Rebuilding Trust After Infidelity Starts with Seeking Professional Help

Love is one of the greatest things we get to experience in life. So if you break your trust with the person you love the most, how can you possibly go on together?

First, you don’t have to go through it alone.

When working with couples experiencing infidelity, we provide a listening ear and strive to uncover the unconscious drives that tell us “why” we do what we do.

At our practice, we are not rooting for you to stay together or break up. You won’t disappoint us with whatever decision you make. Our only goal is to get you back to living your most authentic life.

Getting Real Answers

Your first thought after being cheated on may simply be, “Why?”

Did you know that long-term relationships naturally change in ways that we can predict? In counseling, we can discuss the Developmental Model of couples therapy to help you understand what stage your relationship is in.

Perhaps one or both of you are in the Rapprochement stage, where couples tend to need more space from each other. Infidelity is an unhealthy way to adjust to this stage, but through couples counseling, we can identify where each partner is at in the model, as well as explore healthy ways to cope with each stage.

Identifying Unhealthy Habits

Couples who try therapy after an affair tend to display what is known as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, or key pain points that can destroy a partnership. They are:

Criticism – Verbally attacking another person’s character.

Contempt – Insulting or abusing someone from a place of moral superiority.

Defensiveness – Victimizing yourself to defend against a perceived attack and trade blame.

Stonewalling – Feeling overwhelmed by emotion and completely withdrawing from the conversation.

Healing Together

The good news is that each of these Horsemen has a solution.

For Criticism, we suggest using what’s called a Gentle Start-Up, or “complaining without the blame”. Talk about your concerns using “I” statements and communicate a positive need.

CRITICISM: “You never cook for me. You are so lazy.”

GENTLE START-UP: “I had a really hard day and could use some chill time. Would you help me out by cooking dinner tonight?”

For Contempt, we strive to Build a Culture of Appreciation. Think about what you love the most about your partner, then take the time to notice and express those things regularly.

CONTEMPT: “Thanks for leaving the garage door wide open again. Glad you care about my safety.”

CULTURE OF APPRECIATION: “I know how much you want to relax right after work, but could you please remember to close the garage door before you come in? I would really appreciate it.”

For Defensiveness, healing starts with the choice to Take Responsibility. Respect your partner’s viewpoint by apologizing for any harm you may have caused.

DEFENSIVENESS: “It is not my fault we missed the movie. You stopped at every yellow light on the way.”

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY: “I am sorry that I was not ready when it was time to leave. I know how much you were looking forward to this movie. I can start getting ready earlier next time.”

For Stonewalling, we recommend Physiological Self-Soothing. This looks like taking a break to do something soothing and distracting. Then, when you’re ready, re-enter the conversation.

STONEWALLING: “I’m done with this conversation.”

PHYSIOLOGICAL SELF-SOOTHING: “This conversation is a lot for me right now, so let’s take a 20-minute break to breathe. I’ll be ready to talk again after that.”

Getting Started

Bouncing back from infidelity is a lengthy process that can take weeks, months, or years, depending on the couple. Although, most experts agree that positive change can occur within two years on average.

If your partnership has experienced infidelity and you are wondering what the next steps are, start counseling today and we can figure it out together.

Why do people cheat?

By: Jeni Woodfin, LMFT

Recently, I was asked the question, directly, “Why do people cheat”?

Such a good question and so many answers. The question I hear from every single betrayed spouse I work with is the “Why?”

There are reasons, fairly well-understood reasons, and none of them bring comfort to the betrayed partner. But they are a good starting point when looking at what needs to be tweaked in the relationship and the betraying partner.

Some of the reasons I see are:

  1. The affair-involved spouse is looking for an exit to the relationship. Some people really struggle with ending relationships or feel they need someone to accompany them in the break-up process. We all have walls up to protect what we hold dear and the walls around that protect the relationship are down leaving room for an affair to bring comfort during a rough breakup.

  2. They want change in the relationship and have felt minimized, unheard, or have been too anxious/uncomfortable to ask for change so they, as I often refer to it, create an explosion that blows the relationship to bits (I don’t use the word bits). This is an unhealthy, messy way to begin the conversation about what they want different in the relationship.

  3. The connection of the relationship has been damaged or severed and the affair-involved partner is angry or resentful. Rather than continuing to try to repair the connection, they look for a separate, idealized connection.

  4. They are unhappy with who they are in the relationship and they find themselves having an affair and exploring new aspects to themselves. In the affair, they get to be sexually daring, bold, fun, young … And in the marriage, they get to be steady, reliable, predictable.

  5. There are also the affairs that stem from narcissistic traits, the “I want this so I deserve this” tendency. A bit of this trait is required for each type, but if there are repeated infractions over a long period of time, these traits typically play a larger part.

There are so many combinations of reasons, it’s very difficult to get to the bottom of the Why. It’s also an important piece to figure out if the couple would like to repair the relationship.

Recovery is an incredibly difficult process, but it is one that can be done successfully if both parties are willing to be open, vulnerable, and take risks.

If you’re asking the question, “Why did you cheat?”, it’s time to reach out. Figuring the answers out is a delicate process. Reach out now and let’s begin.

What Happens if You Stay After They’ve Cheated?

There are many different paths the betrayed partner can take.  In my experience, I see a few different outcomes for the betrayed spouse.  There are always outliers, but these are some common patterns.

First, occasionally is the spouse who stays in the marriage and also stays angry, resentful, and continues to punish their partner. This happens less often and the true outcome is two miserable people staying in a marriage out of fear or obligation.  These relationships can survive, but the betrayed partner may become highly controlling, short with their partner, and very unhappy.  

Or the betrayed partner will stay in the relationship but keep their emotional distance from their partner as a way to protect themselves. This is a relationship that looks great on the outside and even pretty good if you look a little closer. But there’s distance and a lack of true intimacy. With this path of recovery, I see two happy-ish people who are together in being lonely on the inside.  In these relationships, there is the potential for the betrayed partner to shift back into a connected relationship, but the willingness to open themselves back up the risk of trusting has to be present.  

These two outcomes happen less common and take intensive treatment to change.  The betrayed partner must have some willingness to accept this unwanted addition to their life story.  They don’t have to like it, but there must be an acknowledgment and acceptance that it is.  

And here’s the best, most common outcome I see. A couple will decide to be vulnerable, take risks, and stay in the discomfort that comes with recovery together. They realize the old marriage is gone and a new marriage has to be intentionally created. With these couples, I see the betrayed partner gradually become more themselves, more confident in their ability to survive very-bad-things, and proud of the work they’ve done to create a new relationship.

This partner uses the trauma of infidelity and changes the energy of the destruction to the energy of growth and creation. 

Oftentimes, the betrayed will exhibit many symptoms of PTSD after the discovery of betrayal.  They may experience:

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • No appetite

  • Nightmares

  • Clumsiness

  • Forgetfulness

  • Emotions that swing from one extreme to another

In the early stages of recovery, these are all normal.  

However, what I sometimes see in the end stages of recovery for the betrayed partner is:

  • A person more authentically engaged in their relationship

  • A person who knows they will survive if this happens again

  • A person who knows they have the strength to recover

  • A person who knows they have the drive to take charge of their life

These betrayed partners feel joy, contentment, and are glad they made the decision to attempt the repair.  

With therapy, talking with others, reading books, listening to podcasts, they learn to see the infidelity as something that belongs to their partner.  The cheat was something that did not have anything to do with them.  They see the infidelity not as demeaning or humiliating to them but saying speaking solely about their partner.  

Infidelity can demolish relationships and also be something that can be more than just survived.  For both partners.  

I don’t like to use ‘always’ or ‘never’ statements, but I will here.  No couple ever gets through recovery with complete grace.  There is always at least one moment that people look back on and think “yeah, I wish I had done that differently”.  Give yourself the gift of accepting your imperfections and accept, this process does not exist without a few moments you may wish you could take back.  

If you have this type of moment in your recovery, I find they become neutralized with apologies.  Owning your behavior and words, showing you are remorseful, and explaining how you’ll handle things going forward works to rebuild.  

If you’re on the fence about whether to stay or go, let’s talk. You don’t have to figure this out alone.

How to Deal with Infidelity in a Relationship

When infidelity occurs in a relationship, it can be very devastating for the parties involved. Infidelity involves breaking a promise to be completely faithful to your partner, and when it happens, it erases the trust that existed in the relationship. Dealing with infidelity can be pretty challenging and it raises tough questions. Should you stay? Should you forgive? Can trust be rebuilt? Will things ever be the same? If you’ve just found out that your partner has been unfaithful and you’re not sure of what to do, this article is for you.

It’s important to note that infidelity can occur in any relationship. We often think it’s never going to happen in our relationship, but existing statistics show that infidelity occurs in about a third of relationships.

Why do people cheat?

People cheat for a variety of reasons, and it rarely has anything to do with the person that’s being cheated on. You might think your partner was unfaithful because of something you did or didn’t do, but that’s rarely true. Here are some reasons people cheat:

– To feel desirable
– Impulse/Lack of self-control
– Boredom
– Impaired decision making under the influence of drugs or alcohol
– Sex addiction

Remember that none of these reasons is an excuse, and the cheater made choices.

Can a relationship survive infidelity?

Yes, it’s possible for a relationship to survive infidelity, but it means that both partners have to be willing to work hard at rebuilding the trust that has been broken, healing, and making the relationship strong again.

Here are a few tips:

– Talk about the affair- It’s important for both parties to have an open and honest discussion about the affair. It also helps to talk to a relationship counselor together, and explore ways that you both can heal faster.
– Remember the good times- Cheating is painful, but it helps to reminisce about the good times and all the wonderful things your partner did for you in the past.
– Tackle old issues- Now is a great time to tackle all the underlying issues in your relationship and create a fresh start.
– Practice radical honesty– Try to be completely honest with each other about how you feel and how you want to be loved.
– Set a timetable for recovery- Both of you need to be intentional about your recovery. The cheater needs to allow the betrayed party ample time for healing, and honor the other person’s recovery process.
– Start something new- Remember how excited you both were when you just fell in love? Rekindle that magic by doing an activity you both enjoy together, and incorporating more romance into your relationship.
– Reaffirm your commitment- There needs to be an understanding that infidelity will never occur in the relationship again, and a willingness to keep that promise by both parties.

In rebuilding a relationship damaged by infidelity, patience is key. With the support of each other, family, friends, and a good therapist it is possible for a couple to move past an affair and become even stronger. I offer relationship counseling services for couples who find themselves in this difficult situation, and you can contact me to book a session.