Rebuilding Trust in Your Broken Relationship
You've confessed to cheating on your partner, and now you're not sure what's going to happen.
Without realizing it, your partner is likely beginning to shut down. They’re putting up walls because they person they were supposed to trust the most has hurt them in one of the worst ways possible. And now, you feel stuck on the outside. No matter what you say, or what you do, they’re only going to hear your words and see their actions through the lens of someone who has been betrayed.
You're feeling lost, broken, and you aren't sure what to do next.
So chances are if you’re reading this it means you mustered the courage to be honest with your spouse or significant other and told them what happened. You may have even thought that you’d feel free, like a massive weight was lifted off your chest. But now, you probably feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. Nothing about your relationship is certain anymore. The place that used to be safe feels like a mine field. You’re probably wondering things like:
- Are they going to leave me?
- Can they ever forgive me?
- How will they trust me again? Even though I know I’ll never do it again, how can I make them believe it?
- What happens if we can’t make it past this? Is our relationship over?
- What can I do or say to make them feel better?
Unfortunately, there’s no simple answers to these questions. Everyone responds to infidelity differently. Some spouses who’ve been cheated on want to move immediately to reconciliation, and some just want to move out of the house. There’s no standard for what happens when a spouse discovers an affair.
The important thing to remember is that everyone processes this news in a different way, and there’s not much you can do to control the way they respond. Of course, if you’re in a situation where you’re fearful for your safety, you need to leave that situation, or call 911. Your spouse or partner may yell and scream, leave, kick you out, or lock you out of the bedroom. They may instantly fall apart, or it may take a while for the reality of the situation to set in. They may react with sadness, or they may just feel numb. All of those feelings are normal, and it’s not up to you to dictate or try to change how they feel.
Your relationship will probably start going through a lot of changes. One minute your partner may be shooting questions about the infidelity rapid-fire at you, and the next he or she may be sobbing on the bathroom floor. One day may feel like it’s going well, but you wake up the next day and he or she wants nothing to do with you. Your emotions are going to be everywhere, and so will theirs.
It's going to get worse before it gets better.
This roller coaster of emotions isn’t something that you can put a time limit on. But, one thing I’m confident in is that it’ll take longer than a couple weeks to move past. In fact, as time continues to progress, you may find your partner gets even more upset or angry. You may find they pull away from you more at this time than they are right now.
Trying to get through this on your own probably isn't going to work.
There are so many changes your relationship will go through, it’s impossible to know what to expect. And you need to work with someone who understands how to help you move forward, no matter what happens. You should definitely seek out the help of a trusted pastor, spiritual mentor, or relationship counselor to help work on your relationship and what that’s going to look like moving forward.
But you need to be sure to get yourself individual help for yourself as well. Find yourself a therapist who specializes in working with people who’ve had an affair. You’ll need to begin working on understanding why this happened, and how you ended up in this place. It’s likely it’s not something as simple as you being in the mood and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There’s probably more underneath the surface, and it’s important to dig deeper, and understand the emotional wounds you’ve caused yourself in this process.
Working with a therapist who specializes in this area of work allows you the opportunity to get solid, practical advice and support to begin rebuilding yourself, including learning how to handle the hurt, shame, and regret. It also gives you the chance to figure out how to keep this from ever happening again.
So, how do you actually rebuild trust in your broken relationship?
At this point in your relationship, it may feel like it’s never going to get better. And I’ll be 100% honest, it may not get better. Not every relationship recovers from an affair. But if you believe your partner is willing to at least hear you out and give you the opportunity to rebuild the relationship and regain their trust, then you have some work to do. Many couples are able to walk through this situation and come out stronger on the other side, but only when they’re willing to put in the work.
Following these next steps is an important part of the process.
1. Be completely honest.
Self-proclaimed “relationship experts” tend to disagree on this point. However, it’s difficult to move forward with rebuilding trust in your broken relationship without your partner understanding all the facts. But only give this information if they ask. Some people don’t want to know all the details because it’ll hurt too much. Either of these approaches are okay, but it’s important to respect your partner’s wishes, whichever direction they choose.
2. Create a “Document of Responsibility”.
After your partner has told you what it is they need from you, either all, some, or none of the details, it’s important to show them you’re committed to owning what’s happened. Creating a Document of Responsibility, and going over it with them, offers them the opportunity to see you making amends for the damage that’s been caused. Here’s what your Document of Responsibility should contain:
- The details (in the amount your partner has asked for) of what happened and what you did.
- Your admission that you did wrong, that you hurt them, and how you recognize the pain you’ve caused.
- What you intend to do to begin rebuilding trust in the relationship going forward.
This will be a difficult task, and probably very uncomfortable, too. It’s hard to be vulnerable and share these thoughts, feelings and wrongdoings. Many people choose to complete this step in the presence of a therapist so they can deescalate the situation if it gets difficult. No matter how you do it, it’s an incredibly healing experience.
3. Understand that even though the affair is in your past, it’s your partner’s present.
You’ve had time to think about and process what’s happened. You know that you know that you know you’re sorry for what’s happened, and that it’ll never happen again. But your spouse or significant other doesn’t know that. Not yet. They need to have the same time and reflection to work through these things, just like you did. It’s easy to get frustrated and angry with them if it feels like they’re not moving through it fast enough.
There’s no prescribed time limit for how long it’ll take for your partner to move past this. For some people, it takes a year or more. And that’s okay. If you’re willing to make the the relationship work, it’ll require some patience.
4. Understand there will be some bad days, even after it gets better.
There are emotional triggers that will come about for your partner. Even after months, they may have an off day where they start worrying that you’re going to cheat again. They may become fearful that you’re lying, or thinking about leaving. They’ll need your support during these hard days, and the reassurance that you’re there for them.
This sucks. But you have an opportunity to create beauty from the ashes.
It sounds crazy, but I frequently tell people in this position that there’s such beauty in it, because you have the chance to rebuild your relationship from the ground up. It’s likely that never before have you been so honest, open and vulnerable, and now there are no secrets left.
And so now, you’re able to move forward in a new way.You’ll get to rediscover your partner, and what drew you together in the first place. You can have the relationship that everyone is jealous of. As long as you’re willing to put in the work.
Are you willing to do what it takes to rebuild your relationship?
Rebuilding your relationship is powerful, but it’s also difficult. And you don’t have to do it alone. You have the power to have not just an okay relationship, but an amazing one, and I can help.
Together, we can learn how to get you past this and help you show your partner you’re ready to move forward. I work exclusively online with Christians who’ve had an affair, and I’ve got a spot waiting just for you. So, take a deep breath, wipe the tears from your eyes, and schedule your appointment with me right now.