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:
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.