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January 25, 2006

REPAIRING TRUST AFTER AN AFFAIR

REPAIRING TRUST AFTER AN AFFAIR

I often hear individuals who have had affairs speaking to their partners, making comments like: “Am I ever going to live this down?” “It didn’t mean anything.” “It’s over with, would you let it go!” etc. The general theme is they want to quickly move past the affair and go on with their life; the only problem is their partner is not quite as ready to just “move on” (and with good reason).

The killer about affairs is not so much the act of sex, per se, as much as it is the lies, deceit, and crazy-making denials that occur prior to and throughout the entire affair. The residue of the deception is what lingers long after the actual sex has stopped. So when someone has ended an affair and decides to step back into their committed relationship, they need to know that step back is a long, hard journey. If you want to rebuild your relationship after breaking the trust, you must realize that it is the norm for couples impacted by affairs to struggle for months and even years afterward.

More often than not, the journey back is about the damage done, the remorse shown, and the day-to-day actions of repair the offending partner does or does not take rather than their partner’s inability to let it go. With this in mind, here are some tips for those of you who have had affairs and want to rebuild the trust in your relationships:

Do:
1. Take full responsibility for the affair without rationalizing, defending, or minimizing what you did in any way.
2. Know that your partner will be triggered often and this is normal! Your job is to reassure him/her when they are feeling insecure or suspicious--not deny, get defensive, or storm out. Every time you respond to your partner’s insecurities defensively or angrily, rather than listening, comforting, or reassuring, you earned yourself two more months of insecurity. (Comfort sounds like, “I’m sorry you’re struggling with this. Is there anything I can do to help?” Reassurance sounds like, “I know I hurt you and I want you to know that I am committed to never do that again.”)
3. Show remorse, apologize, and make amends. If there is little remorse, the recovery time expands to years--if this is possible at all.
4. Be an open book for as long as necessary. Do not hide e-mails, tell any lies--no matter how small--and be honest even if you think your partner will react negatively…take lying off the table!

Challenge: If you have not taken full responsibility for your affair, go to your partner today and own up. Show remorse and mean it--you just ripped apart what you both had--and that deserves an apology...for starters! Commit to not act defensively when your partner gets triggered--comfort, reassure, and listen…every time. The more you do this, the quicker you both will heal and the less your partner will be triggered.

Comments

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Dear Paula: You stated a number of times that you "have issues". You have to work out your issues in order to be able to be in a healthy relationship. Right now it sounds like you're staying in a relationship out of desperation not a healthy choice. Your children are learning how to be in relationships from you. Get into therapy for yourself to work on your anger issues and dependency issues. You're not trusting your husband because he has not been trustworthy. He should be doing everything he can to be earning your trust. In the mean time, get yourself into therapy so you can become stronger, healthier and more grounded rather than reactive.
Take Care-Lisa

My partner and I have been married for 15 years. Four years ago I caught him cheating on me, and we tried to work it out. Then within the last year, his behaviour was very cold towards me. I did not understand, until I saw chats with another woman, during the time he was accusing me of being too possessive and dependent on him. When he admitted, I thought about ending the relationship, but I have two kids and no family support in the country that I live. I did not want to return home because there are many issues there as well. I changed my lifestyle, we went for counselling shortly. I converted to Christianity. He apologised many times, but I still have so much issues with trust. From the time we started seeing each other I had issues with trust. Early in the relationship, he allowed his ex-girlfriend to stay in his room when she returned for holidays. I found mails where he spoke to female friends saying that he cares about them and is interested in what is happening with them. When he went to study abroad (after we were married), he was close to another woman (I do not think they were sexually involved) and I only found out through chats on his computer. After the first affair he lied about hiring a woman he said "that looked good" to do secretarial duties for his second business. I found out by e-mail. I have personality issues, I get angry when he lies to me...sometimes explosive.....turning to Christ helps a little and I try to control my outburst....I still do not trust him, at times I feel neglected.....I know I have issues....sometimes I make up scenarios in my head that he is hiding affairs from me.

I really do not know which way to turn. Embarassed

My wife had an emotional affair with an old friend of her's she has known since before we even met. I found out and she has not really volunteered any of the things they used to get up to but fairly answers all my questions. We have decided to give our marriage another chance but I an seriously struggling with trust issues and every time she receives a call of she fiddles with her phone i tend to always wonder who she will be talking/chatting with. I don't know how to overcome this as the girl I dated before I met my wife also cheated on me and it took time for me to get over the whole thing

Dear No More Faith: I'm sorry to hear about the choices your husband is making. It absolutely sounds like he is cheating. I would also be wondering if he has a sex addiction given some of the things you are reporting. I recommend you both seek therapy with a trained sex addiction therapist to rule out any addiction and to address the serious issues in your marriage. If he refuses to go, then the behavior is likely to continue and escalate. Seriously think about what you want to do about this relationship if that is the case.
I'm sorry to hear that you have been put in this position. Trust your instincts and do what you need to do in order to take care of yourself.
Warm Regards,
Lisa

My husband's job keeps him out on the road for months at a time. He has returned home with receipts from adult stores that indicate the purchase of items, receipts for prepaid calling cards and receipts for prepaid debit cards, all of which he says he must have mistakenly picked up somewhere and swears they aren't things he used. I am not "allowed" to "nose around" in his suitcase, but that is where he has two extra phones, a bottle of male enhancement pills and an open box of condoms. He also had a sack of trash I was supposed to dispose of that contained several of these receipts and napkins and scraps of paper with girls' phone numbers and names on them. His main phone (the one I pay the bill on) has a Google history of searching for local women who just want to "hook up" for sex. He swears he isn't cheating and once told me he was only looking on there to "see if there is something better out there". I am at the point where I know he is a liar but can't solidly prove it. I think all men cheat.

Hi I read your article and I could use some words of encouragement. I recently found my wife of 10 years has been calling her old boyfriend. I didnt mind at first she would call him on her way home from work or text him, they hadnt seen each other in 20 something years. But recently I went on a business trip and evidently she decided that was the best time to call him. She called him several times over two nights, one of the was at 3 in the morning and they talked for 2 hours. To make it worse while I was driving home from this trip I called her trying to stay awake, she told me she was extremely tired and going to bed, but according to the phone bill she called him immediatly after hanging up with me and talked for over an hour. I confronted her about this and she says they were talking about old high school friends and nothing crossed the line. She has apologized and said she has no explanation of why the timing was the way it was and she just cant remember why she called him right after hanging up with me. I am really having a hard time getting past this, I love her with all my heart and dont want to lose her but in a way I feel I have already lost part of her. How do I trust her again?

My husband and I haven't even been married for a year. We got married 9-4-11...I found out that he had been cheating on me the day before we got married and the girl was pregnant. I felt like it was to late to cancel the wedding and I really loved him plus we had a daughter together. They both admitted everything and said it stopped in July.
He says it was nothing and it was an accident. Yet its like I constantly keep thinking about it and wh it happened. We barely talk about it because I get upset or I feel like he is trying to avoid it or still having feelings for her. I have yet to speak to her since that phone call. I do know she had the baby. He said he hasn't spoken to except twice and he has let me know when she does contact him. Also, right after the phone call I found out I was pregnant with our second daughter. I feel he is trying his hardest to make it up to me and try to show he is different. But sometimes I can't help but feel like he might go back and do it again or that he is doing things. Even though he tries to show me he isn't. I was never jealous before and that's my problem now because I should have seen the signs when it was happening or acknowledge them. We are trying to make this work. But I don't know what to do or how to do it....

Dear Kandi: if he truly wants to repair this then he would be willing to get into professional help so you both can work through this together. Affairs are very difficult to heal from and typically take 3-5 years. i suggest you both get into couples treatment and work through this together.
Take Care-Lisa

I'm in an interesting situation, my husband and I have been married for 2 years but have been together for about 5. We are younger (21 and 24) and we have a son together, we have struggled our entire relationship with him lying about flirting and cheating. I believe 100% without a doubt that he has cheated on me, he has tried to have sex with my ex best friend and flirts with any new friends I bring home which of course I have just stopped having friends all together. He tells me its because he doesn't know how to stop. He has a condition called intermittent explosive disorder and part of it is he feels justified with every action he makes. He has sworn up and down he has not physically cheated on me and every time he flirts with someone he always asks them "why am I doing this?" and that stops the flirting dead in its tracks. I've caught him on dating sites claiming to be single or divorced as well. I'm so tired of it. It hurts so bad because I want to trust him like I used to more then anything but he does NOTHING to help build that trust. He goes to group and one on one therapy we tried couples therapy but of course the therapist just told me to keep doing what I'm doing and good will come, so what I just continue being miserable and crying every day and being obsessive over what he's doing? Its slowly killing me. I need help I don't know what else to do.

Dear Marissa: Stop doing what you're doing and instead get into a 12-step group or individual therapy yourself to address co-dependancy issues. Is it possible your husband is struggling with sex addiction? Either way, the last thing you should be doing is trusting him right now--he doesn't even trust himself. He says he can't help it so why would you trust him? Get yourself a good therapist and start working on you so you can get strong enough to not take his treatment. Look into a CODA group (co-dependants annonymous) and start working you.
Take Care-Lisa

Hi
I'm in kind of a crazy situation because I'm recently married but me and my wife are both military. But to make a long story short, I've been in the service for awhile now and when she seemed interested I encouraged her. During her training she changed completely. It had me worried so after six months of not seeing each other she was acting weird and distant which is to be expected but something seemed off, turns out she was falling for another guy while in training. She claims she never cheated on him but that was tempted. I have never felt more devastated as I do now. We in the end decided to make it work so we moved to awhole different country where she is stationed and I left everything in hope that our relationship would work. But now though there has been some improvement evey time she checks her phone or chats on FB I get suspicious and it drives me crazy. Turns out she still talks to him, she says there's nothing going on but I simply can't trust her anymore though I would very much like to. We have worked and risked so much for this relationship that it would be a shame to let it die simply because i don't trust her. Plus she is way secretive and it makes me even more suspicious but she just says that its just the way she is and blah blah blah... I love her more than anything in this world but i feel like i'm the only one putting the work and risk... not sure what i can do to make things better all around.


Dear Dave: I would tell her directly that you're having a hard time trusting her and it's hurting your relationship. I suggest you both get professional help to address her secretive nature and to look at how to repair the damage. Your difficulty trusting her is normal and to be expected. It's also healthy since she's not acting trustworthy. Her contacting this man is harmful to the relationship regardless of how she explains it.
Hang in there!
Lisa

Me and my husband had affairs around 7yrs being married. Its now going on 11yrs and we have worked through a lot. But this last yr he joined a sleazey cover band as the lead singer and its killing me to see women all around my husband especially in spandex pants singing cover songs and changing the words to obsucure words. Its part of the show. I really need advice i have not been going to the shows it hurts to much. But now I feel like im not being supportive and he really wants me to go. I dont want him to quit the band either because he loves it and hes an awesome singer. I just have insecurities I wish I could figure out what to do to help me feel better its really driving me crazy and it hurts so much. I tell him and hes hoping to work things out too. We were never jealous before. And I Know I trust him 110%.

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