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Recovering From An Affair and Rebuilding Your Relationship

Skilled counselors help couples recover from infidelity, betrayal, and rebuild trust.

Recovering From An Affair and Other Betrayals

Betrayal between people can take many forms, and most often the first thing we think of is infidelity and hopefully working towards recovering from an affair. But betrayal can be any a violation of the trust that one person has placed in another.

Some other examples of betrayal and loss of trust may be:

  • Lying
  • Manipulation
  • Committing a crime
  • Revealing too much information
  • Consistently saying one thing but doing another
  • Financial indiscretion
  • Keeping Secrets
  • Non-sexual Infidelity (an emotional affair)
  • Realizing a relationship is not what you thought it was (the other person doesn’t care for you the way you thought)

We are all imperfect, and sometimes we hurt a person we love. When it is severe enough that you consider it a betrayal, here are some things you can consider doing to rebuild trust and strengthen your relationship.

Rebuilding Trust from Betrayals in Relationships

Complete Confession and Disclosure – It is important for the person who was betrayed to feel like there won’t be any “surprises” later when he or she finds out something more that is hurtful. If there is a long history to the betrayal or if it is a deep betrayal between you, you may find it helpful to work with a counselor who is experienced in working on a formal disclosure and/or restitution letter. It is important for the betrayer to work hard to disclose all of the hurtful behavior in an appropriate way. In some cases, there are aspects of the betrayal that should and also should not be disclosed, and a counselor can help you accomplish this in the most healthy and helpful way, even though it is a painful process.  Complete confession might be the most important part of recovering from an affair or other betrayal.  The one who was betrayed really must know how much betrayal is really there, before they can decide to stay or leave the relationship.

Sincere Apology – If you are the one who betrayed the other person, the emphasis here is on making your apology sincere, this is easier when you truly understand the pain that has been caused and you wish you had not hurt the other person in this way. When you apologize, express your understanding of the pain that was caused. It is never appropriate to indicate that the betrayed person was at fault in any way (not even a tiny implication); each of us makes the choice to act one way or another and the responsibility for that lies within our self. With each of these ideas included in your apology, it is more likely to be sincere and be received as sincere.

Remorse – Express remorse.  This is a part of the apology and adds to the idea above of expressing your understanding of the pain that was caused.  Consider all the ways that the betrayal has affected the other person. Try to think of ways they have been affected that they have not spoken aloud to you.  What has changed for that person?  How have they been feeling?  When you validate that person’s feelings in an expression of remorse, it can help a lot with healing.

Make Restitution – How restitution looks is going to be unique for each relationship. This may be simply a change in the behavior with the betrayer’s acceptance that for a while the person who was betrayed may feel the need to ask a lot of questions or “check up” until trust begins to build. It can help very much for the betrayed person to “catch” the betrayer being trustworthy, without knowing that they are being “checked on.” There may be actual acts you discover that you can do that are acts of repentance that are meaningful to the person who was betrayed. The person who was betrayed may need the betrayer to express an understanding of what went wrong, so they both are better able to prevent this from happening again.  

Commit to not doing this again – An actual expression of your intention and commitment to not doing this act again is very important.  You are giving your word on this, and although you still need time to build trust again, an actual commitment like this can help.  You will also want to express this: how do you know you won’t do this again?  Have you taken steps in your own personal growth?  Has witnessing the other person’s pain had a deep impact on you?

Why do you want to stay in this relationship? – It will be important for both of you to know and understand why you want to continue this relationship. The reasons may be as simple as you care deeply for each other, have been married a long time, or have children you want to raise together. It can be helpful and healing to reaffirm this commitment to each other. However, a concern with this question is to explore your reasons and also evaluate whether your reasons indicate one person is manipulative, one gains far more than he or she gives, one is giving up too much of his or her self to continue the relationship, or other unhealthy patterns.

What is the cost of crossing this boundary again? – To the best of your ability, it should be clear to both of you what would happen to the relationship if this type of betrayal or even this level of betrayal were to happen again.

Forgiveness – All of your efforts hopefully lead to forgiveness. Forgiveness is good for both of you. It is healing to the relationship. For the betrayer there is of course an element of absolution in being forgiven, while also being very clear that just because the act has been forgiven it does not mean it is all “okay” now. For the person betrayed, forgiveness brings a sense of peace and moving forward in life – and to not continue to carry around the weight of what has happened between you. Don’t forget that it is important for the betrayer to forgive herself/himself as well.

Another purpose to these is that they allow the person who was betrayed to have more of a sense of knowing the betrayer again.

Before you can trust someone, you must feel as if you know that person. And once trust is re-established, the emotional intimacy between you can rebuild as well.

 

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