It’s one of the most devastating things that can happen in a relationship — finding out your partner has cheated on you. If you’re able to move past the initial hurt, betrayal, and even anger, there is still the question of whether or not you can repair the relationship.
According to experts, it is possible to repair a relationship after cheating, but it will require work from both parties involved.
If you’re wondering how to go about repairing your relationship after cheating, here are several tips to get you started:
Heather Wilson, LCSW, LCADC, CCTP
Executive Director, Epiphany Wellness
Although infidelity can do a lot of damage to a relationship, it does not automatically mean that the relationship is doomed. Reconciliation is possible, but it would require a lot of work from both parties.
What matters most is the willingness to make reparations, forgive, and move forward.
The offending party must express remorse
Without sincere remorse, the relationship is unlikely to heal. The cheater must be willing to take responsibility for their actions and accept the consequences. This means that they must own up to what they’ve done. Honesty is critical at this stage.
The victim must be willing to forgive
There is a negative bias when it comes to forgiving a partner who cheated on you. However, if one wants to repair a relationship, one must remember that forgiveness is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength.
It takes courage to forgive someone who has hurt you.
Keep in mind that forgiveness does not mean forgetting or excusing the infidelity. It means letting go of the anger and resentment so that you can move on. This is not only beneficial to the person you forgive but also to your own peace of mind.
Both parties must be willing to work on the relationship
This means being open to communication, compromise, and making an effort to rebuild trust. It won’t be easy, but it’s important to remember that relationships take work.
If you’re both committed to making things work, there’s a good chance that you can get past this difficult time.
Try relationship counseling
This can be a helpful way to work through the issues that led to the infidelity and to learn new skills for building a stronger relationship.
If you’re both committed to making things work, counseling can give you the tools you need to make it happen.
Founder, Midlife Divorce Recovery
A large percentage of the people we help are facing divorce because of infidelity or emotional or physical cheating.
Betrayal in a relationship is a serious blow to any relationship, but there are three things that the person who cheated must realize and actually do to even consider the possibility of repair.
Most people who have cheated in a relationship (and have been found out) think that all it takes is a heartfelt apology for their infidelity and a promise for it to never happen again.
After more than 20 years of helping people who are either on the verge of divorce or already divorced because of infidelity, I know what it takes for a couple to truly be able to move on and have a stronger marriage than ever.
These three “must-do” actions sound simple, but they involve complete honesty and vulnerability on the part of the cheater; and reassurance that it will not happen again for the one cheated on.
The three “must do” things a cheater must do to repair a relationship after cheating:
Get it: Understand the significance of cheating on someone who trusted you
To “get it” means that you truly understand the significance of cheating on someone who trusted you and realize the damage you have done to the relationship and to your partner as a person.
Own it: You must accept full responsibility for cheating
To “own it” means you must accept full responsibility for the action of cheating. Things in your relationship might not have been what you wanted or expected, but that doesn’t mean you have a right to cheat. In spite of what’s going on in the relationship, you personally chose to cheat.
Fix it: Fix the situation the way your partner needs it to be fixed
To “fix it” means you have to fix the situation after cheating the way your partner needs it to be fixed. You can’t say, “Well, I said, I’m sorry!” Your partner may need to see some other fixes that are necessary to continue.
That may include apologizing to people your cheating has affected. Or maybe your partner requires a formal, signed document saying that if you cheat again, a certain financial thing happens.
Cheating is a huge betrayal in a relationship. Cheating is always a choice — you can’t blame anyone else.
There are consequences to cheating. If the cheater does the three things listed above, there is a chance of moving beyond cheating, allowing you to create a life that is good and full and fun after cheating.
Counselor | Coach | Owner and CEO, TenderHearted Men
Observe “active” honesty and openness
In an effort to build trust after cheating, some individuals think that passive honesty is all they need to build back trust. They say they are an open book, and their partner can check their phone anytime.
The problem that this poses is that it puts the responsibility on the person who was betrayed.
Instead, the person who cheated takes that responsibility off of their partner and makes efforts to actively communicate where they are and what communications they have been having prior to their partner asking.
Heart change vs. behavior change: The cheater should manifest heart change
Behavior change is not enough to build trust. Why? Because before or during cheating, the behaviors seemed to be just fine because there was deception. So it stands to reason that now, after deception, those same behaviors cannot be trusted.
Instead, the cheater should manifest heart change. Heart change shows up in everything you do because it is at the core of who you are. Whereas behaviors change only shows up in specific areas. Heart change builds trust.
Perfection vs. self-awareness: Own your imperfections
Most partners who have been cheated on do not expect perfection. In fact, perfection is not trusted. Why? Because no one is perfect. So, if you claim you are perfect, then you are already lying, and it goes downhill from there.
Counterintuitively, trust is built by acknowledging, accepting, and owning your imperfections — not your perfections. Yes, when you confess your mistakes, that is actually trust-building.
Figure out your “why”
In order for a hurt partner to reengage the relationship, they must feel safe. We’ve all heard the Churchill quote, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
If you don’t know why you cheated, you have not learned from it, and you are doomed to do it again.
Instead, if you can figure out and take full responsibility for the circumstances, emotional state, rationalizations, and other various factors, then you don’t have to go back. Moreover, you can give your partner a small sense of safety.
Krista Jordan, PhD
Board Certified Clinical Psychologist | Writer, Choosing Therapy
Avoid trying to rationalize or justify the cheating
The first thing you need to do if you have been cheating is to not defend yourself at all. Avoid trying to rationalize or justify the cheating. That is only going to set you back in your efforts to eventually repair things.
Just take responsibility for acting wrongly without trying to explain any extenuating circumstances like “I was lonely,” “We never have sex anymore,” or “I was drunk.”
While many of these might be helpful to explore later, in the early phases of trying to apologize and getting a second chance, it is going to come off as you trying to avoid taking responsibility.
Make sure your apology is clean
After you have accepted responsibility, it’s important to make a clear apology. Many people contaminate their apologies with veiled defensive statements such as “I’m sorry that after you picked a fight with me, I slept with our neighbor.”
Make sure that your apology is clean. Things like “I’m so sorry that I hurt you,” “I’m so sorry that I broke your trust,” or “I feel terrible that I caused you pain” are all statements that will promote repair without triggering the betrayed partner to feel like you are trying to blame shift or minimize your part.
Be willing to do whatever would help to restore their trust
Ask your partner what would help to restore their trust and be willing to do it, regardless of whether it makes sense to you. Common actions that a betrayed partner asks for are having the passwords to your phone, computer, email, or social media accounts.
Even if, under normal circumstances, you think this is invasive and unnecessary, you need to realize that you broke the trust, and it’s up to you to restore it.
You don’t get to define the terms of rebuilding the trust; that is the privilege of the hurt party. It’s your job to rise to the occasion and provide whatever actions will help your partner start healing.
Another common request is to be able to keep track of you using programs like Life360 or Find My Friends. Again it’s your responsibility to do whatever will help your partner trust you again without quibbling or arguing about whether or not it makes sense to you.
Make use of “feeling” words
Talk to your partner about how you imagine they are feeling. Use as many “feeling” words as you can think of.
For example, instead of just saying, “I’m sorry you are sad,” you can add either:
- “I bet you are feeling confused because you never thought this would happen.”
- “I imagine you are feeling furious because now our whole relationship is on the line.”
Making statements like this shows your partner that you are trying to climb into their shoes and understand how they are feeling. It also promotes them to talk more about their emotions so that you can better support them.
Offer to go to individual and couple counseling
Offer to go to counseling, both individual and couples. This shows that you are taking the offense seriously and that you want to figure out what motivated you to step outside of the relationship. It also shows a commitment to making changes so that this won’t happen in the future.
Support them when they are triggered by things that remind them of the affair
Many people who have cheated have a lot of guilt about their actions, so when their partner sees something on Netflix or the news that reminds them of the affair, the person who cheated tends to get irritated. This is a defense because they don’t like being reminded about what they have done.
However, that leaves the betrayed partner alone in their feeling triggered.
If your partner hears or sees something that triggers memories of the betrayal, make sure that you are supportive and not defensive. Apologize for putting them in a situation where a song or a series plot line can bring the whole terrible experience back in technicolor. Hug them and reassure them that you are there to help them heal.
These triggering events will likely happen a lot in the first year and then become less frequent. If you can stay strong and support your partner, it will help the betrayal recovery move faster.
Terri DiMatteo, LPC
Licensed Professional Counselor Relationship and Couple Counselor, Open Door Therapy
Truly repairing a relationship following infidelity is neither swift nor easy. One reason that affair recovery is so difficult is that it strikes the foundational elements of a relationship: trust and safety.
Therefore, infidelity jolts couples into a relationship crisis as they ask, “Will our relationship survive?”
Relationship betrayal is distinctive and unlike other types of relationship challenges. Knowing one’s partner brings a feeling of security to the relationship.
Couples know one another intimately. They know each other’s history, family, habits, and a long list of likes and dislikes. Their partner’s routine, schedule, and habits are also familiar to them. They also know each other’s secrets, dreams, and struggles.
Peace of mind accompanies this deep sense of knowing one another. As infidelity requires lies, deception, and secrecy, it shatters the peace of mind the couple once shared.
This part of their partner’s life was unknown to them. The affair was both secret and intimate. The affair relationship has intruded upon the special place that they held with their partner. To be clear, the key aspect of the relationship that shatters upon the discovery of infidelity is trust.
As it is the trust that has broken, it is trust that needs repairing. This is a very tall order.
Conclude the outside connection
The first order of business is to conclude the outside connection. And, it cannot conclude in a slipper or wishy-washy manner. It must be firm, clear, and absolute.
The couple cannot repair their relationship if the connection to the affair person remains. This critical first step does not always occur in one swift move, but it is essential before moving forward to the next step.
Examine every facet of the affair connection carefully
Once the couple is free to focus on their relationship, a careful examination of every facet of the affair connection is next. What happened exactly?
There will be many questions. Questioning typically continues until the events of the affair become clear and understood. After the outside connection has concluded and the affair experience is revealed, the couple can then turn their attention to deepening the trust in their relationship.
They will also begin the work of restoring and deepening their emotional and sexual intimacy. This is a slow and delicate process that they must do together.
Since infidelity is a relationship injury, both parties must work together for its restoration. Lies, deception, and secrecy are part of infidelity. Words and actions were incongruent.
Therefore, the person who engages in the affair needs to make sure that his or her words and actions are consistently aligned. This will help to restore trust.
The person who did not engage in an affair can help restore the relationship by examining how they may have contributed to the breakdown in the emotional or sexual intimacy before the infidelity.
What part did they play? A willingness to examine their contribution can help. Both parties must make it crystal clear to one another that they truly love and want their partner and the relationship.
An affair sends shockwaves through the relationship, and everything comes into question. Both partners need to express their love for their partner robustly and declare that they will do whatever is needed to save and protect the relationship.
Veronica Lichtenstein, LMHC
Counselor, Veronica Listens
“Don’t rush the timeline”
Cheating is such a violation of trust in a relationship. Many couples have difficulty coming back from that. It is not impossible to recover, and in some cases, many couples become stronger after a deception.
Determine if the couple really wants to stay together
The first thing I determine is if both really want to stay together. In some cases, the partners vacillate in their intention. I’ve learned to encourage reunion if even a small semblance of romantic feelings is left for each other.
Quite often, pain blinds us from making long-term decisions, and we react to protect ourselves. Therefore, after some unpacking, I quite often find that divorce or separation is not really what the couple wants.
“Don’t rush the timeline” is an expression I like to use when a client feels angst in working through couple issues. Often, partners think a bold definition of the status of their relationship will make them feel better.
Therefore, they hurry up to get a divorce, even if it is clear feelings still exist for the partner. In this scenario, the couple starts dating each other again after the divorce is final. I have witnessed this several times in my practice.
At this juncture, the road to healing becomes long and winding because assets have been divided, words have been said, and there is so much more pain to work through.
If a spark still exists, I encourage the couple to slow down the process. Temporary separation may be a better (and cheaper) choice than legal divorce.
Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is a growing space to be in
Recovering from a cheating partner is an opportunity to rebuild a relationship into a stronger union. Yes, it may be uncomfortable and painful, but not impossible — especially if love is still there. Like anything, if you want it bad enough, you can repair and thrive.
I push couples to visualize and verbalize what their idea of a fulfilling relationship looks like. If what a partner is asking for existed in the relationship at one point, it is easier to build it back up.
For example, if a partner is asking for more affection, and there was never any affection in the relationship from the very beginning, we would have to start from a different point in order to incorporate it.
Conversely, if there was once a lot of touch in the relationship, the chances are greater that this can be obtained in fewer steps. Having conversations about what the couple wants is essential to healing and growing.
Discuss the affair: Ask yourself if the questions are filling a “want” or “need”
Setting aside time to discuss the affair is also important. However, it can be a slippery slope to going down the rabbit hole of negativity. The partner who was cheated on should ask themselves if their questions are filling a “need” or addressing a “want.”
Most clients realize that most of their questions about the affair are filling a “want “to know details. The details of where, when, and how are painful and unnecessary.
Answering questions like, “Are you still seeing this person?” or “Do you love her/him?” are necessary for recovery and would classify as a “need to know.” The partner who cheated should exercise humility and patience in this process.
I believe that couples can come back stronger than ever after an affair. Both partners have to want the relationship to work and be patient in the process.
If there was love at the beginning of the union, couples can find their way back to that point.
Kristin Davin, PsyD
Psychologist, Choosing Therapy
Seek professional help
A trained marriage/relationship therapist will be able to help both people address the issues in a safe environment while allowing each person to express their thoughts and feelings.
They also provide guidance, feedback, and solutions to help determine where they are in the relationship and if the cheating and other issues (because they always come up) are salvageable.
Start the conversation with undivided attention
A conversation should include the following:
- Asking when is a good time for both of you to speak. Then set a time.
- Making a list of the issues that have come up that relate to the cheating.
- Limiting the conversation to a set number of minutes.
- Taking turns speaking. Don’t interrupt. Write things down if you have to.
- Managing your feelings.
- Discussing taking ‘breaks’ during the conversation if one person starts to get angry or agitated.
- Putting your phone away.
- Turning off the tv.
- Be present. Understand the importance of this issue that needs to be addressed.
Create a growth mindset
These types of conversations are seldom “one and done.”
Ask these questions:
- “How can we grow from this?”
- “What are the relationship issues that must be addressed?”
- “What is the silver lining in cheating? Is there one?“
Start to rebuild the trust
This will take time. Often the person cheating will want to sweep the issues under the rug, apologize and then want to move on. This isn’t how it works.
They both have to understand and be on board that working through cheating/infidelity is a process with many ups and downs and fits and starts. There has to be an investment in the process.
Work on yourself
Often this is an opportunity to look at yourself and ask: “How can I change?” How can I grow from this experience?”
Ellen Durant, LMFT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Co-Founder, Belong Counseling and Consulting
We like to blame the cheater for being wrong, but the truth is the cheated also contributed to the deterioration of the relationship. Whether you cheated or your partner cheated on you, the path to repair involves work from both parties.
Couples who weather the pain of infidelity together and come out stronger than ever often go through stages of blame, responsible action, and reconnection.
Blame is a natural way to deal with something that feels painful. It can provide a temporary salve to the sting of being cheated on—after all if it wasn’t your fault, you don’t have anything “wrong” with you or the relationship.
On the other side of the table, the cheater may blame the person on the outside or even their partner for neglecting them. Either way, blame is also a nice way to avoid responsibility and feel “in the right.”
Take responsible action — mend both the wound and the root cause of infidelity
After the dust has settled and you have each gotten your fair share of frustrations and tears, your next step is to take responsibility for the areas of the relationship that need help.
Responsible action involves finding some sense of forgiveness and doing the work to start mending both the wound of infidelity and the root cause of the infidelity.
Forgiveness is not a pass for the cheater. Forgiveness is a conscious decision to let go of feelings of resentment. If the idea of letting go seems risky—it is!
You both are essentially saying, “I am willing to try this again and will do my best not to hold the past against you, despite the fact that this puts me at risk of getting hurt again.”
Ensure the affair is over and how to act if the affair partner reaches out
Now, there is at least a part of you that is willing to give your relationship another chance.
To address the wound of infidelity, you both will need to figure out how to ensure that the affair is over and what to do if the affair partner reaches out.
Determine what is needed to build trust
Next, you both need to determine what is needed to build trust with one another. This could mean that the cheating partner comes home immediately after work for a few weeks or months.
It could also mean that you and the cheater allow access to each other’s phones or has to complete more chores for a specified period.
Determine what needs are not being met in the relationship
The next part of responsible action is for each of you to determine what needs are not being met in the relationship. Possible needs include support, affection, intimacy, trust, time together, space apart, acceptance, validation, autonomy, security, prioritization, etc.
To take this a step deeper, you then have to decide on how the needs need to be met by the relationship and individually.
For example, if one person in the relationship is feeling like they are not being supported and validated by the other partner, then responsibility may break down like this:
- Relationally, you both may benefit from spending time listening to one another and learning how to validate one another.
- Individually, it may be helpful to find additional support outside of the relationship and to find ways to feel more confident about yourself so that you have support in validation from a variety of sources.
Throughout this entire process, you are practicing the process of reconnection and repairing trust. As you both continue to work on relational and individual needs, you will find ways to reconnect to better suit your evolving relationship.
After you start taking responsible action, you develop sustainable practices of reconnection that keep your relationship healthy.
Reconnection practices may look like setting a regular date night, creating a greeting ritual that makes you feel supported, or having space that allows you both to grow separately while supporting one another.
During reconnection, you both ensure that every area of the relationship is getting addressed and that you feel comfortable and safe with one another.
If the relationship betrayal was based on an affair that involved sex with another person, then find a way to have enjoyable sex for both parties. If the relationship betrayal was based on emotional intimacy, find a way to share vulnerably and allow one another to have friendships.
It is possible to have a better relationship after an affair.
Infidelity does not have to be the end of the relationship. In fact, it is often a sign that the relationship was in the trash well before the actual affair occurred.
As awful as this may sound, sometimes infidelity turns out to be the sign that was needed to force both partners into acknowledging that the relationship needed help. Nevertheless, this fact does not justify cheating.
Get help from a neutral third party
If this process seems long and arduous, it can be helped and shortened through the use of a relationship therapist or coach. Using a neutral third party to work through infidelity and relationship issues, in general, can help facilitate productive conversations rather than getting stuck in arguments that go nowhere.
Seeking help takes courage, but if you want to give your relationship another chance, you might be better off getting help before things deteriorate too much.
Tiarra Faulkner MA, LPC
Relationship Trauma Expert | Licensed Mental Health Therapist, Graceful Growth Counseling Services
Many factors need to be addressed and worked through when cheating has been a factor in a relationship. There is a betrayal of trust, and a feeling of grief may be involved for the partner who was cheated on.
For the partner who was cheated on, there is a “before they found out that holds the idea of the relationship that they had” versus the “realizing the reality of the relationship after they found out that the person they’re with was cheating on them.”
The idea of the relationship that the partner who has been cheated on has become shattered upon finding out that their partner has been unfaithful.
Individual therapy for both parties
When discussing ways to repair the relationship after cheating, some aspects might include going to couples or marriage counseling and individual therapy for both parties.
Individual therapy for the partner who cheated can provide insight as to why they cheated and what boundaries they need to have so that they are less likely to cheat again.
Both parties must be willing to move forward in the relationship
Both parties must be committed to working through their emotions of betrayal, hurt, and grief and to truly try to repair a relationship after cheating. They have to be willing to move forward in the relationship and understand that there will be a range of emotions, triggers, and thoughts.
The healing process after betrayal takes time. The relationship may look like a different relationship because it involves having to rebuild trust and assessing what new boundaries have to be in place for the relationship to continue forward in a healthy way.
Steve Carleton, LCSW, CACIII
Executive Clinical Director, Gallus Detox
The answer lies in honesty, vulnerability, and a willingness to address the underlying issues that led to cheating in the first place. Questions such as “Why did I cheat?” and “How can I prevent this from happening again?” must be asked and answered with sincerity.
Make sure there’s remorse, a desire for change, and a willingness to seek therapy or outside help if necessary. If these things check out, the betrayed partner must also be willing to forgive and move forward.
Before that happens, it is important for them to process their emotions, as holding onto resentment will only hinder the healing process. This includes genuinely accepting that it’s not their fault that the other person cheated.
There may be some issues in the relationship that need to be addressed and worked on, but ultimately it is the person who cheated.
Rebuild trust by setting boundaries and using effective communication
Trust may need to be rebuilt, which can involve setting boundaries or limits until both parties feel comfortable again.
Effective communication is key in repairing the relationship and moving forward together, as long as both parties are committed to the process of healing and growth.
Seeking couples therapy may be helpful
It may be helpful to seek couples therapy or counseling to work through these challenging but important conversations.
Through therapy, the couple can work on developing stronger communication skills and addressing any underlying issues that may have contributed to the infidelity, such as a lack of emotional and physical intimacy.
Evaluate whether the relationship is worth staying in
Ultimately, repairing a relationship after cheating is a journey that requires patience, understanding, and a commitment to personal and relational growth.
However, if the cheating behavior continues or you cannot rebuild the trust, it may be necessary to evaluate whether the relationship is worth staying in.
Remember, you deserve to be with someone who respects and honors you. Do not settle for less.
Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, MS, LCPC
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor | Co-founder, The Marriage Restoration Project
Learn better ways to communicate, connect, and achieve emotional safety
Reconciling after infidelity is a sensitive process.
The one who had an affair may be feeling extra anxious regarding whether:
- Their spouse will take them back.
- What do they need to do to regain trust.
- What they need to avoid to not retrigger.
The spouse who was cheated on is likely to be hypersensitive, mistrusting, and even a bit paranoid, not to mention sad and angry. Don’t expect a smooth ride, and hope to be surprised in a good way.
Beyond the repair work needed to work through what happened, understand the underlying relationship issues, which may have created fertile ground for this event to even possibly occur.
Learning better ways to communicate, connect, and achieve emotional safety, and everyday triggers are some of the things that it is essential to be aware of.
Have open communication; try to process the possible scenarios that may arise
The most important thing is to have open and honest communication and try to process the possible scenarios that may arise so that there is greater sensitivity.
If you are out late and your spouse doesn’t know where you are, your spouse’s mind may already begin to wander and think you are up to no good. This is a common mistake that can be avoided or remedied:
- Have foresight.
- Be transparent.
- Go out of your way to check in.
- Be solicitous.
Discuss other ways to create more trust
It goes without saying that one should cut off contact with the affair partner. Sometimes that is difficult if you work together.
Determine common mistakes and how to avoid them
What can you do to assure your spouse you are setting healthy boundaries? You may want to provide phone and email access, so there is no room for secrets. These are just some examples of common mistakes and how to avoid them.
Maria Dominique Lopez
Founder and CEO, Ascending Arts, LLC
A cheating partner doesn’t have to be a total deal-breaker. In fact, many couples I work with come back stronger than ever from infidelity!
The key is understanding that nobody just cheats for no good reason. There’s always a reason.
When we can dig into what the reason for the infidelity was, we can figure out how to navigate what each partner needs in order to make sure that that infidelity doesn’t happen again (if monogamy is the desired result, of course).
Here’s the tricky part: The majority of the time, the reason for the infidelity isn’t what you think it is.
I’ve heard many of the couples I work with say they believe the infidelity stems from the relationship getting stale, a less-than-active sex life, or some sort of distance that’s grown between two people in a relationship.
Sure, those may be contributing factors to general dissatisfaction in the relationship that might influence a partner to seek external validation from a different source and potentially cheat.
But that’s not the reason they cheated. That’s just a logical justification.
The reason almost always comes down to one of three things:
- The cheating partner doesn’t feel safe in the relationship.
- The cheating partner has a deep need for external validation.
- The cheating partner is trying to leave the relationship but doesn’t have the tools or skills necessary to end it themselves.
You have to be willing to hear each other out in empathy
Once you and your partner can find the true reason for the infidelity, you’ll be able to figure out what you each need to do for each other, yourselves, and the relationship to address this and repair it.
Now comes the hard part: You have to be willing to hear each other out in empathy and hold yourselves accountable for how you each have contributed to the end result of infidelity. That will require you each to decide if you want the relationship to continue, and if so, commit repair.
Make a choice and commit to it
Making a commitment to repair will require you to put down your bruised ego and pick up the fight that you have inside of you for this relationship to survive.
Vulnerability is so crucial here. Be open-hearted and brutally honest with yourself, and don’t be afraid to speak your truth to your partner for fear of rejection.
You both are already feeling incredibly rejected because of this situation. It’s going to take a little bit of a risk and a lot of bravery to get you to a place of repair.
But it is possible! I see it happen every day. It’s not easy, but it is simple:
- Figure out “why” this happened—the real ‘why.’ Do they have childhood trauma? Attachment style issues? A compulsive need for external validation? A fear of losing you?
- Choose to repair or make a choice to consciously uncouple, but once you make a choice, commit to it.
- Be brave and dig deep. Ask yourself and each other hard questions, and don’t fear the hard answers. The deeper we dig, the closer we bond. Repair is inevitable if you just keep digging.
Margaret J. King, Ph.D.
Cultural Analyst | Director, The Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis
There really is no way to repair trust—which is why trial marriages follow trial separations.
Once trust is broken, it’s almost impossible to repair, like the analogy with cracked eggs. What is so interesting to think about, and manage in close relationships, is that there are many kinds and levels of trust.
The broken trust should be acknowledged and negotiated — silently or shared
The array includes money, time use, outside interests balanced against home and family commitments, hidden expectations and refusals (passive-aggressive participation), addictions to drugs and alcohol, and of course, love and sex.
These all must be acknowledged somehow and negotiated, silently or shared, to keep things going over very long periods of time. It’s a miracle that close social systems work at all, adding to the stresses at work, the pandemic, money struggles, childcare, etc., which all require mutual trust and understanding to operate day to day.
Just shared expectations are difficult to reconcile because they require that each person be self-aware about just what these are and their relative importance.
In addition, expectations about the quality of life, cooperation, and shaping the future are difficult to come to terms with and articulate, even for self-aware people.
Add the male/female differences (yes, the genders have difficult brain structures and respond to different chemicals and hormone inputs), and the picture gets more complex, together with the way one life area affects every other.
Relationship Expert | Published Author, PeopleLooker
Get rid of all ties with the person you cheated with immediately
The cheating must stop, no matter what. Blocking the “cheatee” from all social media along with their phone number is an essential step in fixing your relationship after you’ve cheated.
Your partner needs to know that this is over and that person is no longer in your life. By deleting their contact information from your cell phone, you are telling them this is truly over.
Take responsibility for your actions
The most important thing is to take responsibility for your actions and rebuild trust with your partner. Apologize for what you’ve done, and do not blame your partner or your relationship problems for your actions.
Be honest and discuss your expectations
As you progress in your relationship, you must be honest with yourself and your partner. You likely lied to your partner to hide your cheating from them. It’s now time to be honest and open.
It is important for both partners to agree on honesty and to discuss their expectations in order to help your relationship succeed. Honesty in relationships is associated with lower conflict.
Identify the issues that led to this and address them
Even though cheating is unacceptable, airing out the underlying issues that led to this infidelity will be helpful.
If you want your relationship to work after cheating, you will need to figure out what led to the dissatisfaction in the relationship and then work on those areas.
Be patient with the healing process
When you have been cheated on, you will go through many emotional changes, including anger, depression, and loneliness. Be patient with your partner as you make progress with your healing process. Most people may take years to heal from infidelity.
When trust breaks, it’s difficult to retain. However, it is still possible for a couple to fix their relationship after experiencing infidelity if they are truly passionate about each other.
Hence, here are some alternative and recommended interventions to help rebuild their relationship:
Talk it out
Converse with your partner after your anger cools down. Make sure you won’t suffice any insolent behavior because it won’t help. Instead, be calm and ask why such things happen. Because if you know the reason behind it, you’ll regain your self-worth and will easily find a solution to fix the problem.
Remove any form of communication, socialization, or connection from the person with whom your partner has an affair. This is essential, especially if they are aware that the person they are seeing already has a partner. This will challenge your partner in weighing who’s more important.
If they choose you over those complexities, then they are willing to nurture your relationship.
Work with a therapist
If both of you are willing to fix the hurdle but struggling to repair it on your own, try to work with professionals. They can help you by administering appropriate interventions relevant to your case.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can we avoid falling into old patterns and behaviors that have led to infidelity?
To avoid falling back into old patterns and behaviors that contributed to infidelity, it’s crucial to be self-aware and maintain open communication.
Be vigilant in recognizing and addressing issues that may arise, such as unmet emotional needs, lack of quality time together, or communication breakdowns.
Keep the lines of communication open and check in regularly on the state of the relationship. Consider attending therapy or a support group to gain new insights and tools for maintaining a healthy relationship.
What if my partner doesn’t want to work on repairing the relationship after cheating?
If your partner is unwilling or unable to work on repairing the relationship after cheating, it’s essential to respect their decision and consider your own emotional well-being. Although it may be difficult to accept, some relationships are beyond repair after infidelity.
In such cases, it can be helpful to focus on self-care, seek support from friends, family, or a therapist, and take time to heal and process the situation. Remember that your emotional health and well-being must take priority, regardless of how the relationship turns out.
Can we still maintain a friendship with the person our partner cheated with?
Deciding whether or not to maintain a friendship with the person involved in the infidelity is a personal and potentially challenging decision. It’s essential to prioritize the feelings and needs of the partner who was cheated on.
Maintaining contact with the third party may trigger feelings of insecurity, jealousy, or betrayal. In most cases, it’s advisable to distance oneself from the person involved in the cheating to allow for healing and rebuilding trust in the relationship.
Is it normal for the healing process to have ups and downs after cheating?
Yes, it’s entirely normal for the healing process to have ups and downs after cheating. Recovering from infidelity is a complex and emotionally challenging journey. Both partners may experience various emotions, including anger, sadness, and confusion.
It’s essential to maintain open communication, practice patience, and understand that the process is rarely linear. As you work through the challenges and rebuild trust and emotional intimacy, you’ll likely experience progress and setbacks, but with time and consistent effort, healing is possible.
What are some signs that our relationship is beginning to heal after cheating?
Some signs that your relationship is beginning to heal after cheating include improved communication, greater trust, and a new sense of emotional intimacy.
You may notice that conversations are more open, honest, and empathetic and that both partners are actively working to resolve the issues that led to the infidelity.
In addition, rebuilding trust can lead to a stronger emotional bond and a deeper understanding of each other’s needs and feelings. Remember that the healing process takes time and consistent effort, and progress can be gradual.
Should we consider a temporary separation or “break” to deal with cheating and its consequences?
Considering a temporary separation or “break” to work through the cheating and its consequences is a personal decision that depends on your relationship’s specific needs and circumstances.
For some couples, a period of separation can provide the space needed to reflect, gain a new perspective, and focus on individual healing.
However, it’s essential to establish clear boundaries and expectations for the separation, such as its duration and personal growth and reflection goals.
If both partners commit to using the separation as an opportunity for healing and growth, it can be a helpful step in the relationship recovery process.
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