About 1 out of 3 committed couples experience infidelity at some point. Dealing with cheating can be especially exhausting and discouraging. In the wake of an affair, trust is strained and the very foundation of your relationship may be in question. Does anyone ever really get over his or her partner cheating? Absolutely. Whereas for some couples infidelity signals the end of the committed relationship, for many other couples an affair becomes a powerful tool for working on the relationship. Dealing with cheating in a relationship forces long-standing issues to the surface. For determined couples, working thorough an affair becomes a kind of relationship bootcamp that motivates them to strengthen the core components of their relationship. Three tips can help your relationship recover from infidelity:
Transparency. One of the biggest challenges in recovering from an affair is re-establishing trust. The most effective way to do this is for the party who cheated to be 100% transparent. This means allowing open access to his/her phone, email, social media, etc. This also means answering questions about the affair honestly and directly. To some degree, the unfaithful party temporarily suspends his/her right to privacy within the relationship. Couples counseling can help establish clear expectations for transparency.
Both sides taking responsibility. In the aftermath of an affair, there is a tendency to label the party who cheated the “bad one,” and the party who did not cheat the “good one.” However, things are rarely that simple. To some degree, cheating is usually an acting out of resentment. Both parties are responsible for understanding how they each contribute to ongoing relationship issues. Recovering from an affair requires both members of the couple to make changes. It’s not just about “fixing” the unfaithful partner. That said, in some cases there is “serial cheating,” a pattern that plays out again and again over the course of the relationship, and one which is unlikely to change. In these situations, taking responsibility may require the faithful party to come to terms with this longstanding pattern and exit the relationship. Couples counseling can help both parties take responsibility for their own issues.
Seeing larger pattern. At some level, affairs and cheating are an expression of the overall health of the relationship. Trying to just fix the trust issues is like trying to just replace the broken windows in a house with a shaky foundation. It can be useful to consider your romantic history outside the relationship. Have you cheated/been cheated upon in previous relationships? Did you grow up in a household where cheating was present? Couples counseling can help couples take a step back to see the affair within the larger life context of both parties. Lasting change happens at the foundational level.