Rebuilding trust after a spouse has cheated requires commitment and effort from both partners. As part of that process, it’s helpful to consider the following steps:
1. Importance and Meaning
What does this relationship truly mean to me, and how important is it for me to continue the relationship? These are critical questions to be answered in moving forward after infidelity.
After much thought and reflection, Jackie was able to realize that Martin was very important to her and that she truly loved him.
To look at the obstacles and what the relationship means takes reflection and honesty. Some of the obstacles in the relationship have been created by both partners. These need to be honestly assessed without judging or condemnation. When we judge and condemn, we do not allow the deeper truth to come out.
Jackie’s reflection allowed her to see that having their children placed a large burden on the relationship. The focus switched from each other to the children. Jackie realized that she was not listening or being as attentive in the relationship as she had been when she and Martin first married. She was also able to realize that Martin was making work and his career his priorities, and that he was seeking more activities outside of the relationship.
3. Limitations to Communication
Distractions, lack of time, and limited energy are things that block the healthy communication that is critical for a healthy relationship. Distractions in the form of activities, tasks, work, friends, and family can create large obstacles because of the time and energy they take from the relationship. Many times couples want to communicate in healthy ways, yet there seems to be no time during the day and they don’t have the energy.
Both Jackie and Martin had successful careers. Martin was also involved in league soccer, basketball, and racquetball. Their son, Kevin, was involved with baseball, basketball, soccer, and midget football. Their daughter, Brittney, had just started Brownies and gymnastics. With all these activities, neither Jackie nor Martin had any time or energy to work on communicating or nurturing the relationship.
4. Communicating Limits
In dealing with a cheating spouse, it is important to explore and express what is expected in the relationship as well as communicating what behaviors and activities are acceptable and unacceptable. Each limit that is discussed has appropriate consequences, both positive and negative, that will be followed through with. Communicating these limits sets a framework for the relationship to be held accountable and to help re-establish the relationship in its new form.
Jackie and Martin worked on communicating the limits for each other. They agreed to let one another know where they were and whom they were with. They also agreed that their cellphone log, texts, and personal e-mails would be available for the other person to review whenever they felt the need.
5. Congruency with Actions and Words
People are known to say many things they do not mean or intend to follow through with. In re-establishing trust in a relationship, it is important that the actions line up with the words. When our thoughts, feelings, words, and actions are congruent, trust can be regained.
Martin was aware that Jackie could tell when he was lying, which helped him shape his behaviors differently.
One of the foundational and most critical components in a relationship is trust. When there is no trust there is no true relationship. Some couples have a difficult time re-establishing trust, but the spouse who has been betrayed still is willing to remain in the relationship for many different reasons. When this happens, the spouse is choosing to allow cheating to be acceptable in the relationship. Exploring the reasons a person is willing to compromise and accept infidelity is deeper than this article is intended to go, and it is important to honor all the ways a person chooses to deal with a cheating spouse. Sometimes a person may willingly concede to the cheating spouse and limit the trust in the relationship, and later decide that the cheating behavior is not acceptable. It is critical for trust to be re-established if the couple wishes to have a healthy marriage with no cheating.
Jackie and Martin agreed that the relationship was important to them. They chose to make time for communicating with each other a priority in order to help build and maintain their trust in each other.
Most couples, when asked, remember how much fun they had and laughter they shared when they first got together. They also share that enjoying fun and laughter is a major piece they want in their relationship. When we get busy with all of life’s distractions, fun and laughter slowly disappear from the relationship. Quality time with each other allows it back in.
Jackie and Martin agreed to having a weekly date where it would be just the two of them to reconnect, have fun, and play. They agreed that their dates would not involve work, the children, friends, family, or any activities they were involved in.