Couples who are committed to healing after infidelity do the hard and often rewarding work of rebuilding trust.
I spend time supporting my couples in conversations to help the hurt partner* rebuild trust.
- Helping the unfaithful partner provide reassurance that the affair has ended;
- Supporting the couple to create relationship expectations which grow honesty and transparency;
- Talking about the meaning of the affair to each partner and how it happened;
- Helping the couple work through the questions that run through the hurt partner’s mind.
These conversations are so important because the hurt partner has often lost all feelings of safety and security in the relationship.
They may still feel committed to the relationship and want to make things better.
At the same time their brain is telling them “DO NOT TRUST! YOU MAY GET HURT AGAIN!”
The unfaithful partner can help create safety for their partner by being honest, providing reassurance, and showing their commitment to the relationship.
These actions help soothe their partner’s emotional response, making it safer to risk trusting again.
Trust doesn’t rebuild over night and it can sometimes feel like a rollercoaster of emotions in the beginning of the healing process. This is normal.
The greatest thing the unfaithful partner can communicate during this time is “I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. You matter to me and I see how much this hurts you. Is there anything you need from me?”
Words like these can be hard to communicate because the rollercoaster of emotions can be overwhelming—and the unfaithful partner may be feeling their own guilt, sadness, anger and helplessness in the moment.
If you find yourself getting stuck in the rebuilding trust process, couples therapy and infidelity counseling can be helpful. With time, you can get unstuck and better communicate the love you have for your partner.
Also, trust building goes both ways in relationships—just as the hurt partner has to learn to trust the unfaithful partner again, the unfaithful partner is also learning to trust.
Wait—what? The unfaithful partner also has trust issues in the relationship? Yes—and it’s often a hard time trusting which leads to affairs in the first place.
Next week I’ll be back with Part Two: Helping the Unfaithful Partner Trust.
*When writing about infidelity, I use the terms “Hurt Partner” and “Unfaithful Partner,” coined by Janis Spring, PhD. I do this so you know who I am talking about, but not to minimize the fact that both partners are hurting.