Discovering that your partner cheated is one of the most devastating experiences you can have, according to Dr. Shirley Glass, a marriage and family therapist whose article “Infidelity” is posted on the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy website. Cheating doesn’t have to permanently destroy your relationship, but it can. Many factors determine whether you can rebuild trust and heal the relationship.
The Betrayer's Responsibilities
The betrayer must convince the betrayed partner that he is sorry for the affair and that it won’t happen again if the relationship is to survive, according to marriage and family therapist Dr. Willard Harley on his Marriage Builders site in the article, "How to Survive an Affair." The first step is to make a clean break from the affair partner, agreeing not to spend time with that person. The betrayer must also accept responsibility for the cheating and demonstrate accountability and honesty to show that the affair is over. Ways to do that include letting the betrayed partner know when the affair partner makes contact, deciding together how to respond to contact and keeping promises made. Finally, the betraying partner must recommit to the relationship and meet the needs of his partner on a daily basis through affection, attention and appreciation.
The Betrayed's Responsibilities
The betrayed partner must also take steps to repair the relationship. He must agree to forgive his partner and allow her to make amends, according to marriage and family therapist Joshua Coleman, Ph.D., in “Surviving Betrayal” on the Greater Good Science Center website. He must take an honest look at his own behavior and discover if he has any responsibility for the affair by neglecting his partner’s needs or pushing the relationship out of first priority. He must meet her needs as she meets his. It may take a long time to rebuild trust, but he must commit to work at it and not abuse his partner by humiliating her for the affair.
If you can’t work through the problems in the relationship as a couple, seek professional help. An objective listener with professional relationship skills can help many couples begin rebuilding. Approximately 50 percent of couples who seek professional help do so because of infidelity, and many rebuild the relationship so that it is stronger than it was before the cheating, according to Dr. Glass.
Time and Consistency
Rebuilding trust takes time and consistent behavior that proves the betrayer is worth trusting. A mutual policy of radical honesty prevents deceit and encourages trust, according to Harley in "How Can Trust Be Restored After an Affair?" Demonstrating that you care about your partner's feelings and are willing to make sure emotional needs are met can help you reconnect and rebuild the relationship.
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