Many of us grew up with the statement:
“Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.”
Unfortunately, this is totally untrue. Words can damage loved ones, cause feelings of rejection, and send a message of disrespect.
Furthermore, nobody likes labels. They fall short of honoring the endless nuance of a multi-dimensional person.
Yet, we had to chose some words, with all their limitations, to create the Affair Recovery Roadmap. In doing so, our goal is to be sensitive and promote inclusivity while using language that fits the context of the topic being discussed.
We recognize that a breach of fidelity can be painful in all forms of relationship. It can devastate both a marriage and a committed long-term relationship.
Consider the variety of relationships that exist:
opposite-sex marriages, same-sex and third-gender marriages, cohabitation, monogamy, serial monogamy, polygamy (more than 2 spouses), polygyny (man with 2+ wives), polyandry (woman with 2+ husbands), plural marriage (group marriage)
Marriage license, civil ceremony and registration, common-law marriage, civil unions, marriage of convenience
It is ultimately up to the couple to determine whether an affair has taken place. For some couples, behaviors such as kissing or an emotional affair may not be construed as infidelity. In others, it can feel like a complete betrayal.
Even more complexity exists. For example, participants in open relationships, including unmarried couples and polyamorous families, may consider sanctioned "affairs" as permissible, but when a non-sanctioned affair occurs, it may be described as infidelity.
PARTNER / SPOUSE
With this background, on this website have primarily used the terms "partner" and "spouse" to refer to the individuals in the relationship. We do not wish to prioritize one over the other.
MARRIAGE / RELATIONSHIP / COUPLE / PARTNERSHIP
Also, we use the terms: "marriage", "relationship", "couple" and "partnership" to refer to the group (2 or more) in a relationship. We realize that the term "couple" may not fit all relationships such as those involving three or more committed partners. Similarly, "partnership" may refer to two or more participants.
DESCRIPTION OF ROLES
In books and articles about affairs, it is common to see the following terms used to describe those involved:
- unfaithful, acting out, cheating, wayward partner
- betrayed, hurt, offended partner
In our Roadmap, we have primarily used "unfaithful" and "betrayed" even though we realize that these terms are one dimensional. The partner who was sexually unfaithful may have been faithful in parenting and financial matters. Similarly, the "betrayed" partner may have been unfaithful in other important areas. Nonetheless, since our focus is affair recovery, we believe these terms are the best choice for the purposes of the Affair Recovery Roadmap.
DESCRIPTION OF THE ACT OF BETRAYAL
Another challenge is what to call the act of betrayal. Terms typically used include:
extra-marital or extra-relational affairs, infidelity, tryst, fling, entanglement, romance, hanky-panky, liaison, rendezvous, amour, unfaithfulness, cheating, extra-dyadic involvement, and extra-dyadic sexual involvement
AFFAIR / INFIDELITY
Although each term carries slightly different meaning, we have settled primarily on the terms "affair" and "infidelity". The different types of affairs are reflected on our "types of affairs" page.
A person’s pronouns is part of a person’s identity, just like a name is. In today's world, there are many pronouns to chose from. It’s important that, like a person’s name, we take the time to learn a person’s pronouns rather than making assumptions about how to refer to them in conversation or writing.
Since we can't ask you until we meet you, we have primarily used:
We have tried not to assume a default gender for the betrayed partner or the unfaithful partner. While in therapy, we welcome your direction on the how to best refer to your partner and you.
We know our approach falls short of capturing who you really are. We sincerely apologize in advance for any pain that we have caused by using the wrong terms and promise to do our best to tailor our language to you when we are in therapy with you.
Lastly, if you have suggestions or insights into our language use, please write to us. We always want to expand our understanding and to be sensitive to your needs.