Coping After an Affair: Learning to Trust Again
Coping After an Affair: Learning to Trust Again – If you just found out that your partner had an affair, you likely feel very hurt, angry, and betrayed. You may also feel great sadness, anxiety, insecurity, and in some cases relief specifically if you suspected something was going on and now you know for sure. Sometimes individuals choose to leave the relationship when a partner has an affair, but other times, individuals stay in the relationship for a variety of different reasons. So if you decide to stay, you may wonder how you can ever get past it. If you had that weird feeling that you just knew something was off, coping after an affair and learning to trust again will be much different versus if the affair caught you totally by surprise. This tip from Sex Therapy in Philadelphia/Center for Growth will address coping after an affair when you just knew something was not right.
First, begin by asking yourself if you really want to try to get past the affair and stay in the relationship. If you knew something was wrong and dismissed that feeling, how can you learn to listen to your gut instinct? What kept you from checking out that weird feeling with your partner? Working on a relationship after an affair can be hard work and only you can make that decision. Sometimes affairs are the final straw for an already bad relationship. Other times there are many good things about a relationship, or even situations (such as how you would support yourself outside of the relationship) that make confronting the hard work the best option. It is really about thinking through what is worth it and what is not worth it for you. And remember, it is possible for a relationship to recover from an affair and sometimes be even stronger than it was in the first place. However, keep in mind that bad patterns can repeat themselves if both people are not committed to the relationship and finding out how the affair happened in the first place. In order for a relationship to recover from an affair both people have to be willing to do the work. If your partner is not sorry, doesn’t want to hear your hurt and anger and does not want to hear your needs, he or she may not be fully committed. A nonbiased friend, family member, or therapist can sometimes be very helpful to help you sort all of these things out.
If you decide to stay in the relationship there are two major tasks to work on: identifying what you need to trust your partner again and addressing your feelings. Because you knew something was off, you may find it a bit easier to rebuild trust. You had that gut feeling that something was wrong. Your instincts are good and you need to learn to trust those in the future if something doesn’t feel quite right. Ask yourself what you need from your partner to rebuild trust. Some common ways to re-establish trust include: having access to your partner’s cell phone, email passwords, credit card statements etc. Some people find a few check-in phone calls from work to be helpful if your partner works long hours or to have your partner do more work from home. Asking your partner to cut off all contact with the affair partner is often necessary if it is possible. If it is not possible, asking your partner to limit contact or to tell you when and what contact happens can be helpful. Some individuals feel uncomfortable with asking for all this information because that is not who they are. Remember, that was when you trusted your partner and now you need to rebuild that. These actions are reasonable for a period of time to rebuild trust. It is also useful to have your own check-ins with yourself. Does your partner feel distant? Does he or she seem to communicate less? If something feels weird, pay attention to it and speak up.
You may find that you have many questions about the affair. Useful questions that help you to understand include when it happened, how many times, and what your partner’s perspective is on why it happened. Questions that are not useful are getting intimate details about the encounters, asking what he or she has that you don’t, asking what kinds of things they did together, etc. Basically, the questions you need to ask are to help you understand how the affair happened and how to work with your partner on preventing an affair from happening in the future. You may not know for sure if you partner is giving you the truthful answers. If you find concrete evidence that contradict what your partner has told you, it is reasonable and necessary to bring it up to your partner. Some people feel that speaking with the affair partner can be useful; however, some feel that it is not a good idea. Ask yourself if contacting that person will give you information to help you understand the affair and to begin building trust with your partner. If it would, it may be useful to contact him or her. At some point, you will have to take that leap of faith to trust your partner is telling you the truth, but at the same time, don’t be passive. Stay aware and if something doesn’t add up or feels weird, bring it up. Trust takes time to build and you will likely have to have numerous discussions to get there.
Working on concrete ways to build trust in your relationship is essential, but don’t forget your feelings. You are allowed to feel angry, hurt, anxious, sad, etc. Any feeling you have is ok. How could he or she do it? Will it happen again? Will you ever be able to trust again? These and many other questions will likely be going through you head leading to a wide variety of emotions. You are allowed to express your anger towards your partner. For a period of time, especially in the first few months, your partner needs to be tolerant of set times of yelling. However, frequent yelling berating, name calling, etc. will cause more harm to the relationship. Express your anger and hurt but do so as constructively as possible. Try journaling, talking with a supportive friend or therapist, exercising or channeling some of that energy and hurt into a new constructive hobby or project that is independent of the relationship. Working on a hobby or project independent of the relationship, helps you to focus on something else for a while and reminds you that you are an individual person that has his or her own thoughts, feelings and ideas that are separate from the relationship and that you can learn to survive on your own without the relationship if needed.
Keep in mind that rebuilding trust and expressing your feelings are the beginning steps on getting over an affair. As you move forward, you will want to look at how your relationship got to this point and what problems or issues in the relationship need to be addressed further.