I sometimes hear from folks who are dealing with an infidelity situation that is doubly troubling because both spouses have cheated on one another. This means that there are now two sets of issues to work through and to recover from. And it can make an already volatile situation almost unbearable.
I heard from a wife who said: “my husband cheated on me first. I suppose my own cheating was in retaliation. But, we cheated during the span of about six weeks apart so the pain from the infidelity is very fresh for both of us. We can’t seem to interact without ending up yelling at one another. It’s very difficult for us to be in the same room. It’s sort of weird that we are both so angry because we are both guilty of the exact same thing. I wish we could just agree that since we both made mistakes, then we’ll just start over with a clean slate, but this doesn’t seem to be possible for us. Last night, my husband suggested that maybe one of us should move out so that will be separated. I’m not sure if this is going to be a good idea. On the one hand, we probably do need a break from one another. But on the other hand, I worry that if we separate, our marriage might be over. As angry as I am at him, I don’t think that I want to end my marriage. Is it best to just separate for a while when both people cheated?”
This is a tough question because there are pros and cons to separating when infidelity has made things so volatile. In the following article, I will discuss the pros and cons and I’ll also suggest a compromise.
The Advantages Of Separating After Both People Have Cheated: As the wife suspected, there are a few advantages to living apart after mutual infidelity. The first is that taking a break can help with the volatility. It can allow time for things to calm down so that eventually progress made be made.
Because if all you are doing is yelling at or avoiding one another, it’s unrealistic to think that you’re going to make any progress with your marriage unless something changes. So sometimes, the separation can spark this type of change when both people have the space to calm down. Also, a separation can give you some perspective. And sometimes, it encourages the spouses to miss one another and to see things more clearly so that when they do come together, they are much more cooperative and motivated than they otherwise would have been. However, these things can come with a price or with risks, which I will discuss now.
The Cons Of Separating After Mutual Infidelity: A lot of things can go wrong in this situation. Often, the biggest problem that I see is suspicions running rampant. Since the spouses aren’t with one another all of the time, they worry that their spouse is continuing to see the other person or will tempted to cheat again. This can lead to accusations that only add to the volatility.
Also, there’s a real risk that there will be no regular communication. Having no communication or no ability to check in can also lead to assumptions that aren’t true. Sometimes, one or both of the spouses will assume the worst case scenario so that things continue to deteriorate between the couple.
And if you aren’t actively trying to make things better between you, then you risk that the separation will become the status quo or will even become permanent, which is the opposite of what you want if you deep down want to save your marriage.
A Possible Compromise: I do understand that some couples want nothing less than to live apart for a while. Sometimes, they decide that nothing else will do and they will not be talked out of this. If this is your situation, then I strongly suggest agreeing on regular times to meet and to discuss things. Counseling works wonderfully for this, but I do realize that some are resistant to it. You can always just agree to meet for dinner once a week to try to improve and evaluate things in a calm manner and in an objective place. Because if you don’t, you’re expecting for things to just miraculously improve on their own, which isn’t always likely.
I think that an even better possibility is to agree to give one another space while still living together, even if it is on opposite sides of the house. Someone can always move into a spare bedroom or office. This will hopefully cut down on the tension but will also avoid the suspicions and the wrong assumptions. However, I still advocate making a vow to discuss and to try to improve your situation regularly if you want to save your marriage. And this is true regardless of which of the above scenarios you choose.
So to answer the question posed, separating after mutual infidelity can help with some issues, but it can make others worse. That’s why I’m not sure if it’s the best thing to do in all situations. Instead, I suggest looking for alternatives or at least vowing to be in regular contact if you do chose to separate which hopefully ends up being a short amount of time.