It’s the big “C” word -- we all talk about and some of us suspect it. “It” is cheating, and military marriages aren’t any more immune than any others.
Experts say a lack of emotional intimacy, affection, appreciation and attention are among the reasons why people cheat. If too many important needs aren’t met over time, a spouse may feel taken advantage of and neglected, they say. For military couples, time apart also plays a role.
“Extended absences from one’s spouse makes fidelity more of a challenge,” said Damian Gennette, a military counselor of 20-years and founder of Tacoma Counseling for Men in Washington State. “Active-duty military service is understandably often a strain on marriages, and long, frequent separations can make it a built-in difficult situation. However, this isn’t justification for cheating. The most important thing to remember is that infidelity doesn’t have to result in divorce.”
But while a cheating spouse may make you feel like your world is crashing down around you, experts say there are ways to repair what is broken and build trust again. And while seeking counseling, which is free to military couples on base or through Military OneSource, is a wise idea, there are some ways you can start to move forward. These are not one-size-fits-all fixes – but they can be a start on the road to repair.
Three steps to working through infidelityAcceptance
According to Gennette in order to move on, you first have to face the facts and not bury or ignore them.
“Military couples can move forward after an affair by simply accepting what happened,” Gennette said. “Accept too that the marriage is now different, stop cheating and move forward.”
Effective communication is important to repairing trust. High-school (me) went in search of THE magic word or secret potion—when really we could have talked to each other.
“Rebuilding trust in military life means finding ways of communicating (at home) and during deployments such as Skype, letters, gifts, phone calls, spending quality time, etc.,” said Gennette.
Honest and open communication means partners are paying attention. It means there’s appreciation and respect, and it shows commitment. Thus, when a TDY or deployment comes along the relationship can more readily withstand the absence. Good communication builds back trust and bridges the gaps.
Everyday secrets to live by when communicating
It really comes down to taking baby steps when thinking of moving forward after infidelity. Some things do have to change—her are some guidelines:
- Put your friendship first—even before your love relationship.
- Genuinely care about your partner as a person before anything else.
- Be honest and say exactly what you mean.
- Address one issue at a time and do not confront your partner with hidden agendas.
- Use “I” instead of “You” statements.
- Practice active listening.
- Make requests and not demands when communicating with your partner.
- Always reply to rather than react to what your spouse is saying.
- Tell him or her about your feelings as soon as you realized them.
- Having realistic expectations.
- Know who you are and who you’re with.
- See therapy—it can help you work through issues and reconnect.