Q. I recently found out my wife has been having an affair. I was devastated. I don’t want to divorce her but is it realistic to think I can get over the affair and be happy?
A. In any loving relationship it is vital that couples trust each other. But when your partner has an affair that trust is broken and you are confronted with the fact that your partner is not as dependable, reliable or as honest as you thought.
Nonetheless, do cheaters often get a second chance? According to a new survey by OurTIme.com at least 42% of adults would be willing to work through things with someone who was sexually unfaithful, no matter the circumstance.
So can trust ever be rebuilt after an affair? Being willing to work on the relationship is not the same as rebuilding trust. It takes a lot of work and commitment on both partners parts. Studies find that only one out of four couples can move beyond an affair and regain the necessary trust in their partner.
If you’re willing to give your partner a second chance, here are six strategies to help you rebuild trust after an affair.
1. Make an agreement. You and your partner should set a specific time period (minimum of 6 wks) during which you pledge not to leave each other and to commit to working on the relationship. The betrayer also must avoid the circumstances that led to the betrayal.
2. Apology. The betrayer must give a heartfelt, serious apology, taking responsibility for his or her actions.
3. Don’t blame yourself. Your self-esteem is not dependent on your partner’s behaviors. You can be a part of the solution or work to change the relationship but you are not the cause of the betrayal.
4. Anger. Express your anger in a constructive way. The anger cannot continue to be kept inside, letter writing, talking to your partner, talking to a trusted friend are suggestions.
5. Positive qualities. Make a list of the positive aspects of your relationship. Do you remember the good that brought you together?
6. Seek professional help. When a relationship gets into a pattern of hurt and anger, it can be tough to break the pattern. A therapist’s perspective can be beneficial.
Vicki L Mayfield, M.Ed., R.N., LMFT Marriage and Family Therapy Oklahoma City
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