If you’ve been cheated on, it’s normal to feel a tornado of emotions: lost, angry, devastated, blindsided, and even ashamed. Infidelity can shatter a sense of trust and safety in even the most confident of people.
But is infidelity an automatic death sentence for relationships? Are there ways that you and your partner can save- and even improve- the quality of your dynamic?
Recovering from infidelity isn’t easy, but it is possible. In some cases, the healing process can actually bring couples even closer. How? Let’s dive in.
Understanding The Betrayal
Infidelity rarely happens haphazardly. People make reckless and impulsive decisions all the time, but a drawn-out affair doesn’t occur without reason. That doesn’t mean you or your partner likes that reason- it just means it’s important to understand what it is.
People cheat for many reasons. If you cheated, you need to truly identify what need you were trying to fulfill. Was it loneliness? Insecurity? Boredom? Were you trying to make your partner jealous?
Other times, couples fall into toxic relationship patterns. If not addressed, some relationship issues can progressively worsen. These issues can include:
Unhealthy communication (aggression, passivity).
Becoming preoccupied with other parts of life (work, children, money).
Mental illness in one or both partners.
Difficulties with sex and intimacy.
If you’re the betrayed partner, listening to this reason (or reasons) may feel painful and even insulting. After all, you didn’t go out and consciously hurt your partner. But if you want your relationship to heal, you need to be willing to identify if you played any part in the relationship challenges leading up to the infidelity. This acknowledgment can help you both decide how to rebuild trust and security in the future.
The Need For Honesty
If you were the one cheating, it’s time to be upfront about what’s going on. If you’re withholding any information, you’re continuing to engage in deceit. Those lies will likely emerge one way or another. Even if they don’t, what’s the point of salvaging a relationship threaded with such dishonesty?
Allow your partner to ask questions. Provide the clarification they need- without defensiveness or rationalization. This task will be challenging. You’ll feel tempted to minimize details to avoid hurting them. That said, they deserve to have the choice to decide how to move forward.
If you’re the betrayed partner, your honesty also matters. What do you need from your partner? Space? Time? A punching bag? Let them know, and don’t hold back your feelings.
Infidelity severs trust, and rebuilding that trust takes time and effort. If you cheated on your partner, you owe it to them to do what you can to help them feel secure and confident in the relationship.
What will help them feel more at ease? Access to your social media accounts? Information about your daily whereabouts? A thorough STD screening?
Initially, you must allow your partner to express their needs. Refusal to comply with those needs only tends to perpetuate more distrust. Similarly, it shows that you’re not ready to commit fully to the healing process.
If you’re the betrayed partner, think about what you need from the other person. Do you need them to attend couples therapy with you? Do you want their email password? Do you want to review their bank statements or credit card bill?
If you’re not sure what you need, that’s okay, too. Infidelity can be shocking. Take the time you need to process your thoughts and feelings.
Remembering That Forgiveness Isn’t A Set Destination
You can’t realistically expect to wake up one morning and forgive your partner. Life doesn’t work that way.
Instead, it’s important to remember the pain will lessen eventually. Some days might feel easier than others. But at some point, you’ll ideally feel more trusting and open towards your partner. If that doesn’t happen, that could be a sign that you both need more serious work.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you condone what happened. Instead, forgiveness is the conscious decision to release your feelings of resentment. This release offers you a greater sense of peace and clarity.
If you're the partner hoping for forgiveness, remember expressing how sorry you are doesn't mean you have done the work to heal your relationship. It will take lots of time and effort, and becoming frustrated that your partner hasn't forgiven you yet only leads to more distrust and resentment.
Accepting If A Relationship Can’t Be Fixed
Sometimes people realize that they no longer want to be in their relationship. It’s okay if you decide that breaking up or divorcing is the best option after infidelity. It’s also okay if the idea has crossed your mind- but you’re still unsure if it’s the best option.
If you’re feeling ambivalent, seeking professional support can help. Both individual or couples therapy can help you process your feelings and prepare for the steps ahead. Additionally, divorce counseling can help you navigate the potential stress and uncertainty associated with this change.
Recovering From Infidelity With Couples Therapy
Couples therapy can help you and your partner unpack the baggage and reconnect your love. Recovering from infidelity can be challenging, but healing is possible.
At Elevate Counseling, we’re here to help you and your partner restore your relationship- no matter the circumstances. We work with couples to improve their communication, strengthen their trust, and increase their overall happiness. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.