Infidelity is one of the most difficult trials a relationship can face. When a partner discovers a breach of trust, the level of hurt, anger, shock, disbelief, and fear can be devastating and can often feel irremediable. Infidelity rocks the very foundation of a committed relationship.
In our extensive work in relationship therapy, my husband and I have helped many couples recover from infidelity and build a stronger relationship than ever before. It is possible, but it’s never easy. It takes dedication, patience, and hard work. It is not always the right choice.
However, for most couples, infidelity is a symptom of a problem within the relationship. While we would never wish an affair on any couple, if addressed appropriately, the personal and relational growth is well worth the effort.
While recovering from infidelity is a more complicated and in-depth topic than any single article can address, these are the basics of the recovery process. Perhaps they’ll help you determine whether or not your own relationship can recover from a breach of trust, or identify another issue that could use some attention. Remember, whatever the issue you and your partner are trying to resolve, these tenets can be applied to any struggle in your relationship.
Step 1: Recommit to the relationship.
Both partners must recommit to the relationship. If the affair is current, there must be a commitment to immediately stop it and to end all communication with the “other” person.
A clear communication to the other person should include that the involved partner will no longer have any communication with him or her and that the couple is focusing on this primary relationship. If the other person is in a group of mutual friends or a co-worker, a serious discussion on how to shift contact with them needs to occur. The involved partner must also commit to not going down the road of infidelity again.
The betrayed partner must also recommit to the relationship. Due to the emotional intensity, the betrayed partner often contemplates leaving the relationship. In order to work through an infidelity, the commitment to heal must come from both partners.
Step 2: Get professional help.
Seek professional help with a skilled licensed therapist or master relationship coach who has had experience in assisting couples with healing from infidelity.
Healing from infidelity is a complicated process, and having a skilled professional help you through it is vital. Ideally, both partners will seek individual therapy or coaching to help each person work through their individual issues and emotions.
For the person who engaged in infidelity, it is vital to look at why you made the choices you did, so you can address change with self-awareness. For the betrayed partner, the emotional charge can be overwhelming; having a safe place to express and process these emotions is vital.
Step 3: Agree to full transparency.
It is important that each partner commit to full transparency in order to reestablish and mend the broken trust.
The partner who engaged in the infidelity must accept that every text, phone call, email, Facebook friend, etc., will likely be under suspicion by your partner for a long while. It will go a long way in establishing trust if you are open and transparent about all communications without being defensive.
The betrayed partner must be fully transparent with the inevitable emotional triggers that will occur without blaming. Telling your partner, “I’m feeling insecure or upset about the way I saw you speaking to the woman at the gym. Will you please reassure me?” is entirely different from, “How could you even think of talking to another woman again, and right in front of me! How dare you!”
Step 4: Practice patience.
Recovering from infidelity may take years. The first year is usually the toughest. Both partners will need an immense amount of patience during this process.
The partner who engaged in the affair will likely need to focus his/her patience on the emotional intensity that will often come from the partner. This person must also be prepared to reassure his/her mate — possibly on daily basis — that he/she is committed to the relationship, doesn’t intend to engage in this behavior again, and loves and desires them. It’s crucial for the wronged partner to know that they are wanted, and that their trust won’t be breached again.
The betrayed partner must also have patience with themselves and their partner. It takes a lot of hard work to be able to let go of resentments toward a partner for their behavior, and a commitment to vulnerability in order to begin rebuilding trust.
By Tracy Wikander | Mind Body Green