Not all marriages survive an affair. Whether the affair was emotional or sexual, it can be extremely damaging to the relationship. Rebuilding trust is an essential component to overcoming an affair.
Discovering your spouse has cheated can be traumatic. This trauma can make a person very hesitant to ever trust their spouse again. Successfully rebuilding trust requires several important components.
The person who has been unfaithful needs to be honest about the affair. Sadly, people sometimes do more damage to the relationship by lying and trying to cover up things about the affair. When people try to claim “It’s not what it looks like,” or “It only happened once,” when it is untrue, it can be extremely damaging. It is essential that the unfaithful partner tell the truth about the affair, no matter how difficult it is to admit.
The spouse who learns of the affair needs to be honest as well. It is important to acknowledge how the affair was discovered, even if it means saying, “I was looking through your phone.” It is also important to share feelings openly and honestly. Sharing about the pain, the worry, and the sense of betrayal is important.
2. Cooperation from Both Partners
When couples are not successful at recovering from an affair, more times than not, it is because both partners aren’t interested in doing the work necessary to repair the relationship. The person who was unfaithful must be willing to take responsibility for the affair and work on rebuilding the relationship. The other spouse must be willing to try and work through lots of painful feelings.
Working through an affair often requires marriage counseling. If both partners are willing to attend counseling, a professional can assist them in identifying steps necessary to work together on restoring the marriage.
3. Hard Work
Time does not heal the pain from an affair. After an affair sometimes people are in a hurry to just get things back to normal. However, trying to rush through things or trying to pretend things are normal won’t help.
Sometimes people ask, “When will she trust me again.” Rebuilding trust is a process. There is not a set amount of days, weeks, or months that can make someone trust again. Trust needs to be slowly built over time.
Part of this hard work is to ensure that another affair will not happen. This requires exploring how the affair happened in the first place and a willingness to work on making changes so it will not happen again. For some, this may mean changing friends, changing jobs, becoming more committed to the marriage, or identifying new ways to get needs met within the marriage.
The person who was unfaithful must agree to a certain amount of accountability. This can help restore the marriage and rebuild trust. When someone is able to do what they say with small things, such as “I’ll be home in one hour,” it is easier to trust them with bigger things.
Depending on the relationship, part of this accountability may mean allowing a spouse a sort of all access pass into their life. Things that were once private may need to be shared with a spouse.
For example, if an affair started out with a chat room conversation on the internet, it may be important to make internet use transparent. For example, agreeing to only use the internet when their spouse is home or allowing their spouse to see their online activity or check their email regularly.
Seeking Professional Help
It is important not to suffer alone if an affair has occurred. Seek professional help and guidance. A trained couple’s counselor can help you identify strategies to work through issues related to infidelity.
It’s important to note that each couple’s journey to recovering from an affair will be different. No two marriages are exactly alike. So although there are many self-help resources for couples who have experienced an affair, consider getting some individualized treatment.
Sometimes short-term counseling can help ensure you are on the right track with rebuilding trust. Recovering from an affair is similar to healing from a broken bone. If you don’t get the right kind of treatment, it may not heal correctly. When a couple doesn’t successfully work through all of the issues related to the affair trust may not ever be fully restored.
There is certainly hope for couples who have experienced an affair. Many couples report that they were not only able to restore their marriage, but that their marriage is better than before the affair.