Table of Contents
- The cheater needs to genuinely recognise what they’ve done wrong
- Understand why they cheated
- Declare a moratorium on lying
- Prioritise open, honest communication without blame
- Consider therapy
- Show, don’t just tell
- Give it time
- Accept that it might not work
- Rush Hour Crush – love (well, lust) is all around us
Is the process of ‘rebuilding the trust’ a doomed affair? (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)
So, you or your partner were unfaithful. You cheated – physically or emotionally.
Now you have two options: split or stay together.
If you’re going for the latter, it’s time to begin that oft-mentioned, often very tricky, process: rebuilding the trust that was shattered by the sexual stray.
If you’ve ever been cheated on, you’ll likely have listened to your partner’s reassurances that you can make things work – you’ll just need to build the trust back up.
But is this ever actually doable? Can you fix trust that’s been broken? Or is this a doomed effort, only delaying an inevitable breakup?
The simple answer is, we’re afraid to say, that there is no simple answer.
‘Trust is broken forever when one half of the relationship cheats,’ says Jessica Leoni, a sex and relationship expert at affairs site IllicitEncounters.
‘The person is going to be viewed with suspicion by their partner and there will always be that cloud hanging over the relationship.
‘But that is not to say that a couple cannot rebuild trust after cheating.’
The experts at Elate agree, telling Metro.co.uk: ‘It’s one of the hardest things to repair once it’s broken but it’s possible.’
In short, yes, trust can be rebuilt – but it won’t be easy.
Plus, as senior therapist Sally Baker explains, there are all sorts of factors that come into play to make this process more or less feasible.
‘Trust can be stretched numerous times beyond all credibility or trust can permanently snap under the first sign of a lie,’ Sally tells us. ‘There are a few parameters that cause this difference in response.
‘Firstly, the level of investment a person who has been cheated on can make a difference in whether trust can be rebuilt after cheating or not. Someone committed to maintaining or regaining the status quo they had before the cheating will try their hardest to rebuild trust. Those with little emotional investment may decide to cut their losses and run for the hills.
‘Secondly, experiencing a breach of trust triggers the same or similar emotional pain of any previous times they have been betrayed in the past.
‘Without clearing residual trauma from previous cheating based heartache it’s almost impossible for someone who has been cheated on to view the betrayal they are currently experiencing in isolation.
‘The latest incidence of being cheated upon reconnects and reminds them of the unresolved pain of their earlier experiences and it influences how they will respond.’
Only you can know the detailed ins and outs of your relationship, your feelings, and whether you can wholeheartedly trust this person again.
But if you do decide to work on things, how do you go about that trust reconstruction process?
The cheater needs to genuinely recognise what they’ve done wrong
If the person who cheated is still denying their actions or sweeping them away as no big deal, this trust rebuild is likely to be an ill-fated mission.
‘What is crucial is that the cheater realises the error of their ways and really wants to change and rebuild trust,’ explains Jessica.
‘What a cheater shouldn’t do is go back to a relationship when they know full well that they are going to carry on cheating.
‘It is not fair on the other person and lying continually is no way to live your life.’
Healing from a betrayal will take time (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)
Understand why they cheated
This is a task for both parties – the cheater and the cheated-on.
‘It’s never as simple as just succumbing to temptation or a momentary mistake,’ say the Elate team. ‘Ultimately there’s always an underlying reason for why someone cheats, and it’s important to understand what that was.
‘Otherwise it can breed anxiety and fear of in your partner. Anxiety that you don’t find them attractive enough, that you don’t really love them or that you will do it again.’
Gilly Da Silva, life coach and the founder of Mending Hearts Retreat, adds: ‘The main reasons why some spouses cheat is usually because there is some underlying issues in the relationship, the betrayer could be feeling ignored, unloved and have lost their self-confidence.
‘Lack of communication, boredom and not getting enough affection could also have played a part.’
Declare a moratorium on lying
‘The slightest untruth will be enough to upend any progress made towards building trust,’ says Sally.
Prioritise open, honest communication without blame
Gilly says: ‘If a person has been caught cheating, the best thing for them to do is to be honest and take full responsibility without trying to blame the other person.
‘Be open and forthright by sharing the full truth and look at taking the relationship back to the beginning and keep communicating.
‘Withholding the full extent of the affair due to fear and shame will only slow the process down, and it will be impossible for you to reconnect with your spouse on an emotional level.
‘It will also make it more difficult for them to be able to forgive and trust you again if you are still lying and holding back information.’
Open, honest conversation is key (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)
A betrayal is a big deal, and if you’re really committed to making this relationship work, it’s worth getting in some professional help.
‘Professional counselling can really help a couple deal with how to build a stronger relationship,’ say the Elate experts.
Wait a minute. Has the person who cheated actually said ‘sorry’? If they refuse to do this, it’s impossible to move forward.
‘Set a time to talk and name the feelings you experienced due to the breach of trust without blame or criticism,’ Chance Marshall, founding partner and creative psychotherapist at Self Space, tells us.
‘Both of you assess how you contributed to the incident and hold yourselves accountable.
‘Both apologise from a place of genuineness and accept the apologies.’
Show, don’t just tell
Saying sorry, talking things through, and exploring the causes of cheating – all of these things are important.
But when it comes to rebuilding trust, you’ll have to offer more than words.
‘Demonstrate how sorry you are and why it will never happen again, not just by words but with actions,’ Gilly recommends. ‘The betrayer needs to put in a lot of work into building the trust back up.’
That means being there when you say you will, always being ready and willing to listen and talk things through, and actively changing unhealthy behaviours.
Give it time
You can’t rush this process, or expect your partner to move at the exact same pace as you.
Sally says: ‘There is no set time frame for fully rebuilding trust but it will always take longer than the cheating partner would prefer. They want the situation to be fixed in double quick time so they can put away their shame and embarrassment as soon as possible.
‘Forgiveness works to your time scale and no one else’s – however inconvenient that might be.’
Accept that it might not work
You can put in a load of hard work and do everything right, and still find that cheating has left a wound that just won’t heal – or that the relationship isn’t meant to be.
This is okay. You don’t have to be with this person, and acknowledging that the trust can’t be repaired isn’t failing or admitting defeat.
As Sally puts it: ‘Make sure the person is worth the hard work of recovering trust.’
It’s vital that when you begin this process, you give yourself the space to change your mind, cut your losses, and move on.
Never feel like you have to stay in an unhappy relationship. Recognise that you can heal from a betrayal, forgive the person who did it, and still decide the relationship won’t progress.
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