Written by Caroline Meyer
While infidelity can mean the end of a relationship in many cases, there is some potential positive aspects to repairing a relationship instead. Infidelity is the reason for divorce in around 40% of cases but cheating may be a lot more widespread than the statistics show. Staying together after a partner has cheated may lead to more open discussion as to what went wrong and to looking for ways to repair the issues that led to the affair. This takes away from the actual act of infidelity itself and looks at a bigger picture when it comes to repairing the relationship. This doesn’t mean a partner can play the blame game and throw the guilt for the affair on to the other partner. If there is any chance for the relationship to be repaired, both partners need to be able to discuss what is not working in the relationship without finger pointing. When handled correctly, this may even result in a stronger relationship.
Repairing a relationship after this type of set-back requires that both partners are prepared to put effort into correcting issues. This may require therapy for both people individually and couple’s therapy in order to get to the bottom of the problems and start to heal and change. When both people are prepared to really work on it and take the necessary steps to heal the breach in the relationship, it can be done with some work. Don’t expect instant healing, it will take time, but be prepared to walk to road together.
The person that cheated does need to show remorse and regret for their behaviour. If there is no apology for the harm caused by what they have done, there is unlikely to be any moving on from it. Right from the start, the cheater needs to show they are sorry and are willing to change. The next step would be discussion why it happened. Some issues cannot be easily resolved and may lead to repeated behaviour in future. In many cases, especially when it was a once off situation, it may just have been a result of making a poor decision. Some of the reasons for affairs can include poor communication, unmet needs, attachment difficulties and even gender roles that are not in synch. It may also be a lot more complex. Both partners will need to communicate issues in the relationship and how to go about resolving them.
If there is dishonesty and a lack of open communication or there is excessive finger-pointing and blame on behalf of the partner that has strayed, it is unlikely that the relationship will ever get back on track. Discussions need to be honest and in-depth. This way both parties can get some resolution and try and find ways to move on and improve the relationship. The person that has had an affair needs to be prepared to cut ties with the person that they had the affair with. There should be no communication besides what is essential for the other person’s involvement in the person’s life outside of the affair. There should be no social media communication or any private conversations of any kind after ending the affair. Where there is communication such as when the relationship has been with a colleague, all interactions need to be transparent.
For the future there needs to be honesty as well as consideration of the other partner. The partner that cheated needs to be prepared to go through the details of the affair with their partner. This will cause pain but it is part of the catharsis. They need to answer all questions openly, even when it may cause more pain to their partner. This brutal honesty has to be continued in order to build up trust.
The partner that cheated also needs to be prepared to given up behaviours that cause suspicion or a breakdown in trust. While this may be uncomfortable at the start, it will help rebuild the trust to an extent. Discuss openly what is required so that the cheating partner can show that they are prepared to work on the relationship and avoid situations that can lead to potential errors in judgement such as this.
Avoid sharing the details of the indiscretion with all and sundry, especially on social media. This leads to very public hurt and can cause a lot of extra anger and strife. While it is healthy to talk to someone when trying to deal with an infidelity, sometimes it is better to keep it between you and your therapist while going through the anger and pain of dealing with the affair. By slating your spouse to others, you can end up with a whole new set of problems and less chance of repairing your relationship. You will end up with people taking sides and others giving their opinions on you, your partner and your relationship, which is generally detrimental. This will not help anyone to move forward especially when other people are now holding a grudge against the person that cheated and will put pressure on the other person to split from them instead of attempting to fix the relationship.
Once both partners have been able to communicate openly and the reasons for the cheating are laid out in the open, then actionable change can happen. The relationship will never be the same again, but it can be different and stronger than before. The affair will need to be left in the past and a new relationship will have to start from that point. There will need to be a lot of work, almost as much as what you would have had to put in at the beginning of the relationship initially in some ways and even more in others. You will need to discuss everything and work together to recreate a trusting relationship that works for both of you.