It's a knife to the heart when you learn that someone you love has broken your trust. I have experienced it, as have many people at some point in their lives.
Is it possible to recover from such a breach?
For some people, the answer is a clear no — and that's understandable. But plenty of others find ways to move past the infidelity and undertake the hard work of regaining trust. If you're determined to salvage the disrupted relationship, you'll need to take these four steps on the path to healing:
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1. Resolve to work through your emotions. This is harder than it sounds. First you must process, then put aside, your feelings of rage and sadness. Removing those two key obstacles will help you move forward and experience other emotions — among them, ultimately, loving feelings — that will enable you to reenter the relationship.
2. Seek your partner's buy-in. Your partner has to commit to repairing the relationship. He or she must acknowledge that whatever happened is regrettable, and will never recur. The one who strayed must reassure you of his or her renewed — and unconditional — love.
3. Be prepared to talk — and listen. Both of you must be willing to give each other's feelings a fair and thorough airing. Your job will be hard, but so will your partner's. You both must hash out why the infidelity happened. (Be patient — your partner may need several attempts to unearth his or her true motivation.)
This won't work unless your partner accepts the validity of your anger and sadness, but you too must own up to any patterns, behaviors or statements that played a part in the rupture: Have you been absent, physically or emotionally, from the relationship? Have you exhibited a lack of affection or sexual availability?
4. Cease the blame game. It may seem logical to strike back emotionally, but find a way to stop punishing your partner for his or her transgression. If you continue to bludgeon your partner for what happened, it will do more than scuttle your chances of rehabbing the relationship: It may degrade your health as well, for that kind of anger is toxic.
How can the two of you take these four steps together — and move forward as a couple? In my experience it's rare for couples to recover from infidelity without the intercession of an objective third party, such as a therapist or counselor. A good therapist can set you on the path that leads back to each other by helping each party to:
- Sort out their feelings
- Listen to what the other partner has to say
- Recall the reasons why the two principals still love each other
So, yes, people do get over infidelity, especially if they come to terms with why it happened and why it won't happen again. Many relationships are worth saving, even after a severe violation such as this. But it takes a strong person — and a credibly repentant partner — to do the work necessary to reclaim the love and trust you once shared.
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