Infidelity does serious harm to a marriage – that’s something we can all agree on. Feelings of betrayal, guilt, anger, and a sense of total disruption are to be expected, but even when everything feels like it has fallen apart – you CAN rebuild trust, overcome the hurt, and get your marriage back on track.
Where can you possibly begin though?
First, it’s important to understand that rebuilding trust in a marriage takes time. The person who cheated has a long road ahead of them, showing their partner that they understand the damage they’ve caused, proving that they can be trusted, and showing their partner that they are willing to accept responsibility for their actions.
This won’t happen over night, of course, and the wronged member of the relationship must navigate many difficult emotions and decisions in the aftermath of an affair, particularly the decision to forgive their partner and begin working toward the future.
Now, this process of forgiveness and rebuilding trust will be a little different for every couple, but there are a few important components that are necessary to move beyond the pain and get your marriage back on track.
First: honesty. The hurt person needs to be able to talk openly about their feelings without the other party becoming defensive. This isn’t a blaming session, or a chance to use the offending partner as a verbal punching bag, though. Instead, this raw and painful conversation is important to make sure the person who had the affair truly realizes the impact of their actions.
It is essential to share this pain together, to face the reality of the affair head on. Otherwise, you won’t be able to get to a place of rebuilding. The barriers of unspoken pain will not go away until a couple can talk about them openly.
After an honest, heartfelt apology and an open discussion about the pain that has been caused, the next part is one of the most difficult for people who have been cheated on: admitting a certain amount of mutual responsibility.
When affairs happen, it’s usually because of the climate of the relationship. While the person who committed the adultery certainly made a damaging choice, it’s important for both members of the marriage to look realistically at the state of their relationship before the affair, and assess what they were both doing to create the situations that led to infidelity.
Most often, infidelity occurs because the emotional and physical needs of one party are not being met. While the “blame” can still lie on the person who committed the adultery, it’s unrealistic (and unhealthy) to think the situation is entirely one-sided. Evaluate the way you were communicating, the amount of time you were spending together, and the attentiveness to each other’s emotional and physical needs.
By examining the issues in the relationship that lead one person to cheat, couples can see things they need to improve as they move forward, both to rebuild the marriage stronger than it was before, and to avoid the issues that could lead to another affair in the future. Again, this takes both members of a couple.
You may have to lay some ground rules in the aftermath – like a policy about internet use or cell phone contact – to help reestablish trust, based on tangible proof that the offending spouse has stopped the affair.
It will also be difficult to rebuild sexual intimacy, but it’s not impossible! Like the rest of this process, it will take time, patience, and honesty with one another.
Because affairs can lead to feelings of insecurity for the wronged, and feelings of guilt and pressure to perform for the wrongdoer, rekindling sexual intimacy can be a challenge. Just like the other steps of the process, it’s best to take things slow, and always with openness and honesty.
As couples traverse this difficult time, eventually the pain will start to fade and trust will begin to return. It’s important to remember that you aren’t alone, that many, many couples have been through similar situations, and come out the other side with a stronger, more stable marriage than before.
It will not be an easy process, but eventually people can find forgiveness and trust, so long as they are willing to work for it. As trust rebuilds and the pain begins to fade, couples can recognize that the past is the past, and cannot be changed. If they truly want to make the marriage work, they can accept this painful part of their lives, put it behind them, and focus their efforts on creating a happy, healthy future!
For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com