Have you ever heard anyone say “I could never cheat on my partner!” Or, “If someone ever cheated on me, I’d leave them in a heartbeat.” Have you ever thought or said those things? If so, you are certainly not alone. Like most hardships, you never truly know how you’ll react in a situation until you find yourself in that situation.
Did you know that, when working through infidelity, the partners that choose to work through the infidelity and work to rebuild the trust actually create stronger relationships on the other side? It’s true!
Each partner plays a role in healing the relationship. Simply put, the offending partner has to earn back trust, and the hurt partner has to learn how to trust again. This post focuses on how the offending partner can earn back their partner’s trust, and our next post will focus on how the hurt partner can learn to trust again.
5 Steps to earning back trust:
- End the extramarital relationship. For obvious reasons, you cannot hope to earn back any of your partner’s trust if you are still engaging in an inappropriate relationship. While this is an obvious step, it can also be complicated. For instance, if the other party is someone you work with and cannot completely cut ties with, you will then need to work with your partner to figure out appropriate boundaries around future interactions. This may look like removing yourself from joint work projects, committing to always interacting with them in a group setting, communicating through your assistants, etc.
- Transparency. Most relationships begin with a “default” trust setting. It is completely normal for two individuals to be in a relationship and maintain privacy around their cell phones, computers, etc. Before learning of the infidelity, your partner assumed that anytime you were on your phone, you were acting trustworthy. Now, your partner is struggling with how to figure out whether or not you’re being honest. (“S/he says they aren’t in contact anymore…but how can I know for sure?”) If your partner can see that you’re being open and transparent with your communication devices, however uncomfortable that may feel, the trust will slowly start to rebuild.
- Reliability and Dependability. If you tell your partner you are going to be at a certain place at a certain time, then do everything you can to make sure you are at that place at that time. If you say “I’ll call you when I get to the office”, then make sure you remember call when you get to the office. Think of these moments as the building blocks of trust. Every single one of these moments is an opportunity to earn back your partner’s trust. Treat each moment very carefully, because if you fail to follow through with a commitment you made, you risk re-injuring that trust. If you are trying to honor the commitment but something unexpected happened (for example, you’re caught in traffic and running 10 minutes late), then make sure you communicate that with your partner openly, honestly, and as quickly as possible.
- Be willing to make sacrifices. What are you willing to do for your relationship? What changes are you willing to make in your life? Now is the time to take a close look at your life, and reflect upon what may have lead to the infidelity in the first place. Was alcohol a factor? If yes, are you willing to embrace sobriety? Did the infidelity occur at work, and if so, are you willing to look for a new job? Have you resisted therapy in the past, and if so, are you open to it now?
- Find support for yourself. You may be tempted to drop everything and focus solely on your partner. You are swimming in guilt, and you will do anything and everything in your power to rebuild your relationship. As unnatural as it may feel to seek out some support for yourself right now, know that this will not only benefit you, it will also benefit your partner and your relationship. Your experience, your thoughts and feelings, are just as valid and as important as your partner’s, and you need to take care of you. Think of it this way: You cannot pour from an empty cup. You cannot be there for your partner if there isn’t someone there for you.
Recovery from infidelity is possible! This is a remarkably difficult situation to navigate on your own, so please consider reaching out to a local couples therapist for support and guidance through the process.
Please note that this content is for informational purposes, and not a substitute for treatment. If you are in need of mental health treatment, please seek out a provider in your area.