Tampa (BLOOM) – Infidelity can have a devastating impact on a relationship. The breach of trust and emotional pain can be overwhelming, leading to feelings of betrayal, anger, and sadness.
However, rebuilding trust after infidelity is possible and can lead to a stronger and healthier relationship. In this article, we’ll explore some strategies for rebuilding trust after infidelity and share advice from experts.
Who to listen to and Pro Sources
Here are a few experts in the field of infidelity and relationships:
Coach Lee Wilson: Coach Lee is a relationship coach, author, and speaker who specializes in helping couples in relationships and to get back together after a breakup. He has over 20 years of experience working with couples and individuals, and his work has been featured in media outlets such as the Huffington Post and ABC News. Coach Lee is also the creator of the Emergency Breakup Kit, a comprehensive online program that provides resources and support for individuals who are going through a breakup or trying to recover from an affair. He is committed to helping individuals and couples navigate the complex emotions and challenges of relationships, and to building strong, healthy, and lasting partnerships. You can learn more and get help at his website.
Coach Ken Fox: Coach Ken has spent more than 20 years training, studying, and working with couples to rekindle attraction and restore. He helps people reunite with the one they love. Results not guaranteed, but many times situations that feel hopeless can have the happily ever after that seems so far out of reach. He offers one-on-one coaching, workshops, and online courses to help couples and newly single people heal and move forward. Ken provides a range of resources and support for individuals and couples who are struggling with relationship issues, including infidelity. His website offers articles and videos to help improve communication, build trust, and strengthen or rekindle relationships. You can learn more about his work and get his help at his website.
Dr. John Gottman: John Gottman is a psychologist and researcher who has studied relationships and couples therapy for over 40 years. His research has identified key factors that contribute to healthy, long-lasting relationships, including communication, emotional intelligence, and conflict resolution skills. Gottman has also developed several interventions and therapies for couples struggling with infidelity, including his approach to couples therapy known as the Gottman Method. Their YouTube channel features videos of Drs. John and Julie Gottman discussing topics such as communication, conflict resolution, and intimacy, as well as interviews with other experts in the field of relationships.
Why did they cheat?
Infidelity is a complex issue that can have many potential causes. While every situation is unique, there are some common underlying factors that can contribute to infidelity.
Coach Lee would tell you that often the reason for the affair becomes a foregone conclusion in the mind of the cheater. Even when the difficulty of carrying out the affair, the stress of covering it up, and the social pressure to stay in the marriage cause the straying spouse to question their reasoning, they will often settle for a basic and untested answer such as “because I love this person and my spouse treated me poorly.”
While this may sound like a reasonable answer, it also raises important questions that need to be answered.
For example, did the spouse’s poor treatment lead to the love for the affair partner?
If the spouse stopped treating the cheater poorly and they got everything they wanted in a marriage, would they still want to continue the affair or commit to their spouse?
Coach Lee goes on to say, if they have children, is being with their affair partner worth seeing their children half as much or less than before? What impact will leaving have on their relationship with their children when they realize that they chose to see them half as much as they could have?
One potential cause of infidelity is a lack of emotional or physical intimacy in the relationship. If one partner is feeling neglected or unfulfilled in the relationship, they may be more likely to seek out intimacy and connection elsewhere. This can be particularly true if the partner feels that their needs are not being met and they have repeatedly tried to address the issue with their partner to no avail.
Another potential cause of infidelity is a lack of communication or unresolved conflicts in the relationship. If partners are not able to effectively communicate their needs, desires, and concerns with each other, they may become resentful and distant. This can create a breeding ground for infidelity, as one partner may feel justified in seeking out connection and intimacy elsewhere.
External factors can also contribute to infidelity. For example, if one partner is experiencing a great deal of stress at work or in their personal life, they may be more vulnerable to seeking out comfort and validation outside of the relationship. Similarly, if a partner is surrounded by peers or colleagues who engage in infidelity, they may be more likely to view it as acceptable behavior.
Finally, individual factors such as personality traits, history of trauma or abuse, or addiction can also contribute to infidelity. Individuals who struggle with issues such as low self-esteem, impulsivity, or a history of trauma may be more likely to engage in infidelity as a way to cope with their emotions or seek validation.
It is important to recognize that there is no single cause of infidelity, and every situation is unique. By understanding some of the potential underlying factors that can contribute to infidelity, individuals can work to address these issues and strengthen their relationship to prevent infidelity from occurring.
“Rarely does a cheating spouse even know exactly what is going on inside themselves because they have been spirited away by the feelings and emotions of an affair (often based on an emotional state of near obsession called limerence – see my article explaining limerence). Asking oneself the question “What do I want?” can be a pivotal first step towards changing course for those who find themselves entangled in an affair.”
“There are plenty of other reasons that someone might cheat or stray as well and those include feeling disrespected, feeling unloved or disliked, and emotional trauma from being yelled at constantly. I’m not making excuses for the one who cheats, but rather am pointing to what can make them feel so distant from their spouse that such a weakened state leaves them vulnerable to pursue warmth and connection elsewhere.“
Types of infidelity
Infidelity can take many different forms, and the type of infidelity can impact the way it is perceived and the way it affects the relationship.
“Not all affairs or cheating instances are the same – everyone knows that – but normally they think of that only in ways of cheating such as physical, mental, emotional, virtual, etc. But there’s also the cheating spouse/significant other who is cheating for the thrill, the self-serving pleasure and the sexual satisfaction – and is engaging in an ongoing affair (or affairs) with no sign of a conscience or hint of shame. They’re happy to do it and even happier to get away with it. In those cases, there are still very authentic, loving and even intelligent people who still find themselves addicted to the cheater and are desperate to find a way to make it work.”
Here are some of the different types of infidelity and their potential impact on relationships:
- Physical Infidelity: This involves engaging in sexual activity with someone outside of the relationship. Physical infidelity can be particularly damaging to a relationship, as it can cause feelings of betrayal, hurt, and anger. It can also put the individuals involved at risk of sexually transmitted infections.
- Emotional Infidelity: Emotional infidelity involves developing a deep emotional connection with someone outside of the relationship, often in the absence of physical intimacy. Emotional infidelity can be just as damaging as physical infidelity, as it can cause feelings of betrayal and erode trust in the relationship.
- Cyber Infidelity: This involves engaging in sexual or emotional activity with someone over the internet or through digital communication, such as sexting or online relationships. Cyber infidelity can be particularly damaging because it can be easily hidden and can occur even if the individuals involved never meet in person.
- Infidelity of the Heart: Infidelity of the heart involves having romantic feelings for someone outside of the relationship, even if those feelings are not acted upon. This can create emotional distance and erode intimacy in the relationship, as well as cause feelings of guilt and shame for the individual experiencing the infidelity.
It’s important to note that different types of infidelity can impact relationships differently. For instance, physical infidelity may cause more immediate feelings of betrayal and hurt, while emotional infidelity may be more difficult to detect and can erode trust over time. Understanding the different types of infidelity and their potential impact on relationships can help individuals better navigate the recovery process.
Who is most likely to cheat?
It is a common misconception that men are more likely to cheat than women. Research suggests that there is no significant difference in the rates of infidelity between men and women.
One study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that 19.3% of men and 19.2% of women reported engaging in extramarital sex during their lifetime. Another study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that while men were slightly more likely to report having engaged in infidelity at some point in their life (20.8% vs. 13.6%), the gender difference disappeared when looking specifically at individuals who were in committed relationships at the time of the infidelity (23.2% of men vs. 19.3% of women).
It is important to note that infidelity is a complex issue with many potential causes and no single gender is more likely to cheat than the other. Factors such as a lack of emotional or physical intimacy in the relationship, communication issues, external stressors, individual factors, and societal norms and expectations can all contribute to infidelity.
It is also important to recognize that infidelity can have devastating consequences for both partners and the relationship as a whole. If you or your partner are struggling with infidelity, it is important to seek professional help to address the underlying issues and work towards rebuilding trust and healing the relationship.
“Older statistics show that men are about 7% more likely to cheat but the current studies, as limited as they are, that I have seen show that the gap has closed and it is nearly 50/50.
As far as who is vulnerable to an affair, it is disheartening to hear individuals speak to me in a coaching session about how they no longer love their partner due to years of rejection, leading to a desire to escape from them. Specifically, physical and sexual rejection can make the rejected individual feel unattractive, undesired and unloved, resulting in a negative impact on their self-esteem. Rejected individuals have shared sentiments of feeling unwanted and undesired, leading them to believe that something is wrong with them. This can ultimately lead to the deterioration of the relationship, as the rejected person may eventually leave due to the emotional toll that rejection takes.
Even individuals who appear to be confident and resilient may eventually reach their breaking point and want to leave to escape the rejection, regardless of the cost. And oftentimes, promises of change from the spouse at home falls on deaf ears from years of rejection because doing so obliterates feelings of closeness, intimacy, and love.
This is especially true considering that affairs are often highly passionate and so both partners feel wanted, desired, and loved. For those who are regularly rejecting their spouse, heed my warning. There may come a day when your spouse feels nothing for you because of this emotional injury and will run to the arms of the lover who makes him/her feel the exact opposite of rejection. Promises at that point will mean very little.”
How to Move Forward
“UNDERSTANDING THE ROLE YOU MIGHT HAVE PLAYED – EVEN THOUGH YOU DID NOTHING WRONG, AND DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE PART OF THE PROBLEM THAT LED TO THE BAD CHOICE, CAN BE A HUGE STEP TOWARDS RECOVERING FROM THE AFFAIR.”Coach Ken
When it comes to how to move forward and maintain the relationship after a partner cheats, Coach Ken shared this advice:
Letting the person who cheated know that you can understand how they might have felt, and how hurt they may have been, and how many times they tried to tell you what they needed but without ever getting what they were dying for, can actually restore a lot of emotional connection that you might have thought was lost forever.
Being able to articulate someone else’s pain better than they know how to articulate it themselves creates emotional trust. It draws the other person in instinctively. It’s even more true when the person expressing that surprising level of understanding is the person you cheated on.
From them you expect anger and judgment – when its warranted, if you can express understanding without condoning the cheating you can create the setting you need to begin again.
“I can’t stress enough – I’m not in any way trying to excuse cheating – at all. I’m only saying sometimes good people make bad choices even they never thought they were capable of making, because they felt more hopeless and alone than they ever knew they could be while married to someone they love.” Coach Ken
Once you’ve done that here are some additional guidelines to help repair the relationship:
• The one who cheated gets one final message to the person they cheated with.
- The only purpose is to let the person no there will no further contact because they are committed to their marriage/relationship.
- The spouse/significant other gets to review and agree on the message.
- It needs to be brief and without a romantic tone.
• There shouldn’t be further contact with that person: Friend, family member, co-worker etc. The relationship is forfeited because of the betrayal because you can’t ask the person who was betrayed to keep suffering by that relationship. They’ll be reminded of the affair every time they see them, and will be tormented wondering what’s happening at work or when they’re out with friends. You have to choose between hurting the person you’re hoping to rebuild trust with or the person you cheated with – if you choose the wrong person, the one you love won’t be able to trust you even if they want to.
• The person who cheated NEEDS TO ENTHUSIASTICALLY AGREE TO BEING CHECKED ON: No phone locks, any spontaneous email reviews or history checks on the laptop, calls in the middle of the day asking you to take a picture of where you are, calling friends to verify who you’re with, leaving your maps location turned on. ALL of it is not only on the table – it needs to be on the table enthusiastically. The one who cheated needs to actually embrace each check – because each time is a chance for them to prove they’re trustworhty. Each time it gives them a chance to reassure and calm the fears of the person they deeply hurt.
• All information is on the table: You might be surprised by the graphic detailed question you might get from someone after they find out you cheated on them. How big was it? Did you enjoy it? How many times in one night? Did you tell them you loved them while you were doing it? They might ask the most embarrassing and painful question you can imagine – but normally they do it not just to get the answer, but to test you – to see if you’re willing to tell them the truth.
Don’t ask any question you don’t want to know the answer to.
If you’re the one asking the questions make sure you really want to know – because once you hear the truth and get the answer you think you wanted, you can never unhear it – you can never unpicture it. It’s better to warn your partner in advance: “I’ll answer any question you have for me – you deserve the truth and I know you need to know I’ll tell you the full truth. BUT please don’t ask me something you can’t live with knowing – I don’t want to hurt you more or make things any worse than I have.”
Normally they just want to know you’re willing to tell them whatever they want to know, but they don’t actually want the painful details.
Surprisingly – after finding out they’ve been cheated on, even the people who spent their entire lives swearing they could never “get over that betrayal” or “want someone back who slept with someone else” they find they not only can forgive the person they love – they might find they want them back very very much – even feeling flooded with sexual desire for the person who just stabbed them in the heart.
If enough trust and willingness exist on both sides, being intimate again can be a very powerful way to rebuild that connection and surprisingly reignite the passion that may have felt lost before the affair ever happened.
“I’m not suggesting you try to sleep with someone who cheated on you in order to get them back. I’m saying if both of you know you want to make it work and are committed to working through the affair, sex can be a very powerful way to help both parties heal and reconnect on an intimate level. Some marriage therapists even recommend intimacy once a day for 10 days to help maintain the renewed fire – but again – both parties should WANT to engage for it to be a good idea.”Coach Ken
Acknowledge the Damage
The first step in rebuilding trust after infidelity is acknowledging the damage caused by the affair.
Both partners need to recognize the emotional toll that infidelity takes on a relationship. The betrayed partner may experience feelings of anger, depression, and anxiety, while the unfaithful partner may feel guilty and remorseful.
Taking responsibility is a critical step in rebuilding trust. The unfaithful partner should take ownership of their actions and understand the impact they’ve had on their partner. They need to demonstrate their willingness to be accountable for their behavior and take steps to make amends.
According to relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, taking responsibility means fully owning up to your mistakes and acknowledging the hurt you’ve caused your partner. It also involves demonstrating your commitment to the relationship and being transparent about your actions.
Effective communication is essential to rebuilding trust after infidelity. Both partners should be committed to being open and honest with each other. They should actively listen to each other’s concerns and express empathy for each other’s feelings.
A practical exercise couples can do to rebuild communication is practicing active listening.
This involves giving your partner your full attention, listening without judgment, and paraphrasing what you heard to ensure understanding.
Seek Professional Help
Rebuilding trust after infidelity is a complex process that may require professional help. A licensed therapist or counselor can help both partners navigate their emotions and develop effective coping strategies. They can also help couples improve their communication skills and work on rebuilding trust.
A study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that couples who received therapy after infidelity were more likely to rebuild trust and improve their relationship than those who didn’t seek professional help.
Additionally, couples who received therapy reported higher levels of relationship satisfaction and commitment.
Coach Ken offers one on one virtual coaching as well as for couples. Book a call at his website here.
Patience and Commitment
Rebuilding trust after infidelity takes time and effort. Both partners need to be patient and committed to the process. It’s essential to understand that rebuilding trust is not a quick fix and may take months or even years.
Here are some resources that may help couples rebuild trust after infidelity:
- “After the Affair” by Janis Abrahms Spring
- The Gottman Institute
- National Infidelity Association
- Coach Lee’s website
- Coach Ken’s website
Signs the relationship can’t heal
While many couples are able to rebuild their relationship after infidelity, it is important to recognize that not all relationships are able to recover. There are certain warning signs that may indicate that a relationship may not be able to overcome the betrayal of infidelity.
One potential warning sign is ongoing deception or secrecy from the unfaithful partner. If the unfaithful partner is not honest and transparent about their actions and is not willing to be held accountable for their behavior, it may be difficult for the relationship to move forward.
Trust is a key component of any healthy relationship, and ongoing deception can erode trust to the point where it may be irreparable.
Another warning sign is a lack of remorse or willingness to take responsibility for their actions. If the unfaithful partner is not genuinely sorry for their behavior and is not willing to take responsibility for the pain and hurt that they have caused, it can be difficult for the other partner to move forward.
Without a genuine sense of remorse, it may be difficult to rebuild trust and move past the infidelity.
Additionally, if the unfaithful partner is not willing to work on rebuilding trust and making changes to their behavior, it may be a warning sign that the relationship may not be able to recover.
Rebuilding trust after infidelity requires a great deal of effort and commitment from both partners, and if one partner is not willing to put in the work, it may be difficult to move forward.
Ultimately, it is important to recognize that not all relationships are able to recover from infidelity, and it is okay to recognize when the damage may be too severe to repair. By acknowledging these warning signs, individuals can better understand the challenges of rebuilding trust after infidelity and make informed decisions about the future of their relationship.
Infidelity can cause significant damage to a relationship, but it’s possible to rebuild trust and create a stronger and healthier relationship.
Acknowledging the damage caused, taking responsibility, rebuilding communication, seeking professional help, and being patient and committed are some strategies that can help couples navigate the complex process of rebuilding trust. It’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and each couple’s journey will be unique.
By following the strategies outlined in this article and tips from the coaches, couples can begin to heal from the trauma of infidelity and work towards a brighter future. With patience, commitment, and a willingness to communicate, couples can rebuild trust, create a stronger bond, and move forward together.
Remember, rebuilding trust is not easy, and it takes time, effort, and support. If you or your partner are struggling to navigate the process, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A licensed therapist, relationship coach, or counselor can provide guidance, support, and tools to help you rebuild trust and create a healthier, happier relationship.
Coach Ken has a video on this topic on his Youtube. Watch it below.
For more info, see the references we used below:
- Abrahms Spring, J. (2012). After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful. HarperCollins.
- Hawkins, A. J., Allen, E. S., & Atkins, D. C. (2012). Family Life Cycle Stages and Processes: A Framework for Marriage Education. In Handbook of Family Measurement Techniques (pp. 275-278). Routledge.
- Mark, K. P., Janssen, E., & Milhausen, R. R. (2011). Infidelity in heterosexual couples: demographic, interpersonal, and personality-related predictors of extradyadic sex. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(5), 971-982.
- Snyder, D. K., Baucom, D. H., & Gordon, K. C. (2007). Treating Infidelity: An Integrative Approach to Addressing Betrayal Trauma. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 63(11), 1080-1088.
- Whisman, M. A., & Gordon, K. C. (2018). Interventions for couples affected by infidelity: Current status and future directions. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 44(1), 139-154.