Rebuilding trust after an affair

Image: 123rf/lsantilli

Dealing with betrayal in romantic relationships is a highly painful and stressful experience.

Trust is vital in any relationship and recovering from being cheated on is not easy.

Nevertheless, it could be worth it for the right relationship.

The question of what to do when your partner has been unfaithful is a tough one.

It’s very easy for people to objectively say “drop him or her like a bad habit” or even “stand by him/her — forgive and forget”.

It’s quite easy to armchair coach other people’s relationship on something you may not have experience of.

But when it’s your relationship, suddenly what seems clear-cut and simple is actually a lot more complicated.

However, when you both decide that the relationship is worth saving, it’s important to be all in.

To rebuild trust, there are a couple of issues we’d like to propose that you think about.

Decide if you want to reconcile

The sobering reality of forgiveness is realising that you’re actually forgiving an imperfect person.

There are no guarantees that your partner won’t do it again, or that they won’t find more cunning ways of cheating so that you won’t find out.

Even if you were to leave them, there’s still no guarantee you’ll meet someone else who won’t cheat on you.

Fact is, our imperfect nature makes all of us susceptible to cheating.

The only way to determine if you’re ready to trust again is to honestly assess if you would be able to handle it if you found out that your partner was cheating on you again.

If you both decide to reconcile, the process will demand that your partner complies with whatever measures you agree to.

If there’s disagreement in this regard, not only will it be difficult or near impossible to risk your vulnerability and trust again, but reconciliation is unable to take place.

If this is the case, there may come a point where you have to draw the line and say, “This is it, I’m done”.

Trust and honesty

If your cheating partner truly wants to save the relationship, they will have to opt for rigorous honesty and commit to a path of trust restoration.

And no, trust is not automatically restored simply because they say the infidelity has stopped.

Trust is regained through consistent and sometimes emotionally painful truth-telling and accountability.

Willingness to be open also has to go both ways.

You have to be brutally open about your fears going forward, and your partner must be completely  honest about their life going forward.

Without this, your walls will remain high as long as your partner continues being doggy.

Consequently, you will never reach closure and you will continually live in a relationship that’s characterised by mistrust.

Essentially, you’ll have no relationship, though you could claim to be in each other’s lives.

Your partner needs to be transparent about their whereabouts, with whom they said they’ll be, how long they’ll need to be, and why they need to be there.

Not meeting this standard could compromise the process.

Basically, your partner must make a commitment to living differently and abiding by certain boundaries, the most important of which is ongoing, complete honesty about absolutely everything, all the time.

They need to start to fearlessly tell the truth no matter what, even when they know it might be upsetting to you.

Patience

Dealing with infidelity is a highly emotional experience.

The experience is even more severe if the cheating partner minimises it, denies even the obvious or simply doesn’t get it.

The process of rebuilding trust requires a lot of patience, there’s no time frame and it takes as long as it takes.

Your partner must understand that suspicion and mistrust are natural reactions when a person has been cheated on and lied to.

After all, the evidence supports the belief that they aren’t trustworthy.

Trust can be rebuilt, but it does not come quickly, even for kindhearted people.

Your partner’s job is to patiently walk with you, in a posture of remorse and appreciation of the pain they’ve caused.

However, you also shouldn’t use this process as a punishment.

Neither should you keep bringing the issue up at every opportunity you get.

Remember the plan is to move on, and start afresh.

It’s unfair to claim to have forgiven your partner and have therefore opted to continue with the relationship, but continuously throw the cheating act in their face.

This will derail the trust rebuilding process.

You may need to take your time healing before you embark on the process of reconciliation with your partner.

Otherwise, if you continue resuscitating the cheating to your repentant partner, you will eventually chase them away.

When you have decided to forgive and reconcile, commit to the decision.

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