An affair can be devastating for your marriage and for some couples, it means the end. Either the one who is cheating isn't willing to stop (and is honest about that) or the one cheated on can't forgive and move past the betrayal. Other couples try to repair the damage and put their relationship back together again.
Of course, there are no guarantees. There may be more affairs or the initial one may resume and this destroys trust completely and forever. There may also be lingering anger, resentment and mistrust that prevents re-connection.
A couple can successfully rebuild trust after infidelity despite the challenges but it does take effort. Estimates range widely, but according to researchers and psychologists, anywhere from 30 to 80 percent of married couples are able to put their relationships back together again after an affair.
If your partner cheated and you're grappling with confusion and emotional pain, remember that you get to decide what's best for you. No matter what your situation and regardless of what others say you should do, give yourself the freedom to choose for yourself.
If you stay with your cheating spouse, continue to work with how you feel and listen to what you need. Feeling supported is essential right now. And make sure to stay aware so that you'll know whether or not it's safe to trust your spouse again.
These 4 clues will help you make a smart decision about your future.
- Your view is clearer.
You can't know what's going to happen in the future. Your spouse may or may not cheat again and you two may or may not be able to repair the damage done, but you can make sure you've got an accurate perspective of what's happening now.
Because there's so much that's unknown, focus on what you do know. Get as clear a view as you possibly can. If you notice yourself guessing or assuming something about your spouse's words or behavior, stop. If you realize your worries and fears are taking over, stop.
Return to the facts you have and let the rest go. This doesn't mean you ignore a gut feeling that something is "off," but check it out by looking at the reliable information you have. When you have a clearer view, you're more likely to contribute to healing yourself and your relationship instead of remaining stuck in the conflict and pain.
- Your spouse has sincerely apologized.
Apologies are essential after an affair. It's important that your partner took responsibility for his or her decision to cheat and also said, "I'm sorry" in a genuine way. An apology can signal that your partner is truly sorry and is reaching out to you to start making amends.
If you haven't yet heard an apology (or if it didn't feel sincere), be honest and tell your partner how you feel. Use words that are less likely to shut him or her down. Say, "I would really like you to apologize for having an affair when you're ready and can speak from the heart—and not because you have to."
- Your spouse is keeping promises.
Words are only part of the equation when it comes to rebuilding trust. If your partner only says, "I’m sorry" and his or her actions contradict this sentiment, this is a potential sign of trouble.
Look closely at your spouse's actions. Are promises being kept? Are observable (and positive) changes being made? If you can only think about the affair when you look at your partner, make a list of what you are literally seeing and hearing. Document the ways that your partner is showing you—or not—that you can trust him or her again.
- You're both making and keeping agreements.
As you are moving forward after your partner's affair, don't forget to observe your own habits too. While he or she was the one who cheated, there was probably a role you played in the disconnection that developed in your relationship.
Speak honestly about the dynamics between you two in the past and continuing today and create agreements to reverse harmful habits. Make sure your agreements are clear and specific and that you both are freely saying "yes" to whatever you've decided to do differently.
When you both are willingly "on board" with an agreement and follow through, notice that and congratulate one another. Use the little successes along the way to build momentum and heal your marriage.
We know... it's uncomfortable and emotionally painful to talk about sensitive topics like your spouse's past affair. Certain words, phrases and sentence-starters can make even difficult conversations easier. Find out what to say (and what not to say) in this free video.
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