Few things are more devastating in a marriage than the discovery that your spouse has been unfaithful. Many people say this is the ultimate deal-breaker in marriage. Yet more than half of couples will decide to stay together after such a revelation.
Marriages can and do survive after infidelity.
The biggest challenge to healing after infidelity is rebuilding trust. Here are some of the key factors that determine how well your marriage can be salvaged after betrayal.
Infidelity almost always involves a lot of lying. If your spouse was cheating, you likely suspected that something was going on but your spouse denied it. Those frequent denials make you less likely to believe your spouse now.
The only way that the cheating spouse can rebuild trust is to choose to be completely honest. If you were the cheating spouse, expect that you will be asked some very uncomfortable questions. Choose to answer them honestly, even when it would be easier to lie.
Commitment to Transparency
Infidelity flourishes in an environment of secrecy. The cheating spouse took advantage of their partner’s trust by acting in secret. Total transparency about where you are and who you’re with are important components of rebuilding trust after an affair. If you have nothing to hide, it shows that your actions are respectable and trustworthy.
Understanding the Wronged Spouse
When your spouse had an affair, you experienced a lot of pain and anguish. You want your spouse to understand what he or she put you through. But a big determining factor in how successfully you will be able to regain trust is your spouse’s willingness to own up to what they did wrong.
A spouse who truly wants to make things better will try to understand the pain they caused you. A cheating spouse who feels like they’re being punished, as though they did nothing wrong, will have a harder time rebuilding that foundation of trust.
You Can’t Avoid Grief After Infidelity
The wronged spouse has to go through a healing process. Rushing through it because you want to avoid feeling the pain will rob you of true healing. You can’t sweep the difficult feelings under the rug just because they’re unpleasant.
Although you need to forgive your spouse, that’s not something you can do until you’re ready. You need to grieve what happened and see that your spouse is committed to change.
Realize that Your Relationship Has to Start Over
Even though the spouse who cheated is only responsible for his or her behavior, cheating is often a sign that there is an unhealthy dynamic in a marriage. Some examples of an unhealthy dynamic could include too much privacy or too much time alone. Both partners may need to learn new ways of communicating with each other to make the other feel loved and valued.
Look at the rebuilding period after the discovery of infidelity as an opportunity to create new, more positive habits in your relationship. You may always view your marriage in the periods Before Affair and After Affair. But with some effort and dedication, you can someday view the After Affair stage as the turning point that made your marriage better.
Most couples can benefit from seeing a counselor while working through recovery after infidelity. Both partners need to be able to discuss the issues related to the affair with total honesty. But many couples need the help of an impartial third party, like a marriage counselor, to get through this difficult time. An affair doesn’t have to be the end of your marriage if both people are dedicated to making it better.