Is surviving infidelity together at all possible? Can a couple work through and get past the ultimate relationship betrayal—unfaithfulness?
Infidelity is devastating. The damage that is left, caused by betrayal, lack of trust, unanswered questions, and the unknown future, seems irreparable.
But let me tell you that surviving infidelity together is possible. It won’t be easy, but it can be done.
Here are some important steps to take in the healing process.
1. No contact. None.
This is the number one most important thing for couples who are striving towards surviving infidelity together. If this step isn’t taken, getting through this might not be possible.
It is essential that the unfaithful person cut their lover out of their life completely. There can be no trying to be friends, no final meeting for closure, no secret meetings to feed the need to be together. Unfriended and blocked on social media. Contact info deleted.
I believe that it’s impossible to fully get away from a relationship if you don’t go “no contact.” This is especially important after infidelity.
Why? Affairs are addictive and, for the married couple to get through recovery, it’s imperative that the addiction be broken. The unfaithful person needs to be fully cut off from their lover so that they can focus on their partner. This is not possible if their lover hovers in the background.
Furthermore, the wronged partner needs to know and trust that their partner’s person is not still out there threatening the relationship.
So, first and foremost, go no contact. Without it, surviving infidelity together will be almost impossible.
2. Talking it out.
An essential part of surviving infidelity together is talking it out.
No affair happens in a void. More often than not, when an affair occurs, there are issues in a relationship.
Perhaps one partner never feels heard or isn’t having their sexual needs met or is overwhelmed by the emotional abuse they are subjected to. Perhaps parenting has made them feel like less of a person and having an affair allowed them to feel like themselves again.
Whatever the reasons, these issues need to be discussed. Everything must be put out in the open so that everyone understands what might have led to the affair. Not to assign blame, but to take a good, honest look at what the issues are in the relationship and commit to making change around them.
Talking it out can be difficult, and often it’s important for a couple to get a professional to help them do so. Feelings will run high, and having someone on hand to help keep them in line will be essential.
3. Rebuilding trust.
It is essential for couples who are interested in surviving a relationship together to work hard to rebuild trust.
The wronged partner needs to know that they can trust their partner, and the wandering partner needs to trust that their person is willing to work together to move forward.
A key part of rebuilding trust is to cut the other person out of your life, as I mentioned above. For the wronged person, knowing that their partner has walked away from their lover, that they don’t need to always be wondering if they are together, and that their person is committed to working through it is essential for moving forward.
The wayward partner needs to know that their partner is willing to be open to getting through this, to not be constantly critical of everything they do, to trust that they are no longer cheating, and to not constantly question their character and motivations.
For both people, 100% transparency is important. If you have questions about what your spouse is doing, ask them. If you are going to be home later than usual, be clear about it and stay in touch. Whatever the other needs to feel safe in the relationship.
Trust is an essential part of a healthy relationship. Rebuilding trust will take some time but without trust, surviving infidelity together might not be possible.
Ah yes, forgiveness. The tough one.
You have been betrayed by someone who swore to love you forever. They fell in love or had sex with someone else—how can one possibly forgive someone for such horrific behavior?
Furthermore, how can you forgive yourself for missing the signs, for being the kind of partner your person would turn away from, for being so unbelievably stupid for letting it happen?
Forgiveness after infidelity is possible. And understanding that forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting is essential as well.
If your partner truly feels contrite, if they are willing to stay away from their partner and do everything that they can do to regain your trust, if they take accountability for their actions and are always honest with you, forgiveness is possible.
That being said, just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean they are let off the hook. It doesn’t mean that you are accepting that what they did is okay. It means that you are recognizing that your partner is human, that humans make mistakes, and that your life and your relationship is important enough to you to try to move forward together.
You don’t have to forget that the affair ever happened, but if you can forgive your partner for their actions, you have taken a big step towards surviving an affair together.
5. Getting to know each other again.
When an affair occurs, what is left is a huge chasm between partners.
Trust is gone, your person doesn’t act like your person, you question everything you ever thought to be true, and you wonder if you can ever really know your person again.
An essential part of surviving infidelity together is making an effort to get to know each other again. There was a time you were in love with this person, and perhaps it’s time to remember why.
Be willing to be 100% open about yourself to another person, like you were in the beginning, so that you remember how and why you love them.
Make an effort to do things together—the things that you used to love doing together and new things that will be exciting and fun. Spend time with non-judgmental friends who love you as a couple. If you have kids, spend time together as a family.
Talk about the future, a future that you might share together.
Remember, you loved this person, and might still love them. Knowing this might be the key to surviving infidelity together.
Affairs are devastating and destructive. Surviving them as a couple is possible.
It is important that you follow the steps above, to cut the other person out of your life, to talk about what happened, to rebuild trust, to forgive, and to get to know each other again.
It is also important to get some professional help. An outside perspective on this situation, with a person who is well versed in healing after an affair can be more than helpful. They might help you bridge a chasm that you just can’t traverse on your own.
I know that you are hurt. And good for you for reading this article and considering whether or not you want to try to save your relationship. It’s not for everybody, forgiving and moving on, but if it might be an option for you, I definitely encourage you to try it.
Maybe you can still have your happily ever after!