A lot of people really underestimate how much work it takes to create and sustain a healthy, long-term relationship. For the most part, infidelity occurs when people in a relationship do not feel comfortable communicating their deepest feelings and desires to their partner. A partner may also be unfaithful due to a lack of excitement or boredom in the relationship.
Sometimes, a partner may cheat as a way to end a relationship or because they are looking for something else in terms of sexual desires. A partner may even become unfaithful if they have low self-esteem or are experiencing a challenging time in their lives.
The unfortunate truth is that even people in healthy relationships may be unfaithful. But how exactly does infidelity affect a relationship? And how can you rebuild trust in your relationship after infidelity?
How Infidelity Affects a Relationship
Just like any other struggle in a relationship, the way that infidelity affects any individual relationship will depend on you and your partner. This said, both parties would likely experience some type of emotional pain, self-blame or low self-esteem, and loss of intimacy in the relationship.
It is important to note, as well, that according to some studies, women and men react differently to infidelity. Typically, women are more jealous of emotional infidelity, whereas men are more jealous of physical or sexual infidelity. Of course, both emotional and physical infidelity can be extremely harmful to a relationship — regardless of the gender of either party.
The Hurt Partner
Most of the time, people do not cheat because they intend to harm their partner. But this does not mean that the action does not bring a lot of pain and mistrust. After all, it can be extremely hard to understand how someone you love could do something so incredibly harmful to your trust and your relationship.
If your partner cheats on you, you may experience psychological effects, such as:
- Lack of sexual desire
- Lack of self-esteem
- Blaming yourself for your partner’s cheating
- Grieving for your past relationship
- Losing trust in your relationship
The Unfaithful Partner
When people think of the effects of infidelity in a relationship, they typically focus on the partner who was hurt by the cheating. While this partner is definitely greatly affected by the unfaithfulness, they are not the only member of the partnership who will experience the effects of infidelity.
You may feel…
- Guilty about cheating
- Resentment or anger from your partner
- A decline in physical or emotional intimacy (or both)
- Like your partner does not trust you
How to Rebuild Trust
Rebuilding trust is a challenging process. It takes time, patience, and effort. But if you and your partner both want to put in the effort and rebuild trust in your relationship, it is definitely achievable.
The most effective way to rebuild trust centers around honesty, openness, and acceptance, but how you go about doing this will depend on you and your partner. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are some tips that can help you and your partner rebuild trust in your relationship.
Do Not Ignore What Happened
It might be tempting to not talk about what happened or ignore the situation and try to make things go back to normal in your relationship. Unfortunately, this is not a good approach, and you (and your partner) will likely end up stewing in your negative emotions rather than addressing them.
Identify the Underlying Issues
The only way to recover from infidelity in a relationship is to talk about why the unfaithfulness happened. Until you can identify and address the underlying issues, you are not going to be able to understand why your partner has cheated. So, even though the conversation may be awkward and painful, it is a crucial part of the healing process.
Communicate with Each Other
Once you’ve identified the underlying reasons for the infidelity, you will need to talk about them. We know this is likely not going to be a pleasant conversation, but unless you take the time to be open and honest with your partner about your feelings, you are likely going to continue feeling bad about the relationship.
One thing to keep in mind when talking about your feelings is to focus on empathy. Whether you are the partner who has been hurt or the partner who did the hurting, you owe it to yourself and your partner to understand and accept the feelings of your partner. In other words, stay away from accusations and stick to “I” statements when talking about your feelings.
Forgo the Details
As the partner who was cheated on, you may fixate on the details of your partner’s infidelity. As the partner who cheated, you may feel like you need to share the details of your unfaithfulness. Realistically, diving into the details does not help either party feel better about the infidelity. It is best to address infidelity as an issue that you both are working through together but not focus on the details of the event.
Find a Healthy Balance of Give and Take in Your Relationship
A healthy relationship is a balance of giving and receiving on both ends. It is based on mutual respect, where both parties benefit from the relationship. If your partner has cheated, you may feel betrayed. You may feel that this respect has been violated and your partner has wronged you. This is completely normal. You may feel like your partner will have a lot of extra making-up to do in order to set things right.
Unfortunately, this skewing of the balance is not sustainable in the long run. While this dynamic can feel nice at the beginning of the recovery process, if you do not return to the balance of give and take, your partner will feel like they are not respected in the relationship.
Talk to a Professional Therapist
Overcoming infidelity in a relationship can be extremely difficult. You may find that you are unable to address the issues on your own, or you are having trouble speaking with your partner about what happened. In these cases, it may be a good idea to talk with a couples therapist.
Couples or relationship therapists provide an excellent source of knowledge, resources, and an unbiased view of your relationship. This can help you both to better understand one another and work to rebuild the trust that has been lost in your relationship.
If you are having trouble understanding why your partner did what they did or rebuilding your relationship, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Love Heal Grow to speak to one of our therapists.