December 3rd, 2014
From conflict to disagreements to lack of attention from your partner, there are numerous reasons behind why you may choose to be unfaithful to your partner. Unfortunately, it’s usually not until your partner finds out about the affair that you realize that the affair just wasn’t worth hurting your partner or losing their trust. The good news is that couples can learn how to rebuild trust after an affair. The challenging part is that trust doesn’t grow overnight and it can take months if not years to get back to where you once were. If you’re serious about learning how to rebuild trust after an affair, are committed to making a positive change with your partner and are willing to be 100% transparent, then you may be able to come away from the affair with an even stronger relationship with your partner than ever before.
Step 1: Honesty
The first step in the process of learning how to rebuild trust after an affair can be the most difficult of all: allowing your partner to be honest about their thoughts and feelings. Yes, it is uncomfortable to listen to how you hurt the person you love however actively listening to your partner allows them a chance to be heard. It may not sound like much but it is essential to regaining your partner’s trust. You should expect your partner to ask questions, cry, and become angry about your infidelity. As much as you may feel tempted to say, “Get over it already!” Remind yourself how you have shaken their world to the very core and have triggered a traumatic event in their lives. Continue to apologize and reach out to your partner with understanding and compassion. In couples therapy, I tell my clients’ who had the affair that “no matter how tough it gets never try to justify your cheating.” This is because fostering a connection between you and your partner is the priority NOT placing the blame or being right.
Step 2: Take Responsibility
Some of what your partner is going to say may hurt. Remember, this isn’t the time to get defensive or fight your partner on the points he or she makes. Accept what they say and take full responsibility for your infidelity. Only then will your partner trust that you do feel sorry for what you’ve done, and only then will you be able to take a good, hard look at yourself and start to uncover the issues that caused you to cheat. Does taking responsibility for your actions mean becoming the scapegoat for all the things wrong in your relationship? The answer is No. By taking responsibility, you are being accountable for your actions and not everything that was/is wrong in your marriage. Your affair is something that happened one time and if you look at it like that then it is possible to recover from one situation. It is possible to move forward but it will take you stepping up to the plate and saying “I had an affair, I am sorry that I hurt you and I am willing to do whatever I need to do to earn your trust again.”
Step 3: Seek Solutions
Ask your partner what he or she needs from you to make your relationship stronger and better. There’s a good chance that they may not know at first, so make suggestions to show that you are actively trying to heal the situation, such as returning home at a certain time every night, allowing him or her to check your social media or text messages, and so on. By taking the initiative to rebuild your relationship, you are taking steps toward a happy and healthy marriage. Your partner wants to know that you are 100% committed to being in the relationship and not just because you got caught cheating. So if you do try to show your partner how much you love them and they still remain upset – don’t give up hope. Your partner is angry but your actions will continue to show them that they are worth your time and effort.
Step 4: Be Accountable
Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Touching on the previous point, if you say you’ll be home from work at 5pm every day, do it – no excuses. If you tell your partner that you’re going to call every day during your lunch hour, please make sure you call. Any promises that you make are promises that you have to keep. Any small slip up during this crucial step for how to rebuild trust after an affair can destroy your attempts to rekindle your relationship. Remember your actions have caused your partner to question your character and integrity. When you follow through on your promises your partner starts to feel comfortable letting down their wall and allowing themselves to be vulnerable. I know it’s tough and may feel like you are walking on egg shells but for now it is necessary. It is necessary because for this moment in time your actions are the key to show your partner you are willing to change. In working with my clients in marriage counseling, one of my priorities is for them to start showing each other compassion so when the “walking on egg shells” period is over, the other person can make a mistake and not be ostracized for it.
So what’s my advice in a nutshell? Be patient. Be patient with your partner and with yourself. Recovering from an affair is tough work but if you both want your relationship to work, it can happen!
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