Is it Possible to Rebuild Trust After an Affair?
The discovery of an affair brings overwhelming grief, rage, and feelings of betrayal. Despite this, betrayal usually doesn't decrease the love of either partner. When you still love someone but cannot trust them, is it possible to mend the relationship?
Dr. Janis Spring is a clinical psychologist and author of After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful and How Can I Forgive You? The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To. Her work reflects my professional experience in that relationships can heal and become stronger, provided the couple takes some key steps.
Most cheating partners feel guilty. Guilt makes people feel helpless. Because no one wants to experience these unpleasant, immobilizing emotions, cheaters often urge their partners to forgive and forget, and move on. This of course, backfires.
According to Dr. Spring, the cheater needs to address the pain they've caused rather than ignore it. Healing can't start without this first step.
Avoid Cheap Forgiveness
Sometimes the hurt partner prematurely forgives the cheater. They rob themselves of the vital healing experience of feeling the full range of their rage and sorrow. Spring calls this “cheap forgiveness” and warns that it can lead to future infidelities.
Cheap forgiveness lets the cheater off scott-free and sends a message that the behavior is okay. It also allows both partners to avoid encountering their strong emotions. No one can get closer if they can't share their feelings and learn to work it out.
Once full responsibility is taken and grieving is winding down, it's time for both partners to begin to let it go in order to get closer. A couple has no chance of rebuilding trust if the wronged partner holds onto the resentment and continues to use it against their spouse.
Rebuilding trust after an affair takes time. Each couple is different. While some may feel closure after six months, others may need up to five years to fully heal. Some couples may find they need the guidance of a therapist to move through their issues. But the important thing is that both parties remain committed and do the work.
If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.