Let’s face it, being in a relationship can be one of the best (or worst) things to happen in your life. When the relationship is at its peak, it could be described as ‘having sunshine on a cloudy day’. Time with your significant other makes you feel like you could walk on the clouds, and absolutely nothing could go wrong in this never-ending blissful state.
Ok, that’s enough of the mushy stuff!
So what happens when the winds of change come blowing, and things go south - like when you have a disagreement, or worse you find yourself in an affair? Or perhaps it’s you that’s on the receiving end and you’re forced to tell friends and family 'my boyfriend cheated on me.' What an absolute nightmare!
The real question here is, can a relationship go back to normal after infidelity? Rest assured, there is some good news as not all couples have to split when someone cheats. Around 60% to 75% of relationships can be restored after an affair, provided the cheating partner is willing to cooperate. So, it sounds like there could be light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s find out more.
Before we explore the ways to rebuild trust after infidelity, let’s get a better understanding of what is cheating in a relationship. According to experts, cheating is simply the act of one partner acting contrary to the defined agreements and commitments in a relationship. This may range from physical infidelity to emotional infidelity. Simply put, if one partner cheats, they breach or violate a set of relationship rules.
An affair can either be premeditated and or very unexpected. It can suddenly work its way into relationships, leaving couples caught off guard when cheating happens.
If someone has cheated on you, it may feel like a slap in the face, especially if you have invested time and effort in your relationship. If you think there is no hope or you feel your trust in that person has been demolished, it helps to understand that infidelity is something that happens very often, for a wide variety of reasons, but your relationship can still be salvaged.
On the flip side, if it’s you that has been unfaithful and you are truly ready to repair your relationship, then pay attention to these ten tips on how you can rebuild trust after an affair.
Most people would agree that after an affair, there is a healing process that couples need to work on and sufficient time must be given for each step to work effectively. The necessary steps are listed here:
So regardless of whether you were caught in the act or your spouse scoured through your phone and found text messages, the first and most obvious thing to do is to admit to infidelity. You must be sincerely sorry for the affair, as it is a significant violation of your partner. With infidelity, you have pretty much ripped up your relationship’s contract of trust and loyalty - qualities most people do not take lightly. And in place of this, you have sown seeds of distrust, suspicion, and disrespect.
Weigh the situation and be prudent in admitting to it. When you admit your faults and show remorse, don’t do this to reduce the feelings of guilt as some people do. Instead, do it because you cherish the relationship and want to set things right. This communication is best done face-to-face.
It helps when you acknowledge your spouse's hurt feelings by making them understand that you may not know exactly how it feels - nonetheless, you accept that you were wrong and understand their feelings. Validate their feelings by letting them know they are right to feel that way. Experts agree that this is a critical step in rebuilding trust after infidelity
Ideally, let your spouse know how sorry you are through your words. A simple 'I am sorry' sometimes does the trick. Use words such as 'I hurt you’, ‘I let you down’ and ‘I am disappointed in my actions.' According to infidelity recovery therapist Dr. Talal Alsaleem, this will go a long way in showing your spouse that you accept your mistake as it is a sign that you are willing to change and work things out.
Now let’s say you've been caught cheating, and your boyfriend is hurt. You try to explain, but he quickly leaves the room reeling with anger at his discovery. He then jumps straight to his social media channels to vent in anger and frustration, letting out some choice words.
How in the world do you respond to this? The best answer is DON’T! Don’t even respond or try to explain your actions. In the early stages, saying anything is more likely to cause more harm than good. Anything you say can and will be used against you. Give him space, and this includes physical and emotional space to allow him to process the situation.
It’s best to have no expectations at this stage, if he asks you to leave, just leave. Expect a tidal wave of emotional responses when he is in shock. Forgiveness does not have to be immediate. Trust is like the Great Wall of China - it was not built in a day. It has to take time to be restored, so be very very patient.
Most couples would agree that patience indicates you are willing to wait and experience temporary loss or pain because you value the relationship. This helps the healing process. Respond only when you have to. This can go a long way in returning the relationship to normal.
Finally, the best course of action here is to listen. Actively listen to how your boyfriend is feeling. It will not be pleasant hearing as this gives you an insight into the extent of hurt your infidelity caused. Failure to heed these steps reduces your chances of working things out and repairing your relationship after an affair.
Another significant step towards making things normal again after an affair will be to deal healthily with the source of your cheating. As previously stated, infidelity is subjective and may be in different forms. So, while one person's source of infidelity may be sexual, another person may be emotional.
Regardless, there are some general principles or ideas to help deal with this. Make the decision to end the affair. Confront the source and be sure to do this wisely to ensure you do not compromise yourself. Afterward, cut off all contact with the person or affair partners if at all possible.
During the healthy confrontation, acknowledge your responsibility as you had a role to play in the affair and accept the consequence of your actions. Use words such as, 'I made a mistake in getting with you as I am already committed to someone else,’ ‘I want to work things out with my partner,’ ‘I apologize for how things have transpired'...and so on.
Finally, it is really useful to identify and understand your reasons for your affair. More often than not, cheating on someone and lying is the result of unfulfilled needs and desires in your current relationship. It could be a lack of sexual satisfaction, an absence of self-discipline, peer pressure, or even boredom.
This self-analysis gives you access to a good source of data for honest and open communication as you both identify and understand how and why it started.
At this point, you have to seek your partner's view on what you can do to make things go back to normal. Seek out what your partner needs.
This could be physical, emotional, or any other thing. Doing this helps to ease the physical burden they carry. For example, you could clean around the house, help with the dishes, or do the shopping if you are staying together.
On an emotional level, you can ask how they feel and try to develop empathy - the ability to accept and understand how he feels about everything that is going on. Also, accept criticism for the affair, take it in good faith and actively work towards correcting the flaw.
Understand that your partner's requests or demands may sometimes appear unreasonable or hard to do but find a way to execute it without doing anything too crazy. If you make a good effort, your partner may see your desire and commitment to making things return back to normal.
This step is all about communication - open, honest, and accountable communication. Be gracious in how you communicate your thoughts and feelings. Going forward, there will be various discourses where some will end up in disagreements and arguments, and the past affair is likely to come up.
Whatever or however the form fight fair. Take a deep breath, carefully choose your words. Think before you speak and anticipate the effects of your words. Besides, do not play the blame game. Do not be defensive, either.
When it comes to transparency, by now, you should have come to understand that the levels of trust and credibility are at an all-time low with your partner. To change this for the better, you need to be accountable for your actions going forward. Actively anticipate your partner's jitters and willingly share information no matter how small or trivial it seems.
Allow them to go through your emails, cell phone, and social media accounts. While this feels like an invasion of your privacy, it is for the greater good - which is the restoration and rebuilding of credibility and trust.
One key component in open communication is being able to address the fears and concerns of you both. You can individually discuss what scares you about the past and the future, then you both figure out how you can help address these worries. Outline concrete steps on how you plan to address them.
And finally, in the course of communicating, you might be given a chance to explain your reasons for being unfaithful. This time to a more receptive and less emotional partner. Tread carefully, be sincere, and do not apportion blame or try to absolve yourself whatsoever. You can use 'I feel' statements to convey some of your difficulties and concerns.
Whatever happens, make sure your partner is in the know.
Just like being released from jail of your own making, you have to sign a bond or make some resolution not to go back to your old ways. Failure to do so can take you back to square one (jail) and completely ruin your relationship. After all, this is a second chance with a person that is very significant in your life.
Make promises and work on behaviors that build trust. These promises must be achievable so don't promise something you cannot fulfill. Chances are, these promises will help you mature as a person and help restore the trust in your relationship. An excellent place to start is to promise to cut contact with your affair partner and do so, as mentioned above.
You can also add to this by telling your partner what you plan on doing or where you plan to go each day and stick to it. Make it a point to adhere to your obligations. If you are having some difficulties or cannot seem to achieve it, seek help from your partner or other people such as family members you can trust.
If there is an issue or hindrance, immediately let them know, offer an apology and an explanation. This portrays a trait of consistency and reliability.
Also, ground rules and boundaries will be set. Promise yourself and your partner that you will stick to them no matter how hard they seem. For example, you can both set a particular day aside for a special couples' activity, and you must try and stick to it. Again, if there are some challenges, quickly check in with your partner and reschedule.
After all, a second chance among couples is rare these days.
Now that you have been given a second chance make it count. Start by rekindling your love with love. Love (or some variant of it) is the reason you are in the relationship. The affair may have reduced it, but it is not the end. Rekindle the love of your favorite person - our spouse.
This is more effective when shown through actions - more so than words. Remember some of the best times you both had and find ways to recreate them. You can also improve them by being creative with your love.
Spend time with your spouse in their preferred places. Be sure to do what your other half enjoys - even though you may not enjoy it, for example, watch a game or go shopping together. Also, plan to do something you both enjoy - watch a movie or dine at your favorite restaurant.
Going forward, be the best partner you can ever be. Serve him breakfast in bed. Allow yourself to be vulnerable around him. Listen to him. Be his best friend again. Improve your sex life by making it more worthwhile for both of you.
You should also consider non-sexual affection which is forms of touch or connection that convey the message of love but don’t necessarily mean sex - kisses on the hand, cheeks, and cuddles are great examples.
Appeal to your partner's love language. Don't be taken aback if your actions are rebuffed as you may not be staying together during this period. It takes time for the normal to return and bear in mind that different people have different coping mechanisms.
Know that you are a team and you need help on this journey. The value of support cannot be underestimated as the road to restoration and recovery is long and hard, and you will both need assistance - individually and as a couple.
One source of support can be your family. You can both seek help from people you trust and have a wealth of experience. They can give you insights into what has happened and how to process it. Individually you can be vulnerable before them as you can trust them with your fears.
Most people would agree with me that couples therapy is a great option - although with most couples, one person is usually more keen on therapy than the other. This will indeed be valuable to both individuals. With this comes a measured and in-depth understanding of the actions, thoughts, feelings, and emotions of people who cheat.
Therapy gives you access to a rich source of information that will help you both deal with your issues in healthy and productive ways. Therapy will also help you both deal with negative feelings like guilt and anxiety.
Religious couples can seek the wisdom and guidance of their belief system by talking to leaders and experienced people. They give you a moral perspective on issues and several coping mechanisms to help deal with it.
If you've gotten this far in your couples therapy, then fear not, the rebuild and restoration process is firmly on track. Your partner is less mad and is even considering forgiving you. Most people would agree that you mustn’t force your other half to forgive you. Allow them to forgive you in their own time.
Moving on, the main question now becomes, have you forgiven yourself? You must forgive yourself for everything. Don't know how? Here are some tips:
Ensure you have learned a lesson from everything that has happened. This will make you a better friend, partner, and lover.
At this stage, couples usually prefer to focus a good portion of their energy on the now. Be mindful of yourself and your partner - how you both feel as partners and as people, as well as the effects on you both. Attempts to revert back to the normal should be present and future-oriented.
In the present, accept and move on with them once they allow you. This can be done by forgiving yourself and resolving to get better after this experience. Learn and adopt excellent skills to help you cope and grow. Should there be a need, you can both take up something together - like a new hobby for example.
The best advice at this stage is to look to the future and put the past in the rearview mirror where it belongs. One way to do this is by looking at your past as a lesson for the future - a template for what to do and what not to do. Most couples would agree that a good perspective would be to work on positive behaviors that will enhance the whole atmosphere of their relationship.
It helps when couples plan activities together as not only does this increase the time you spend together, it also raises and deepens the level of bonding. Develop useful techniques to help you both deal with any disagreements or anything that can push one or both partners to be unfaithful to each other. Also, actively commit not to make avoidable mistakes.
To begin with, you have to admit and stop cheating. Cut off all contact with the source of cheating. Apologize and be sincere about it. Give your partner time and space to process and vent. From this point onwards, honest and open communication must be the norm in addition to rekindling love.
Yes. You can love your partner and still cheat on them. The decision or act of cheating on someone may arise due to several factors like unresolved childhood issues, lack of attention from the partner, a temporary source of escape, fears or insecurities, or an absence of thrill in the current relationship. So indeed, it is possible to cheat and still be in love with your partner.
Yes, it can be done. It can be likened to a cut on the skin which hurts at the beginning, but after some time, the pain dies down. The scars fade away if it is adequately cared for with the right treatment. A similar principle applies to relationships. Remember that restoration is dependent on the willingness of both parties.
It is not always true. According to Tammy Nelson, a renowned psychotherapist, and many other experts, cheating on someone comes about due to various needs and reasons. One primary reason is time. At a point in time, someone may cheat a lot, but as they find relationships they value, the cheating behavior reduces. Hence when these needs and motives are satisfied, the cheating behavior will likely disappear.
Yes. So long as a cheater is a human being, they are susceptible to change. They have to make a choice to make the jump from affair to faithfulness. One way this can be done is by separating the cheater from the object of cheating. Also, the redirection of cheating urges into healthy behaviors.
To wrap things up, most would agree that cheating is a choice with real consequences and working towards correcting the mistakes made can help to rebuild trust in a relationship. I hope you enjoyed reading this and learned a few tips (or more) to recover and revert your relationship to normal. I would love to hear your views and questions in the comment section. Also, like and share if this has made an impact.