How To Rebuild Trust After An Affair
An affair has been discovered. It could feel like a powerful explosion has just shattered your world.
You and your spouse are in turmoil. There are uncontrollable emotions rocking you.
What do you do?
When trust is broken there is often an overwhelming feeling of betrayal that follows. The feelings of betrayal can come from almost any form of dishonesty or disloyalty of one partner to the other.
Infidelity is generally at the top of the list of egregious behaviors, but lying and hiding important information can also cause trust to fragment.
When an affair has been discovered, the hurt spouse will almost always experience deep feelings of betrayal, despair, regret, anger and confusion. The unfaithful spouse may have feelings of deep remorse and want to attempt reconciliation.
When spouses are willing to take the challenge of rebuilding trust, they need to learn how how to navigate the road ahead.
How Do You Build Trust After Cheating?
Can Trust Really Be Restored?
If a couple is willing to work through this extremely difficult time in their relationship there is a good possibility that trust can be restored.
However, rebuilding it will take time and commitment from both partners.
The unfaithful partner must be willing to work at it in earnest, regardless of what is being asked of them.
The hurt partner needs to manage their emotions such that they are able to sustain themselves during the recovery process.
To rebuild trust after an affair some very important steps should be taken. Both partners need guidance.
Therefore, it is my recommendation that couples seek out the help of a professional who specializes in this type of therapy.
Can A Marriage Stay Together After An Affair?
The statistics suggest that about 75% of couples experiencing infidelity stay together after an affair. The idea that adultery or infidelity will always destroy a marriage is not borne out by those numbers.
However, it is also true that it takes about 2 to 2 ½ years on average for a couple to heal or to get back to a sense of real normalcy once again. That time frame can potentially be accelerated, and the couple helped to gain a better understanding of each other with the proper treatment.
Here Is What The Unfaithful Partner Needs To Do
Apologize In Earnest. It is not sufficient to simply say you are sorry for cheating and breaking the trust. You must also begin to understand the harm and hurt you have caused. You must be able to see this from your partner’s point of view and relate to it with empathy. Unless the apology can be conveyed authentically, your spouse will not believe you know how they’re feeling and that you are trying to understand their pain.
Clarify The WHY. There is always the question as to why something happened. If there has been an affair your partner will probably want to know why you became unfaithful. You will need to explain your behavior, and be willing to take full responsibility for your choices. Don’t be tempted to blame your partner for your behavior. Your relationship and its defects can be explored over time in therapy.
Deliver More Than promised. As the expression goes, under promise and over deliver! To build trust, reconcile and get back in the good graces of your partner you might find yourself promising to do almost anything. You may have good intentions but be unable to deliver.
That is not to say you shouldn’t stretch yourself. However, it is always better to promise only as much as you are sure you can make good on and then make every effort to do more than you promised. The process of rebuilding trust is fragile. You can seriously compound the damage by not delivering on your promises.
After An Affair:
Here Is What The Hurt Spouse Needs To Do
Take Good Care Of Yourself Emotionally And Physically. This may seem obvious but all too often the hurt spouse falls into depression, gets extremely angry or very anxious. Seeking out individual therapy is advised, not only to process the emotional impact, but also to contain the temptation to talk to others who might unwittingly worsen the conflict.
Try To Keep The Affair Private At Least At First. It is only natural to want to talk to friends or family about the affair and expose your spouse. You need support and that may be your support network. However, try being mindful of who you share this with as, if you reconcile, they may not be able to accept your decision.
Keep The Affair From Your Children. It is always a mistake to involve children in the conflicts between spouses, especially if they are young. Infidelity is certainly something to keep from them. They may see that there is conflict between their parents but, explaining the details of that conflict, is not necessary. This is not an easy thing to do when you’re feeling so badly but it is better for their sake.
Refrain From Making Important Decisions. Some spouses, in the heat of the moment, may want to expose the unfaithful partner to everyone or even to immediately ask for a divorce. This would be a mistake. It is better to take a step back and think things through before making a decision that might have long term, untoward consequences.
Refrain From Blaming Yourself. There may be a tendency to blame yourself for the affair your spouse was having. If you have been betrayed, it is not your fault! Ultimately, when you and your partner go to affair recovery counseling your marriage will be discussed and you are likely to discover things about your marriage that need improvement. However, it is not productive to blame yourself.
After An Affair:
Here Is What Both Partners Need To Do.
Be Extremely Patient. All during this process there will likely be a desire from the unfaithful spouse to speed things along and get back to some sense of balance. Patience is supremely important and needs to be understood as such when recovering from an affair. Both partners need to be reminded that it will take time, courage and strength of character for trust to be restored.
Create New Expectations. Partners must now decide if the rules of the relationship need to be changed. Certainly, expectations will change. There will be a need for more accountability. The hurt spouse will need more reassurance that their partner is committed to change. The hurt spouse will also, at some point, need to recognize and even encourage the efforts of the other and begin to move toward better understanding.
Get Specific. Expectations need to be translated into specific behaviors that are acceptable. These agreed upon expectations are promises that you are making to each other. For example, if the hurt partner needs to hear from the other a number of times a day for reassurance, the promise of calling or texting needs to be honored. Being forthcoming and transparent, not withholding and secretive is another aspect of meeting expectations. Keeping your promises and meeting expectations are the building blocks of restoring trust and recovering from infidelity.
Keep An Open Dialogue. Both partners need to feel they can express themselves and speak openly to each other. It may have been poor communication in the first place that contributed, at least in part, to the breakdown of the relationship. Some very emotional and important conversations can occur as a result.
Be Consistent. Changing behavior requires persistence and consistency. The hurt partner has to believe that their spouse is making changes, not just for the short term but for the long haul. It is imperative that there is a strong commitment to change or it will be impossible to break an old pattern and make new behaviors stick.
Have A Strong Commitment And A Positive Attitude Toward Change. Rebuilding trust is obviously not easy. In fact, it is probably one of the hardest things a couple can do. Partners have to suspend their disbelief that things can change and that they will once again be trusting and happy together. This process requires a strong commitment from both partners.
Get Help From A Specialist!
Many couples have tried on their own to work through the often complex issues that an affair frequently brings up. Sometimes they have been able to brush it away or deal with it on a surface level, not wanting to dig too deeply or cause any more upset.
Too often however, important things that are swept under the rug or left unresolved tend to reoccur, causing the couple to fall back into dysfunction.
There are often feelings of resentment, bitterness and hostility that, even if not overt, exist just below the surface and can come out at any time. It is only through a healthy process of recovery that these feelings can be put to rest.
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About the Author
Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He works with couples struggling with powerful issues such as infidelity, careers and intimacy. He also specializes in treating addictions, anger, anxiety, stress, depression and work life balance.