Can our relationship survive the affair?
This question may be rolling around in your mind right about now if your partner cheated. It is possible for a love relationship or marriage to survive and eventually thrive again after infidelity, but this is not the case for every couple. Therapists report that anywhere from 30-80% of couples stay together after one (or both) of them cheats. The bottom line is not so much what has happened with other couples, it's what's happening now and what will happen in the future in YOUR relationship.
A second question that may be keeping you up at night is this:
"How can I ever trust my cheating partner again?"
This is another tricky question to answer. You see, trust has got to be rebuilt for your relationship to repair. And in order to rebuild trust, you're going to have to take a leap of faith. Despite your partner's past decisions and previous behaviors, you're going to have to make a shift in your expectations and start believing that he or she will be faithful now. If this sounds like we're asking you to be naïve or stupid, let's back up:
We only recommend that people in relationships ever make what we call a smart leap of faith. In other words, yes, you're going to have to extend trust when the past has taught you not to. But, you're going to do so with your eyes open and in smart ways. We never advise our coaching clients or readers to ignore what's going on, but we also never advise people to continually and forever hold their partner's past mistakes against them.
Here are three ways to be smart as you rebuild trust:
1. Be a fact-focuser.
Let the facts be your guide. Take note if your partner promises you that he's changed, but you can't see any evidence to back that up. When a painful memory comes up about when you discovered her affair, take a deep breath and look again at what you can hear and see about what's true now. Don't use getting facts as an excuse to spy or allow your jealousy to take over. Just recognize it when you have a question, worry or you feel suspicious. Stop when a thought comes to you that is based more in the past than it is in the present. With as much calm and clarity as you can, remind yourself of what you know and what you can verify. What was actually said and what were the literal actions?
2. Be self-aware.
Stay in touch with your needs. We're not talking about your need to make your partner feel guilty for cheating or your need to get revenge or even your need for assurance that this will never happen again. We're referring to your deeper needs. What tangible actions can your partner take to be more transparent? How, specifically, can your partner show you that he or she is making real and positive changes?
What can you both do to patterns in your relationship that formed before the affair and that possibly contributed to it? Find out not only what you need from your partner, but also what you need from yourself. Is it time for you to set healthy boundaries and/or make it safer for you both to be more honest?
3. Be in agreement.
As you become more aware of not only what the present-day facts are, but also what would help you heal and trust again, communicate with your partner. Don't expect him or her to already know what it is you want and need.
Ask your partner to create conscious agreements with you. Note that an agreement is not a demand or ultimatum. If the words, "You'd better....or else..." come out of your mouth, this is an ultimatum. There's nothing necessarily wrong with it and it may even be what's required in certain situations, but it's not an agreement. An agreement is something you both think about and then freely say, "yes" to or negotiate until you come to an honest, "yes."
Use words like, "Are you willing to....?" or "I'd like us to....." to introduce an agreement. Really listen to what your partner says. Is he or she really okay abiding by the agreement? Does your partner have a modified or different idea that you are open to instead? Be specific with the agreements you two create and look for signs that that they are being kept. Whatever you notice can be added to your fact file that you use to decide whether or not it's smart to trust your partner again. Your agreements can also help you and your partner move closer together again.
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