Infidelity can wreck relationship trust. Find out the signs that it's safe to trust again.
We'll be honest here...
There is no 100% guarantee that your partner will not cheat again. There is no 100% guarantee that you two will stay together. At the same time, there is no guarantee that your partner WILL cheat again (or at all). There is no guarantee that you two will break up either.
That's the thing about life and relationships. They can be nearly impossible to predict.
It's probable that, when you fell in love with your partner and you two started your relationship, you would not have guessed that he or she would have an affair. Maybe you had your concerns and worries, but it's highly likely that you did not think your love would cheat.
Yet, he or she did.
Now, if you have decided to try to rebuild trust and repair your relationship, your mind might be overrun with fears that your partner will break your heart by cheating again. These fears are understandable and they can also stand in the way of you being able to do what it takes to help put your relationship back on track.
It's a real quandary.
You don't want to be lied to and hurt by infidelity ever again and so you get cautious and tentative. This cautiousness can hold you back from opening up to the healing and growth that's necessary to save your relationship.
It can feel like one step forward and many steps back all of the time.
It would be great if there was some absolutely reliable way to know-- without a doubt-- that your partner is actually telling you the truth now and that he or she has really changed.
But there's not.
However, you can be wise and aware and, at the same time, begin to consciously let go of your tentativeness and holding yourself back. You can pay close attention to signs in your partner, yourself and your relationship that help you make the best decisions about your future.
Look for these 4 indicators that relationship trust is building and healing...
#1: Communication is more open than closed.
Healthy communication is key to any relationship-- especially one that is rebuilding after an affair. Go within yourself and remember a time (in the past or more recently) when you felt relaxed, at ease and as if you and your partner were really listening to one another.
Next, think about a time when you two were rigidly set in your own points of view and it seemed that neither of you was really hearing the other.
These are examples of being open and being closed. It's important that you know how each way of communicating feels so that when you're talking with your partner and you feel more open than usual and he or she seems more open to you, you can notice it.
As you realize those mostly open moments-- they might only last for short periods of time-- recognize what you were doing, how you were speaking and what words you were using. Invite yourself to use those words and speak or act in those ways that promote openness the next time you and your partner talk.
#2: There is more transparency.
Transparency generally happens when the one who cheated gives full access to his or her partner. This means that there are no secrets. E-mail, phone messages, any private accounts of any sort are available to the partner.
This kind of access needs to be granted with genuine willingness in order for it to be effective in rebuilding trust. If the person who cheated feels pressured to be transparent, resentment and more disconnection can develop.
It can also be healing for a couple to set an intention to be transparent in other ways. The two could agree to share what's on their minds, even the difficult stuff. They speak their own truth and ask for what they want.
This might be uncomfortable, but it can be done in ways that support connection.
Even if your partner is unwilling to give you full access to his or her private life, you might make a request like, “Please help me to understand why you will not be completely transparent with me.” Then listen to your partner's response. There could be a reasonable reason why. You can also notice the ways in which your partner may be more transparent than he or she was before.
#3: It feels like you're both on the same team.
This is similar to the exercise we suggested above for remembering how different it feels when you and your partner are open with one another and when you're closed. Become aware of what it's like when you two are working together and when it seems as if you're on opposing “teams.”
We're betting that when you're both on the same team, you don't dismiss or ignore one another's ideas. You acknowledge that you can really learn from your partner, even if you have a unique way of handling a situation and even if you make a different choice than what your partner wants.
Being on the same team is all about open communication and it's all about your overall view of your partner. It's less important to prove that you're right or that your way is the best than it was before. There is greater appreciation for one another (this doesn't always equal agreement, by the way).
#4: You can see signs of improvement.
Being more open, feeling like you're on the same team and transparency are all signs of improvement in your relationship. The tricky thing for couples rebuilding trust after infidelity is that the improvement might actually be happening, but one person (or both) is not seeing it.
It's easy to become fixated on what happened in the past and become blinded to the positive changes going on right now.
If you're trying to figure out if it's safe to trust your partner again, one dependable way to do so is to make sure you're assessing your relationship from a present moment perspective. It's not healthy to deny the emotions that you might have about the affair or other hurtful experiences. At the same time, it's inaccurate and harmful to live in the past.
Get into the habit of noticing it when you react to a situation from a past-orientation. When you do, take a deep breath, pause and return to the present moment. Ask yourself if your perception, words and actions are a fit for what's happening now.
Being more present-oriented will allow you to see and appreciate the improvements that are possibly going on in your relationship.
Remember, these indicators of relationship trust are just a few examples. There are many ways that your partner can demonstrate to you that he or she is trustable again and there are just as many ways that you can heal from infidelity and wisely open to trust.
Susie and Otto Collins are relationship coaches and authors who help couples communicate, connect and create the passionate relationships they desire. For more relationship advice and information, visit: http://www.relationshipgold.com