Discovering that your partner has cheated can shake your world. It’s not just that cheating rips your heart out. Cheating is a revelation that requires you to make a big choice. If you’ve decided to forgive, it’s important to go “all in” with forgiveness instead of holding on to the hurt and anger.
In my work with couples, I’ve seen just how challenging rebuilding trust and bonding following infidelity can be. Based on a published paper on the dynamics of rebuilding trust and trustworthiness in marital relationships post-infidelity disclosure, trust can be built using five aspects. Those aspects are risk identification and prevention, predictability, belief, intimacy, and reciprocity.
Here’s a look at my top tips for opening your heart again after being burned by sexual or emotional cheating using these guideposts.
- Don’t Sugar Coat Anything
First, I highly recommend working out a path to trust and reconciliation with help from a relationship therapist. This provides you with a space to be raw and real with your feelings. The “forgiving” partner sometimes feels as though they need to act “calm and unaffected” in order to actually forgive their partner. In reality, being raw about your true feelings is essential for the healing process.
You can’t resolve feelings that you’re repressing for the sake of keeping things “nice.” There is value in letting your partner know exactly how you feel about their cheating behaviors. Cry, scream, and make the room shake with emotion. Your therapist can handle it!
- Be Honest About Your Ability to Handle the Details
Some people heal better after knowing all of the gritty details of an affair because curiosity will eat them alive unless they get answers. Others will have a harder time getting over the hurt if they have a mental picture of what happened while they were being cheated on. You really have to know your own patterns to be able to make a judgment call about how much you want your partner to tell you. If you’re prone to obsessing over details, knowing “everything” may simply haunt you. You also have to abandon the idea that getting all of the details will somehow help you to “detect” if this is happening again in the future.
- Don’t Become a Detective
Many couples fall into a trap where the “guilty” partner is being monitored by the betrayed partner. This isn’t healthy or enjoyable for either partner! While it’s easy for the betrayed partner to feel entitled to every detail of a cheater’s life in the aftermath of infidelity, it’s crucial that you avoid the temptation to monitor calls, texts, emails, and other activities. However, it is reasonable to establish rules and boundaries that allow you to enjoy predictability and accountability in your relationship.
- Focus on Now
It’s so easy for the betrayed partner to start living in a past affair that they weren’t even participating in! Living in the present with your partner is essential for recovering from infidelity. This looks like reciprocating affection, engaging in intimacy, and having arguments about present topics that don’t revert back to discussions about the affair. If you find yourself constantly imagining or obsessing over details of the affair instead of focusing on your future with your partner, it may be time for individual counseling.
Ultimately, the trust you’re rebuilding after infidelity is with yourself. You must focus on learning to trust your feelings, emotions, and intuition by practicing self-compassion after being manipulated and betrayed by a partner. You also have to get to a place where you trust in your decision to choose reconciliation over separation.