Being caught in having an affair or admitting to an infidelity blows the door right off the vehicle that is your relationship. Intense feelings of anger, fear, resentment and sadness to name a few come to the forefront like a flood. If you have gone through this or are currently going through this turmoil in your relationship then you are likely experiencing this and possibly much more. The relationship you envisioned and the safety net you both felt and required become lost.
But, it is possible to not only survive an affair but to actually reconnect in a way that actually improves your relationship? Studies show that through a lot of hard work, dedication, and time, the answer is a resounding “yes.”
In the digital age we live in, what used to constitute an affair has changed. Obviously a physical, sexual relationship outside your relationship describes infidelity but what too about viewing pornography or flirting and intriguing with others on social media and hook-up apps like Tinder? Although the relationship may never have reached the physical stage, many would still feel a betrayal by their partner partaking in these activities. Robert Weiss defines infidelity as “the breaking of trust that occurs when you deliberately keep intimate, meaningful secrets from your primary romantic partner.”
Rebuilding trust serves as the bedrock in starting over. In The Science of Trust, Dr. John Gottman claims that most of us believe that trust is an idea, a belief. Gottman instead defines trust as an action—more about what your partner does than what they say. Science now tells us that trust grows from how each of us treats our partners.
So, how does the person who had the affair do this? How does he or she begin to put back “trust deposits” into an almost empty love bank?
- Atone for your mistakes and practice rigorous honesty
In the Gottman Trust Revival Method, the first phase is to atone. The partner who created the pain must first express remorse and takes full accountability for their actions. It is also essential that they too show empathy and understanding of their partner’s feelings. Often times a full disclosure is necessary, allowing for full transparency and openness.
Gaining insight into what went wrong also is recommended. Generative conversations explore the vulnerabilities in the marriage before the affair. This way of dealing with infidelity doesn’t blame the past for the infidelity, but it explores the motivations. It is critical that the betrayer is clear and about their motivating reasons for working toward a new transparency in the marriage.
Weiss too points out that involved partner must not only just come clean but they must also become rigorously honest about all other aspects of their life. A shift must occur in their understanding of honesty that puts the truth in a place of utmost importance and highest priority. Even the small stuff counts here.
The second phase, attunement, is only possible when a couple moves ahead with forgiveness and is ready to rebuild their relationship without blaming. During this phase, the couple learns to really hear and listen to one another, empathizing with one another, and learning how to effectively deal with conflict. Prioritizing the relationship, to once again feel like a team in that letting others know too of their recommitment.
The third phase, attachment, rituals of connection are established. Sexual intimacy too can be reintroduced into the relationship given the betrayed feels ready. The emotional connection must be present for the true sex to happen.
Recovering from an affair is a complex process. It’s a healing journey that requires patience, courage, inner strength and time for both the betrayed and the betrayer to heal, regain balance and learn to lay down new tracks. The betrayer’s main job during this process is to dependable, consistent, responsive and comforting. You can build a more honest, healthier and happier relationship on the other side of this mess.