Infidelity. Cheating. Adultery. Affair. Extramarital relations. No matter what word you use to describe it – it’s the ultimate trust breaker in a relationship. Is there a chance you can ever repair that? And how do you successfully fix a relationship after cheating?
There are a few factors that make fixing a relationship after an affair more challenging that those that suffer simply from broken trust. It’s a multi-layered endeavor, and takes time and significant effort. [Read this article for first steps.]
Why is Relationship Repair so Hard?
Societal norms teach us that cheating is the worst relationship sin anyone can ever commit. Many people feel it is unforgivable, and if your friends or family find out about it, they may pressure you to break up with your spouse.
The second factor is that having sex can be one of the most intimate things you do with someone else (though it isn’t always). So in addition to trust being broken, your partner has to contend with the reality that you have shared deeply intimate parts with someone else.
When done honestly – such as in consensual ethical non-monogamy – this can be fine. However, if done outside of your relationship agreement, your partner has had no time to prepare for the idea of you being intimate with someone else. And, as a couple, you haven’t had the chance to to devise ways to support each other in this process.
4 Steps to Fixing Your Relationship after an Affair
So in addition to these steps, you will need to:
- Listen to Their Feelings about You Having Another Intimate Relationship. It is important that you hear what it is like for them to know that you have shared intimacy with someone else.
Again, this might affect you differently than them. Some of the most common feelings after an affair include feeling inadequate, undesirable, or fearful of being left.
- Focus on Feelings – Not Specifics. One of the worst things about living in our modern times is that affairs are often discovered through text messages or email. Consequently, the hurt person is able to dive down into the whole history of the connection.
When your partner gets a hold of these intimate specifics it can be extremely painful for them. You need to listen to their feelings about all of it.
If they find out but don’t acquire any of the intimate details, steer the conversation towards hearing their feelings. You don’t want to answer a lot of interrogative questions about what you did, where, how many times, etc. It only adds to the pain. There may come a time when your partner needs to hear some of the specifics to move on, but it’s definitely not the place to start.
Hear Both Sides
- Avoid Falling Into Your Own Guilt, Shame, or Defensiveness. If you want to do well at fixing your relationship after cheating, you need to not make it about you.
While it might seem like going into full-blown guilt or shame will show your partner how remorseful you are, it likely won’t work. If you spend your time focused on guilt, you won’t be available to really hear your partner.
See if you can stay away from “I’m sorry” – and instead really listen, hear your partner, and acknowledge their feelings.
- Both Sides Need to Be Heard. Eventually – and once you have listened to all of your partner’s hurts – there needs to be a time for your experience to be heard too.
After all – cheating doesn’t happen for no reason. Whether you were feeling deprived of sex, intimacy, or simply aren’t the monogamous type – there needs to be a time for you to share this too.
How a Relationship Coach Can Help
It’s often a good idea to see a professional relationship coach if your marriage or relationship has been violated by cheating. If you think there is still hope for you and your partner, a coach can give you tools around communication, guilt, and shame.
Once you have done your repair work, consider taking your relationship a step further. You could take an immersive workshop where you’ll learn the building blocks of emotional health in a relationship and practice them with your fellow classmates. The Somatica® Core Training is an in-depth training with a safe container in which to practice intimacy and connection. There you can learn, grow, and become part of a supportive community – together.