Can Trust Really Be Rebuilt?
For the record, infidelity is really hard to talk about. It makes people uncomfortable and pretty judgmental. It seems like whenever someone hears about a couple struggling to heal from an affair, they make sweeping judgments about affairs on how they would “never tolerate” that in their relationship or they would leave “in an instant” if their partner cheated on them. But the truth is, it’s not that simple. And hearing people’s input of what they “would” do can do more harm than good.
Recovering from an affair can be an extremely isolating experience and although it’s up there with one of the most devastating things that can happen in a relationship, it’s also something couples can heal from.
Couples ask all the time in my Sacramento therapy office if trust can really be rebuilt after an affair? And the answer is yes, but it’s a hell of a lot of work.
Healing from betrayal requires us to rebuild trust in a way that is so different than how we built trust early on in the relationship. You see, at the beginning of our relationships, we typically trust because we have no reason not to. We haven’t been hurt yet. We haven’t been wounded yet. We haven’t had our world shattered…yet.
But when infidelity happens in our relationship and the affair is discovered, our world is shattered. We are left not knowing which way is up and everything around us feels like it’s been leveled by a hurricane. We struggle to find anything in the wreckage to grab a hold of.
So what do we do then?
How do we rebuild it?
How do we find our footing?
Well…we start really really slow.
First, we have to get support. Healing from an affair is not something that can be done in isolation. Whether it’s reaching out to a therapist, our pastor or a support group, we need to build our team of people to help us with this recovery.
We also need to be choosy of who we share our story with. Support is really important throughout the healing process and turning to friends or family that are going to share your story without your permission or judge and criticize you for working to heal your relationship are not the people you need to be sharing with.
Next, we have to grieve the relationship that has been burned to the ground from the affair. We have to start mourning the loss of innocence our relationship has just weathered. We take it one day at a time….one moment at a time.
Then, we start to find the things we can trust in. When affairs happen, our pain can tell us that we can’t trust anything about that other person. But the truth is, there are likely things we can still trust in. We can still trust in their parenting. We can likely trust in their financial decisions. We begin to rebuild trust by finding all the reasons why we can trust. And this is really really hard! Often times, our pain, anger, hurt and betrayal can prevent us from seeing anything in the gray.
But slowly…over time we have to begin to look for things we can trust in.
Last, we start to look for signs of progress, not perfection. As you’re healing and beginning to trust again, communicate that to your mate. Let them know what helped you feel safe. Let them know you’re feeling safer. Communicate these successes and encourage each other.
Remember healing trust is absolutely possible even though it takes time. Be kind to yourself and be kind to your mate…you’re in this together.
If you’re struggling on recovery from an affair and healing the trust and betrayal in your relationship, I’m here as a resource. I know it’s a painful process, but I also know it’s something couples work to heal from everyday. The support and guidance found in couples counseling is an essential piece of this healing process.
As always, I want to know what your journey through love and connection is like. Send me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 916.955.3200 so we can talk about how counseling can change your relationship.