Cheating is often a symptom of relationship unhappiness says a recent study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Investigators took a hard look at the entire topic of infidelity and discovered that a person is most likely to step out when they’ve been hurt (in some way) by their current partner. Does being hurt by a partner give you permission to cheat? No, but it does help to understand that infidelity can be complicated. The path to healing can also be complicated but it is doable! Here’s my shorthand guide of how to rebuild trust in relationships:
1. Take responsibility. Acknowledge the wrong without excuses.
Oftentimes people will ask me how they can know if a partner will betray them (e.g. cheat) again and one of the most important indicators involves their reaction to their behavior. Do they accept responsibility or do they try to deflect blame? The former is more likely to be a good foundation for cognitive and behavioral changes that will result in a lower likelihood of repeating the same mistakes. If you’re still making excuses, you’re less likely to make change.
2. Next, listen to your partner.
Give your partner permission and support to express how they feel and what they think — no matter how outlandish. It’s important to understand how your behavior made them feel. What are the underlying feelings that you’ll both need to address in order to move forward. Emotional reactions are not universal. One person will respond with anger where another feels extreme sadness, so you need to make an effort to understand their feelings.
3. Get help.
You may not need months or years of counseling. Even a few sessions with a good counselor can go a long way. Consider what type of counseling is right for you — Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Brief Solution-Focused Therapy, Narrative Therapy — there are many approaches to consider beyond old-school psychotherapy.
Encourage them to get help too. They have a right to bring up how they feel about past behavior when it’s bothering them; it is not helpful, however, to fling past transgressions at you during arguments about unrelated topics — a therapist or counselor can help with this.
4. Track changes.
Keep a diary (even in point-form) of the way you’re working to change the way you think & behave so that you can check in and share your progress with your partner.
5. Check in with one another regularly.
Plan monthly check-ins so that you can talk about how you’re feeling individually and together. Do not wait for tensions to rise before having important conversations.
Moving forward after trust has been broken can be a long and hard process but it is definitely possible and your relationship can even be stronger. Check out Thinking About Divorce? Read This. for more inspiration on how to overcome difficult relationship hurdles. And if you have other tips on how to overcome infidelity please share in the comments below.
If despite your best efforts the relationship doesn’t work out and you want inspiration for how to move on and not take past emotional baggage into your next relationship read her story Got Cheated On? A Girl’s Guide For To How To Trust Again In Your Next Relationship.