Infidelity can be one of the most devastating things to even happen within a marriage or other kind of committed relationship, and it can lead to the dissolution of a partnership quicker than most other experiences. Some things have to be set in order before partners can even begin trying to rebuild trust after such an experience. The infidelity must stop, for one thing, and the circumstances behind it must be honestly revealed. From there, both partners must have a sincere desire to move on – ideally, in a spirit of forgiveness. They will need to practice speaking and listening to each other with open hearts and minds. There will be deep emotional issues on both sides and a lot of work ahead.
A typical reaction for a person who’s been cheated on is to wonder who can really be trusted anymore. Feelings of vulnerability, humiliation and helplessness are common. Similar issues can plague the person who cheated as well, however. Sometimes he or she doesn’t really understand why the affair happened and feels frightened and/or confused. Understanding the issues behind the infidelity is the first step in moving on. These reasons will be different in every situation. Both partners should share what they know about any dissatisfactions, conflicts and confusion that may have led one and/or the other to stray.
This can lead to unfamiliar and frightening territory. At this point it will probably become obvious that, although the relationship may be salvaged, it will never return to exactly the same state in which it was before. In many ways, the partnership must be created anew. It’s important to curb expectations and not pressure each other to simply patch things up for the sake of convenience. Such a tactic would leave many unresolved hurts, resentments and disappointments still simmering below the surface of a phony truce.
For this reason, patience is crucial at this point in the process of recovery. It can take time to understand why affairs have happened. On an emotional level, both partners need time to assimilate the event and the upheaval that it wrought. They will probably need to process a lot of pain, as well, and this is a process that should not be rushed. Building trust (and, in the case of the cheating partner, trustworthiness) requires effort. It can only be achieved as the results of that effort slowly reveal themselves over a period of time. Without that visible proof, all that the partners are left with are promises and hopeful thinking. Time alone is the true judge of all of our resolutions.
It’s not uncommon for couples to feel overwhelmed in the face of such a difficult process. Many partnerships don’t survive it. Those partners who feel out of their depth can probably benefit from counseling or some other form of professional help. Lack of trust is one of the chief causes of relationship failure largely because trust is so hard to recapture once it’s been compromised. Navigating that difficult road can sometimes require resources beyond those that are possessed by the two people involved.