When it feels like the end of the world…

6 October 2016

Discovered that your partner has cheated on you? It can feel like the end of the world. While some relationships never recover, other people find that they’re able to re-build trust. But how?

Look after yourself If you’re still in crisis, now is not the time to decide whether you can save the relationship or not. Your friends and family are likely to have an opinion, but right now your priority should be to take care of yourself and your family. Make sure you and the children have somewhere safe to stay, find someone you can talk to, and look after your health. That means getting plenty of rest, eating well, and finding time for exercise and relaxation. Once the initial shock passes you’re likely to start grieving – avoid going into ‘self destruct’ mode and try to be a friend to yourself instead.

Learn to communicate If communication wasn’t your strong point before, it’s likely to be even harder after now. Being honest is vital. Importantly, the adulterous partner must be prepared to face the heartache they have caused. If you’re the one who has cheated, repeatedly saying ‘I’m sorry’ isn’t enough. Sticking around and dealing with the guilt and aftermath is hard, but only by allowing your partner to grieve and express their anger and sorrow, can you hope to rebuild trust. Once you’ve really listened, it can help to write a letter detailing the impact you know your actions have had and saying why it will never happen again. Your partner must first feel listened to and understood before they can even think about forgiving you.

Consider why it happened After the crisis and grieving stage comes the ‘insight phase’. You no longer speak about ‘his’ or ‘her’ affair, but instead start to think and talk about the affair as something that happened to you as a couple. This is the time to look at the health of your relationship leading up to the affair. You may (understandably) have got into a position where one of you is victim and the other takes all the blame, but at this stage it’s important that you both take responsibility for the relationship. You have to be honest about any shortcomings on both sides (perhaps lack of emotional or sexual intimacy) before you can begin to strengthen and re-build it.

Set some rules While some couples draw up a new relationship contract, others choose to set rules that they both feel comfortable with. If you cheated on your partner via online dating, for example, it could be that you agree to let them check over your shoulder every time they see you on the computer. Rebuilding trust takes time, and you may need to set new boundaries and rules to ease your partner’s insecurity.

Re-connect Finally, make time to reconnect with your partner. That might mean going on a regular date night (and agreeing not to discuss the affair) or taking up a new hobby together. Once you feel ready, it’s time to consider sharing physical intimacy again. Be prepared that you might make progress, only to take two steps back. While your relationship won’t go back to how it was before the affair, with enough time, effort and honesty, you may find that trust emerges even stronger than it was before.

If you’d like to discuss these issues with one of our counsellors give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.

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