When you make the difficult decision to stay together after an infidelity, it often seems that your betrayed spouse will never recover. Sometimes they will even tell you that they feel that way. It’s easy to believe that it’s hopeless. Many involved partners decide to work hard to save their marriage, but when it comes to rebuilding trust …they just don’t know where to start.
Here are the 7 essential pathways to rebuilding trust with your betrayed spouse:
Commitment. There can be no hesitancy on your part. You must firmly decide that you want to heal and stay married.
Do you truly want to keep your marriage and family intact? Then you can’t be ambivalent or wishy-washy.
There can be no hidden agenda or Plan B. Commitment is the bedrock of rebuilding trust, and there is no affair recovery without commitment to the process.
Transparency and Openness. It’s not enough to disclose details about the affair or share passwords for your various devices and social media accounts. It’s also important to reveal what you were (and are) feeling and thinking.
This openness may extend beyond the affair and may touch upon old wounds in your marriage, or even your family of origin. Being transparent and open isn’t about being facile or glib. You may genuinely struggle with the question of your infidelity. Do so openly with your betrayed spouse.
Appreciate the Role of Grief. One of the things which makes affair recovery so complex is that there are all kinds of affairs and many shades of grief. Some involved partners were deeply connected to their affair partners to the extent that they split off the vibrant living part of themselves and offered it to their affair partner. Other affairs might be of little emotional consequence, and the attendant grief is directed toward the betrayed spouse. Listen to your betrayed spouse’s grief…and listen to your own grief as well. Who is it directed toward? And what is it trying to tell you?
Self-Confrontation. Self-confrontation can be a complicated idea. Some involved partners collapse into toxic shame and blame themselves so that they can mitigate the judgment of their betrayed spouse.
Your Betrayed Spouse Wants to Know What Happens Next…Do You?
But self-confrontation is more than the notion “I did something terrible.” Self-confrontation asks challenging questions.
“What did my affair mean? Who was I trying to be? What did my affair partner mean to me? Why was I vulnerable? Was I just feeling entitled, or was I emotionally disconnected from my betrayed spouse?”
Find Your Integrity and Congruency. After you self-confront, hopefully, you’re going to share what you’ve learned with your betrayed spouse. You may need to integrate splintered-off pieces of yourself or acknowledge your resentments and unexpressed hurts from the past to your betrayed spouse.
This is tricky work that is best done with a skilled couples therapist. One of the most challenging aspects of affair recovery is that it essential bulldozes the BS that was the “before” picture of your old marriage.
Integrity and congruency build on openness and transparency. It also displaces toxic shame with a healthy acknowledgment of the pain that resulted from your decisions.
Your Betrayed Spouse May Want a Way Forward…Do You?
Find Your “Instead.” I’m sure you’re making sincere apologies… but actively work toward making amends with your betrayed spouse. Go beyond blame and shame.
What needs to be different? Why was your marriage vulnerable? How do you need to be with each other instead? Couples who can find their “instead” recruit the experience of infidelity and tear their marriage down to the studs and rebuild it completely.
Appreciate the Dignity of Your Betrayed Spouse. Dignity in this context means the right of your betrayed spouse to be valued and respected for their own sake and to be treated fairly by you. But why stop there? Dignity also means exercising the final step in self-confrontation and firmly resolving who you are, what you want, and what you’re about. Integrity and dignity are the hallmarks of affair recovery.
Empathy, Compassion, Patience, and Kindness (ECPK). ECPK is the healing stance toward your betrayed spouse. You will at times, feel overwhelmed by your betrayed spouse’s pain. Help them carry it. If you both want to heal, you both have your own separate work to do. Don’t focus too intently on your need for forgiveness. Show your empathy and compassion. Be patient when they become overwhelmed with grief. Remember to be careful and kind.
Good couples therapy can help you with appropriate boundaries. You’re not expected to tolerate physical abuse, but a certain amount of emotionality from your betrayed spouse is to be expected.
Your betrayed spouse lives in a world that has been completely upended. They are watching you carefully to see what you’ll do. Consider Working with a good, science-based couples therapist who can help you follow these 9 essential pathways to rebuilding trust with your betrayed spouse.
Are You Seriously Committed to Affair Recovery? Get Coaching Now!
Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He is the Blog Editor. He currently works online seeing couples from Massachusetts at Couples Therapy Inc. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.