It may seem impossible to trust your spouse after they have had an affair. The deception, pain and loneliness can be overwhelming and put your marriage in serious jeopardy. If you decide to continue your relationship and re-invest in your marriage, you will need to rebuild trust. This can be a long and difficult process, and varies couple-to-couple. Although it takes lots of effort, it is possible to rebuild trust in your spouse after an affair through reflection, patience, and shared goals for your relationship. You’ll need to explore the dynamics of your relationship which preceded the affair, re-affirm the marriage contract, and create a vision for your future together. Let’s take a closer look at how to rebuild trust and reinvigorate your relationship after an affair.
Why Affairs Happen
An affair is a result of someone going outside the relationship for something they’re not getting within the relationship which they strongly desire. Sometimes what is desired is sexual, and other times it’s an emotional need that is not being met within the marriage. To better assess the underlying causes in your particular situation, consider the dynamic between you and your partner. Reflecting on the dynamic between spouses and within the marriage is more productive in repairing the relationship than focusing on any individual’s actions.
Addressing Unmet Needs
The first step in getting your relationship back on track is identifying what unmet need(s) led to the affair. If sexual desires weren’t satisfied, then you and your partner need to clarify what you both want physically from the marriage. See if both you and your spouse can get on the same page, work toward reinvigorating your sexual relationship, and bring it back to a mutually satisfying place. If it was more of an emotional affair, you’ll need to find ways to reconnect and build back your emotional connection with each other.
It’s important to note that random cheating, although it does happen, is not the norm. Affairs are almost always the result of a deeper disconnect in the relationship, not a mere whim. Unraveling the cause of an affair can be tough and uncomfortable to navigate. Consider doing standard couples counseling or intensive couples therapy with an experienced counselor who can guide you through the process.
Trust is the confidence that your partner can provide the marriage you’re looking for. This requires full transparency around expectations and needs. You both need to be explicit about what each of you want in the contract of your marriage. You’ll need to commit to this contract and establish clear boundaries. In order for trust to be reestablished, both partners must stay within the bounds of the marriage, so establish these parameters with care and work toward them together. Then you can begin to rebuild the relationship as a team.
Confront Your Anger And Grief
A loss of trust in your spouse will stir up a lot of negative feelings, and that’s expected. However, it’s important to not get caught up in blaming or shaming. Don’t dwell on the details of the affair – this will only leave you stuck in a cycle of anger and resentment. Have that conversation minimally and move on to rebuilding your relationship.
Even though it’s not productive to dwell on the hurt, it is important to confront and process your pain and other difficult emotions you’re experiencing. The loss of trust is a major loss; take time to acknowledge and grieve it. Using the 5 Stages of Grief model can help you through the grieving process. Once you’ve started to deal with your grief, you are in better shape to do the heavy lifting of repairing your marriage.
Your anger and grief about the affair doesn’t mean you need to take sides and declare war. Marriage is a system to which both partners contribute. It’s a single entity, not two opposing teams. In order to nurture the relationship, both partners need to contribute, regardless of who had the affair. So try to limit the finger-pointing, no matter how tempting that may be. Confront your feelings and make space for rebuilding.
Moving Your Marriage Forward
As you begin to rebuild your marriage, envision what you’d like your relationship to look like down the road. Paint that positive picture for each other and see if you can think of some steps you can take to reach that goal.
You may also want to explore how you can better relate to each other by exploring your love languages. This idea, developed by Dr. Gary Chapman, is that everyone feels love in different ways, and you might want to express your love in a way that is different from how your partner wants to receive it. For example, some people feel a close connection through physical touch while others require comforting words and compliments. Get to know your partner’s preferred love language and use this knowledge to better connect with them. It’s also important to let them know what your primary language is so you can both feel love and connection.
Rebuilding trust after an affair involves a lot of work, focus and patience. If you’d like to get some guided support in this effort, we’re ready to assist you every step of the way.