodisiac to women too, usually younger women who want that help up the ladder. They need the association to feel like 'somebody', to be desired and wanted and to get their own kind of success. Hence why so many powerful men get involved. They are lonely, they are needy but they are not like ordinary guys out there. The feeling of being able to have virtually any woman, because of who they are, is often too difficult to resist, while the women crave the kudos, significance and benefits that can be had from such a friendship.
The plain fact of men caught in this situation is that the very power and control they gradually acquire soon reveal how unfulfilling their home relationship is, how little they have if they don't have love, especially if the couple has been together a long time and work has been a substitute for affection. Gradually that power person realises that they do need something else in their life and not just work as wives appear boring and sexless. Come the day when desire meets opportunity, the rest is inevitable. That's why there will always be men like this because they hardly ever learn from life!
If we have a look at men who have been wronged, especially those who caught their spouses in an act of betrayal, we come to the heart of what personal perception is all about. Men who have been betrayed tend to have a singular "victim" viewpoint of what happened. They continually blame the spouse (and later all women) without wanting to really find out why the partner might have behaved in that way.
They would never admit that they might be boring whingers, who are also lousy with sex or emotion, because what one lacks one tends to seek elsewhere. They are likely to cite what a wonderful husband they were, who worked all hours in the day to keep their home intact while the hussy of a wife was disloyal!
But homemaking, and nest-building, no matter how good and luxurious, is just one aspect of a relationship. The physical, emotional and intellectual sides are all important to keep that union intact. Often it is sheer boredom, neglect and a lack of love, attention and affection why any partner strays.
As Carl Jung says, "To be appreciated is one of the strongest basic human needs." When a person is not valued, or perceives herself to be unappreciated, no matter how worthy the partner is, trouble is not far behind.
Differing Gender Perceptions
So long as men believe that to be a good husband is to provide for material needs - to look after hearth, home and family - while women expect emotional and physical bonding, there will be a conflict of perception between the sexes and they will always be at loggerheads about what it means to value each other, especially when women can look after themselves these modern days!
My ex-husband is a wonderful homemaker. A very caring man whom I could not fault in putting his children and home first. But, as his attention and affection gradually lessened, I perceived myself to be less valued in the home, eventually feeling unwanted, unloved and unattractive. In time, feeling very lonely and low in self-esteem, I began to look outwards for that emotional attention I craved. He could not understand that. He thought I should be very happy with what I had, like "having a roof" over my head and the fact that that he "cared" for me a lot, as he used to say. I used to reply that I wasn't an "invalid" to be "cared for", that I wanted to be loved (as he rarely said he loved me) and I did not marry a house, I married a love partner. His increasing lack of attention and affection, and constant flirting with other women, especially when I had eyes only for him, gradually helped to destroyed the relationship.
His perception of all my genuine actions was entirely negative while my perception of how I should treat him was more positive. We could never achieve anything together unless those perceptions aligned with one another in a more acceptable and agreeable way and that was not going to be possible, in view of the resentment on both sides. Small wonder I began to look outwards for affirmation, which only confirmed his worst perception and expectation of me.
Brizendine observes that the brains of male and female foetuses both look the same, up until eight weeks old, when the male brain is then "flooded with testosterone" which kills off the cells relating to communication and helps to grow cells relating to sex and aggression. Not surprisingly, communication is closely allied to emotion; the need for close contact, bonding, speaking and experiencing anxiety. With women getting the lion's share of that, it is small wonder that what they expect from a relationship, and what they perceive in a betrayal will be different from that of men.
Next time you expect your partner or lover to act like you do, and they are not same sex, stop and think for a minute as to the logic of this happening when different brains, attributes, hormones and ways of seeing the world are already in play!
Yes, you can forget betrayal, but the time it takes depends on a number of factors, especially the love we feel for that person, and our desire for genuine reconciliation. If the love is deep and reciprocal, then any betrayal is devastating and the time it takes to forget it will be very long.
However, if the feelings aren't really there, or we take the partner for granted, infidelity might hurt but it is not as painful, though the sense of rejection and inadequacy will still be strong. At times like these, it is mainly one's ego which has been damaged and so the pain is soon healed. Where there is a lot of trust and love, it is far more difficult to forget infidelity because one's trust has been betrayed. It will take a while to forget the deed, but it does go in the end, if one lets it.
Purely for our benefit, we have to learn to forgive and forget. If we keep thinking about it, rehashing it, dwelling on it, then we haven't forgiven that person. We have merely used words to make ourself feel better. When we truly forgive, we don't even want to think about the event any more because we wish to move away from its cruel reminder. We will also accept that everything good or bad helped to make us what we are.
Being Liberated When I left my home, I blamed my ex for everything that had happened. I felt very hurt, angry and vengeful. A couple years down the line, after much reflection and self education, I totally forgave him and just wanted to be friends with him. Whatever happened between us has receded well into the background. I no longer feel the need to even mention the negatives because being positive, healthy and forward looking is more important to me than going back there reliving things I cannot change. It really is a fantastic liberating feeling.
So, rather than living in constant reminder of betrayal, we should give thanks for coming through it and being even stronger for it. We should learn from it and be ready for the next stage of our life. Hanging back in the past robs us of a present and a future and, while any hurt is painful, if we do not forgive and forget it, we will be affected by it for as long as we allow it.
How often do we see requests for friendship, or for lovers, in various advertisements, with the added desire that 'no one should get hurt'. This mainly applies to men seeking temporary solace from their negative home situations who either lack the courage to address their problems and face the issues squarely, or wish to have their cake and eat it. In their eyes, they are free to do what they can to remedy their situation 'as long as no one gets hurt'.
Often, people seek eternal liaisons with the misplaced belief that breaking up the union would harm everyone, except themselves, it seems, and they have to protect that by pleasing themselves instead. After all, they are the only ones who benefit from such a situation. But ignoring problems at home, which is the most important part of our lives, only makes the quality of our existence much worse. The answer to our problems is never outside. We merely take our needs elsewhere instead of seeing how it could be addressed internally through discussion, compromise and change.
The main problem with this approach is that, the minute the affair begins, the hurt is already there through the absence of trust and the deliberate betrayal of the other party. The lovers might not ever be found out, but the feelings we have for another do affect what is going on at home for that particular time. We either become more detached from our partners, less appreciative and less caring, or we become more affectionate to compensate for the guilt associated with our outside activities. As soon as this new attention stops, there are also likely to be changes inside the home, and often for the worse, so that we continue to seek outside gratification to compensate, or the relationship deteriorates altogether.
Worse still, relationships seldom recover from external affairs which are discovered because trust is essentially destroyed. This leads to insecurity, resentment and continuous feelings of being unappealing and rejected by the offended party, along with a lot of guilt and negative feelings by the offender. The couple will limp along with the open secret between them, especially where one party is passive and accepts the situation, with or without conditions. But the offender will seldom change, unless he/she stands to lose a lot. This guarantees a repetition along with a gradual decline in the quality of the interaction and the feelings between them.
Once someone embarks on an affair, everyone gets hurt, even if it is not found out, because the quality of both the relationship and the feelings of the parties involved is affected, usually negatively. It keeps the party at home feeling neglected and unwanted, the one in the affair feeling guilty and the external party either feeling used in the end or with raised expectations of something more. Worse still, it never resolves the real issues and, if anything, is most likely to lead to the relationship disintegrating altogether.
Often one hears men, particularly celebrities or those in the public eye (British Prime Minister John Major and his mistress Edwina Currie come to mind), when their affairs are outed, bemoaning what a mistake it was (always the men, for this one!) and how mad they must have been to have that affair. But that is such nonsense, when taken with hindsight, as well as being most derogatory and insulting to the women involved. It is a futile exercise comparing feelings across time.
No one ever makes a mistake in their choice of partners. Our choices are dictated by that essential moment in time, the way we felt then, even if they are not appropriate now. Regardless of the options we had before us, that final choice was the only one we felt capable of accepting at that single moment, for whatever reason.
We are constantly seeking happiness through personal reinforcement, affirmation, significance and value because our overriding need in life is to be accepted and wanted. Our parents and partners usually provide that for us. When it is missing through a lack of attraction, being taken for granted, being ignored or simply falling out of love, we seek it elsewhere. Our actions are always dictated by one primary factor the way we FEEL at that moment in time.
Feelings and emotions control us, even when we are being detached, and that is why, no matter how upright and conservative we are in actions, alcohol releases our inhibitions and the feelings we try to suppress. If we are feeling down, isolated, unloved and excluded we are likely to behave in an entirely different manner, more negative and selfish, than if we feel wanted, uplifted, loved and appreciated. Therefore apologising for behaving badly is pointless because that represents the negative side of our character. We cannot apologise for who we are. The best thing is to learn from it and move on. Otherwise apologies and regrets become substitutes for the continuing bad behaviour. In effect, we can always apologise, which then makes it right!
No affair is ever a mistake because it was the choice of that moment to improve our feelings, whatever they were at the time. What happened then might not be the right thing for now, three or five years on, when times and feelings have progressed, but the decision we make at any point regarding the involvement of others is always the appropriate one for that precise moment because of our evolution. If we could have behaved differently then, we most certainly would have done so, and that is a point worth stressing. Very few people act without reason or need. Regret comes only when our mood and situation have changed, or we lost something valuable in the process, then we use hindsight, and the mood and experience of today, to judge the inadequacy, immaturity or momentary madness of yesterday.
Learning from the Situation Most importantly, the consequences of the choices we make, whether positive or negative, help to shape our individual development and experience. It is thus pointless living in a land of regret, beating ourselves over the head because of unplanned detours we made in our lives. We cannot make excuses for past action we cannot change, because the very act of behaving in that manner will have actually influenced and shaped the person we have become.
Furthermore, that relationship was probably necessary to get the two parties involved through a difficult period of their life; to reinforce them as valued people and to clarify the issues around them. Having benefited from it and moved on, the relationship cannot then be viewed as a mistake! It was a crucial part of defining the people involved, the situation they were in, the pressing needs they had and where they both wanted to go. If they are not too happy with the outcome, the best they can do is to learn from it and avoid a repetition, but it will still have added to, or even changed, their perspectives on life for the better. The least they would have learned is that an affair is never the answer to resolving a problematic relationship.
No experience in our life is ever wasted and every direction we take is part of our natural development. If you steal as a child because of a dare with friends, or it was easy to do, it is pointless berating yourself for that act 20 years later when you are more mature and knowledgeable about life and when those acts of deviance with your peers helped to reinforce you then and make you into the character you are now. Regrets do nothing but diminsh our esteem and induce self-doubt. However, acknowledging those actions as stages in our evolution and development, and using them as learning tools to improve the quality of our life and interaction with others, will make the biggest difference to our journey.