How do you respond when someone asks you what makes your relationship great?
You might say that trust—opening yourself up fully to another person—and comfort are what make your romantic partnership mean so much. You know each other like you know yourselves.
So what happens when trust and emotional safety are compromised by one partner’s infidelity? If you’ve been cheated on, you’re familiar with feelings of bewilderment, fear, sadness and anger.
Maybe you’ve spent more time than you’d like thinking about the person your partner cheated with. It’s painful to imagine that someone else has intimate knowledge of your marriage.
Maybe for you, infidelity spells the end of your partnership—you’ve packed your bags because you feel like there’s nothing left to salvage. On the other hand, infidelity doesn’t always seem like the end. What if you still have feelings for your partner? Can the two of you repair the wreckage?
If both you and your partner are willing to work to find your way back together, trust can be rebuilt (flexes emotional muscles*).
How do you rebuild trust after infidelity?
It probably took a long time to fully trust each other in the first place; it’ll take a while to rebuild that trust too. The journey back together will likely be confusing and uncertain at times. As you’re struggling through the sometimes frightening in-between space separating your marriage before infidelity, and your marriage after cheating, there are a few—hopefully helpful—things to keep in mind:
· For the one who cheated: Take responsibility
If you cheated, you might have minimized the significance of your infidelity by telling yourself your partner wouldn’t find out. Maybe you were unhappy with certain things in your marriage. Or maybe your marriage was great—it’s just that you were struggling with old feelings of insecurity, or with attraction to another person.
Acknowledge your actions and choices. Acknowledge the pain your partner feels. Taking responsibility often means sorting through your own feelings about why you cheated, and what your needs are now.
· For the one who was cheated on: Trust yourself
Being cheated on can be so painful because your anger and hurt aren’t limited to your partner—you might be mad at yourself too. “How did I not see this coming?” you may wonder. Know that it’s okay to trust your own feelings; they probably make a lot of sense.
If you feel right about staying in the relationship, it’ll be much easier to move forward than if you’re questioning yourself, and your instincts, with every step.
· For the one who cheated: Be honest
If you’ve cheated on your partner, your honesty is one of the key ingredients missing from your marriage. You partner probably has a lot of questions for you: “What were you thinking?” “Why him?” “What did I do wrong?”
It’s important for your partner to feel like his questions are being answered. If you’re interested in rebuilding trust, avoid sweeping difficult subjects aside—there are things you’ll need to address.
· For the one who was cheated on: Build trust, not certainty
This might sound scary, but it could help. You can’t know with 100% certainty that your partner will never cheat again. That is, you can’t control what your partner does or doesn’t do.
What will help you get back to a place of love and safety is asking for what you need to believe him again, when he says he made a mistake. Get to know the person behind the words again. Ultimately, trusting your partner again is a choice you’ll make when you’re ready.
This one is long path sometimes years, but it can be done and it can make your relationship even stronger if you put in the work. I’d love to be a part of your support system. Come in to my office in Oakland to get started feeling better again. Call 510-507-1763 Kelly Montgomery, LMFT