Will your partner's affair mean the end of your relationship? Not necessarily. Experts agree that when it comes to dealing with infidelity, recovery is possible. However, rebuilding a healthy relationship won't be a walk in the park. Read on for what experts say it will take to get over when a partner cheats, move past the event as a couple, and regain the trust that was lost.
How Long Will It Take to Recover?
According to licensed marriage and family therapist David Klow, it can take up to two years of determination to get the relationship back on track. He told SELF in 2018 that while couples can recover from infidelity (and they do), "it takes a lot of work to repair broken trust."
What Are The Odds of Saving the Relationship?
In that same article, Paul Coleman, a psychologist and author of Finding Peace When Your Heart Is In Pieces told SELF, "If a couple is dating or just started living together, there is less of a need to go through the work of rebuilding trust." In other words, a couple with children or who own a home together may have more of an incentive to try to work it out than a couple that more recently started dating.
That said, in terms of moving on, experts stress the need for total honesty, a focus on rebuilding trust, and addressing the root cause of the infidelity, among other things.
First things first: It sounds completely obvious, but if the two of you want to move past this, the cheating must stop. Caroline Madden, a marriage therapist specializing in affair recovery, says it's essential for the unfaithful partner to be forthcoming about what happened and leave the affair behind. Madden told HuffPost in 2015, "When I see couples divorce after an affair, it's not usually because of the infidelity itself: The betrayed spouse simply gave up trying when their husband or wife continued to be selfish, shady, and untrustworthy." At the same time, the extent of details about the affair that are required to be shared will be different for every couple, noted licensed professional counselor Lena Derhally to SELF. For example, Derhally said that some people will want a play-by-play breakdown (How long? With whom? How many times?), whereas others aren't interested in the full scope of the transgression.
A Genuine Apology
If you were the one who cheated, your typical apology just won't cut it. According to Dr. Janis A. Spring, a clinical psychologist and author of After the Affair, your apology needs to confirm you've heard and understood specifically how you've hurt your partner. Then, it's about demonstrating with your actions that you won't repeat your mistake. "Verbal reassurances, promising you won’t do it again, that means nothing after cheating," Spring told YourTango.
Broadly speaking, experts agree that to rebuild trust it's important to do whatever is necessary to make your partner feel secure, whether that includes sharing social media passwords, texts, or credit card bills, Michele Weiner-Davis, a marriage therapist and author of Divorce Busting told Huffpost, "This period of increased accountability shouldn't last forever, but it proves you're committed to doing whatever it takes to get the relationship back on track," she said. Granted, there are ways to hide information with today's technology, but the point here is that the cheater is willing to regain their partner's confidence.
Additionally, experts advise cheaters share when and if an affair partner contacts them (withholding information doesn't help the relationship progress), and to get tested for any sexually transmitted diseases that might have been contracted during the affair.
Root Out the Real Issues
If a monogamous relationship is what you both signed up for, then cheating isn't part of the deal, and a troubled relationship isn't an excuse, said Coleman. In addition to rebuilding trust, Coleman said that working to improve other areas like communication and time spent together (like your sex lives), "can be reassuring to both that cheating is less likely to occur."