7 Ways You Can Recover from Infidelity Together
One of you strayed and one of you was deceived and lied to. Both of you, however, need to decide what’s next. Does infidelity mean that your relationship is automatically over? Can couples survive infidelity with their relationship intact?
Although 20 percent of adults engage in extramarital sex at some point, relationships can, and often do, survive and thrive after an affair. As you can imagine, such a recovery requires diligent work and teamwork. Healing from trauma is never an easy task. Therefore, in this particular situation, you will need to develop an abundance of:
- Renewed trust
However, before a couple can dig into this difficult work, they must first decide together how they define “infidelity.” For some, it’s clear cut: One of you has engaged in sexual acts with another person. However, for others, only specific behaviors fulfill the definition of infidelity. Perhaps you feel that an emotional connection, without physical intimacy, is off-limits. Increasingly, a wide range of online relationships and the consumption of pornography are perceived as cheating. The variations are virtually limitless.
However you choose to define it, once your personal perception of infidelity has been breached, it can feel like a shock to the system. Dealing with relationship betrayal is a long term task. The following are seven ways you and your partner can begin this process productively:
Steps for the unfaithful partner:
- Stop the affair, cut off contact, and take responsibility. These may, at first, seem obvious but they still bear repeating. Two powerful steps towards regaining your partner’s trust would be to renounce any and all interactions with the other person and to own up to your behavior. Don’t deflect blame or engage in gas lighting (see #4).
- Provide whatever details are requested. Your partner will have questions. Lots and lots of questions. Your duty is to answer all of them in an honest and timely manner. This will not be a comfortable process for you but if you’re committed to reconciliation and recovery, the only way out is through.
- Understand how forgiveness works. It may—and often does—take time. Trust that’s lost in an instant might take a long while to be earned back. Your partner will be juggling pain, anger, fear, and more. Do not rush or judge them.
For the deceived partner:
- Don’t blame yourself. You didn’t cheat, you didn’t lie, and you didn’t betray your partner’s trust. Therefore, you have every right to experience and express what you’re feeling without guilt but you should be extra cautious to not be gas lighted into non-victim status. It’s not your fault.
- Find a support system. Like any traumatic event, adultery can manifest ebbs and flows of emotions. So, having loved ones around you to lean on is an excellent idea. Your inner circle can provide advice, counsel, support, and a shoulder to cry on—all the good things you may normally expect from your partner. In this case, of course, your partner is not a productive option.
- Take charge of creating non-recovery together-time. As you work toward post-infidelity life, you’ll need to make time to be together when you’re not working on this issue. As the victim, you can and should take charge of such scheduling.
For both of you:
- Seek out a mediator. Moving past the trauma phase is crucial, but how does a couple address the underlying issues that may have led to infidelity in the first place? This is where a mediator comes in, usually in the form of a marriage counselor. Such a therapist is someone who can hear both partners’ perspectives and honestly share perceptions of patterns and tendencies. Whether the goal is to repair trust or create closure before ending a relationship, counseling can be an invaluable facilitator.