Is it Possible to Rebuild Trust After an Affair?
For many people, the discovery of a spousal affair is the ultimate betrayal. We see many couples in our offices whose relationship has been devastated by an affair. And yet, the betrayal by one does not necessarily decrease the love of either party for the other. Often times both people in the relationship are in great pain and are desperate to fix the pain that was caused. When you still love someone but the trust has been significantly damaged, is it possible to mend the relationship? Can marriages be rebuilt after an affair?
Truly recovering from an affair takes time and a lot of hard work. It can not be rushed and it’s unrealistic to expect the hurt partner to “just move on”. The good news is that in our experience many clients report that their relationship has become even stronger after such a betrayal. This of course is provided the couples take some crucial steps to heal the deep wound that was inflicted. At Solid Foundations Therapy we guide couples through a structured process of healing. Below are four basic guidelines to rebuilding trust after an affair.
Take Responsibility for the Pain Caused by an Affair
Many unfaithful spouses are overcome with guilt and shame. Because of those feelings they urge their partners to put the deed behind them so they can move on and heal. Often times this manifests itself in defensiveness and a down playing of events from the person who cheated. This often makes the spouse who was cheated on feel isolated and at times like they are going crazy. Trying to move on too fast is oftentimes a mistake that creates more damage.
The offender must truly take responsibility and “bear witness” to the pain they have caused rather than defend or deflect their actions. The person who was cheated on must feel like their partner fully understands the pain that was caused before they can start to forgive. This step is vital before the couple can begin the healing process.
Avoid Cheap Forgiveness
Sometimes, in an effort to save a marriage, the wronged partner quickly forgives the cheater before he or she has had a full chance to feel their anger and hurt. We call this “cheap forgiveness” and “false letting go”.
While we often encourage couples to forgive each other on all sorts of topics in their relationship, cheating is not one we can casually move on from. Our brain won’t let us forget. The hurt and anger infiltrate every area of our relationship and often “leaks out” in other situations. Additionally, it is imperative for the person who cheated to understand why they did what they did so that there aren’t future incidents of cheating.
There are some situations where, even when only one person has strayed, both parties share guilt. While, we believe that there is never a good reason to cheat in your relationship we oftentimes find that certain events in the relationship lead it to be vulnerable to an affair.
The unfaithful person has to take responsibility, own up to their guilt, and allow their partner to be heard and understand how they allowed themselves to cheat. The person who was cheated on needs to be open understanding their role in making the relationship vulnerable to an affair. What led to feelings of emotional distance and isolation? How did the couple grow apart? What needs were not being met on a regular basis.
Once full responsibility is taken and grieving has happened, it is now time for both parties to “let it go” and begin coming back together. A couple has no chance of rebuilding trust if the wronged partner is going to hold onto the resentment and use it against their spouse in future situations.
Be patient with yourself and your partner, rebuilding trust after an affair takes time. Each couple is different. While some may feel closure after six months, others may need a year or year and a half to fully come together. Some couples may find they need the guidance of a therapist to move through their issues. But the important thing is that both parties remain committed and do the work.
If you or a loved one is interested in getting help to heal from an affair, please contact us today. We would be happy to speak with you about how we may be able to help.