Strictly come dancing couple’s lesson in love
‘It was a mistake. We’re sorry.’ The line trotted out by Strictly ‘cheat’ couple, Seann Walsh and Katya Jones this week is probably the most common for those caught in the act.
Be it a year-long affair, one-night stand or – as in this case – an impassioned alcohol-laced kiss, ‘a mistake’ is the most popular get out of jail card.
Yet the concept of a mistake is so innocuous. Aren’t mistakes meant to be small if not endearing things? A mistake might be tripping over the kerb and looking like a bit of a plonker. It could be spilling tea down a crisply-ironed white shirt or realising you’ve locked yourself out the flat again.
According to the dictionary it’s an ‘act or judgement that is misguided or wrong.’ Crucially, to my mind, it involves little if any premeditation. In lawyer speak, there’s a lack of ‘mens rea’ – no real intention.
Therefore, it is not…spending the evening flirting in a bar and then rounding off the evening with a steamy clinch. It’s not bedding a work colleague while your unsuspecting spouse cooks supper, it’s not taking an axe to someone else’s self-esteem. Or is it?
What we do know is that cheating is hot news. It’s the stuff of soap operas and films. We might judge, but few of us can say we’re entirely clean of duplicitous romantic behaviour, be it a stolen kiss or secret Facebook flirtation.
Our own treachery is best buried. Far easier to join the angry mob rounding on Seann and Katya. How could they? Poor Rebecca Humphries.
Neither, is it healthy to dwell on the times we were romantically betrayed. Far easier to focus on the Strictly pair, who give us the opportunity to vent feelings we’d hurriedly put in the fridge to avoid alarming anyone.
But, the reality is most of us have experienced the impact of cheating at some point in our lives, even if it’s via the harrowing testimonies of parents and friends.
In a nod to topicality, cheating was the topic of last week’s Love Decoded episode. Psychotherapist Lucy Beresford, who hosts the show, believes the most courageous option is to stay after infidelity is discovered. She believes ‘it can revive a relationship that’s gone stale.’
Lucy’s position is the prevalent advice in couples’ counselling where affairs are often seen as ‘opportunities for growth’ rather than murder-inducing acts, providing both partners are willing to work on things.
Yet I personally find myself identifying with the experience of psychologist (and Love Decoded guest) Emma Kenny, whose first husband cheated on her with a close friend. Asked whether a betrayed partner should stay or go her advice was both brave and pragmatic.
“The bigger question was would I genuinely be able to spend the rest of my life not throwing the misdemeanour back at my husband every time the toast got burnt: ‘It’s because you had an affair!’
Emma concluded: “That’s how I would have lived my life. So, I know, realistically for me (it) was going to be too much of a problem.”
For sure, cheating is no trivial matter. It’s is the number one reason for relationship break ups, globally. Yet from a primal perspective we are not wired to cope with the fallout terribly well.
The fallout from betrayal
Upon learning my boyfriend had, at one point in our history, enjoyed a sexual relationship with my friend, my own reactions were unpredictable. Full of anxiety, I found myself crawling off to deep breathe in the work toilets and spontaneously bursting into tears in supermarkets.
But I think I also become a kinder, softer person – at least temporarily. I bought copies of the Big Issue, called my mother lots and found myself welling up over photos of my baby nephew, Ronnie. I also found myself incapacitated by volcanic rage at times, replaying the betrayal as I lay in the bath, in bed and, alas, alone in the early hours of the morning.
To conclude, there is no right or wrong response to cheating and betrayal. For those who have had an affair it probably feels like no amount of apologising will ever get you off the hook. But time will eventually dilute even the most difficult crisis.
For those who have discovered an affair, be very kind to yourself. If you have decided to stay and repair the relationship, I salute you. It’s not for the faint hearted, but can yield surprisingly positive results if handled with care.
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