Shattered Trust After Cheating? Learn How To Rebuild Trust in Your Relationship

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Finding out that your partner cheated can feel like taking a dagger to the heart. Why did this happen? How will we ever come back from this? Your head spins with a million questions, and your chest aches. 

Reconciliation isn’t easy, either, because real life doesn’t play out like the movies. There’s no man or woman rushing through the rain with flowers, offering teary-eyed apologies and saying they regret their mistake. Or even if there is—you still have a long road ahead of you before you can feel comfortable trusting them again. The aftermath of cheating is not simple or predictable.

Many people assume that cheating is impossible to recover from, but therapy and honest communication can go a long way towards helping a couple process a betrayal. Rebuilding the relationship is an option if both parties sincerely want it, and are committed to it. 

Those with more deeply intertwined lives—such as couples who own a house together, or those who share parenting duties—may be more likely to try to mend the relationship rather than call it quits. “If a couple is dating or has just started living together, there is less of a need to go through the work of rebuilding trust,” states psychologist Paul Coleman.

Regardless of your ties to your significant other, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to continue the relationship. 

Why Does Cheating Happen?

We won’t keep you guessing. In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Sex Research, researchers interviewed 495 subjects about their motivation to cheat. 

 They found a number of recurrent reasons, including:

  1. “Falling out of love” with the primary partner
  2. A lack of commitment to the primary partner
  3. Using infidelity as a strategy to exit the relationship
  4. Unmet or uncommunicated needs
  5. A desire for sexual variety
  6. Low self-esteem or depression

Other research sheds light on additional motivating factors. 

Revealing Facts About Infidelity 

“People underestimate what it takes to have a stable, meaningful, connected, long-term romantic relationship.” —LuAnn Oliver, EFT

Many people who engage in affairs struggle to communicate their deepest desires to their partner. They may find it easier to explore these desires with someone other than their significant other, especially since cheating can also be a way of trying out a new identity.

Contrary to widespread belief, even people in happy relationships cheat.

Here are some more hard-hitting facts about infidelity:

  • Cheating can feel thrilling because the attention from a new love interest lights up the reward center in the brain. Sometimes people cheat because they crave external validation.
  • In longer-term relationships, some people may cheat due to a  lack of excitement or boredom. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are ways to create a sense of novelty and variety while still respecting relationship boundaries.
  • Over 20% of marriages have been tested by a form of betrayal. 
  • There are many variations of infidelity: including online infidelity, sexual infidelity, and emotional infidelity. On average, women tend to consider emotional cheating most hurtful, whereas men tend to find sexual cheating most hurtful.
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Don’t Ignore What Happened

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As tempting as it may be to sweep the infidelity under the rug, this will only cause your painful feelings to fester. Addressing cheating directly is the most efficient way to give you and your partner the resolution you both need.

We recommend looking for a couples therapist, or trying an app-based alternative to therapy. The Together app includes tools from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) which you can access 24/7. If you’re overwhelmed by intense feelings such as anger bubbling up, you can resort to the app to calm your nerves. Later, you can use Together’s communication tools to help you express your feelings to your partner in a way that translates well. Communicating effectively will make it more likely that your voice will be heard.

How infidelity affects the partner who was cheated on How infidelity affects both partners How infidelity affects the partner who cheated
Lack of self-esteem Emotional pain Guilt
Paranoia Self-blame Resentment from partner
Anxiety Loss of intimacy Need to rebuild trust
Trust issues   Need to prove themselves reliable
Resentment towards partner for cheating    

Effects of Infidelity on the Hurt Partner 

Many people who cheat on their partners do so without intending to cause pain. Nevertheless, for the victims of infidelity, a serious boundary is crossed. It can be hard to understand why the person you love did something so destructive to the relationship.

In the aftermath of cheating, the hurt partner may struggle with painful psychological effects, including:

  • Blaming themselves for their unfaithful partner’s infidelity
  • Grieving for the relationship they once had
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of self-esteem
  • Lack of sexual desire

Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW, comments on the healing process: “The partner who is betrayed must remember to be kind to themselves, especially when they’re having a bad day and ruminating about their partner’s infidelity. 

For instance, you could be cleaning out your closet and see the shirt that you wore when you found out about the betrayal and suddenly go into a tailspin. During these times, try to remember that recovering from the trauma of betrayal takes time and it’s fraught with inevitable ups and downs.”

You don’t have to struggle with these negative feelings on your own. Lean on your support system, invest in individual therapy, or try out Together’s science-based tools in a comfortable home setting.

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Resolve your relationship pains with Together - a couple coaching app developed by leading therapists.

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Effects of Infidelity on the Partner Who Cheats

If you’re the cheating partner, we’re not here to crucify you. However, when one party cheats, there will inevitably be consequences for the relationship as a whole.

You may see your relationship struggle due to trust issues. Friends and family who hear the news might keep their distance out of support for your partner. 

Other possible after-effects to be aware of include:

  • Feeling plagued by a guilty conscience
  • Experiencing resentment from your significant other
  • A decline in physical intimacy

You will need to put in a lot of hard work to repair the damage, but it’s not impossible.

How To Fix Your Relationship After Someone Cheats

We can’t give you a surefire way to bandage this wound, or guarantee that your attempts will be 100% successful. 

However, we can tell you this. Based on 25 years’ each of relationship counseling experience, Steven Solomon and Lorie Teagno state that many couples who stay together after infidelity create a happier relationship than the one they previously had. In particular, those who “commit to the hard work of dealing with the devastation of infidelity, and to being a partner who owns his or her weaknesses and mistakes, have an excellent chance of coming out stronger, happier and more fulfilled.”

Underlying Issues Must Be Addressed 

The only way to put out a fire is at its source. Similarly, the relationship issues that led to infidelity need to be addressed if a couple are to move forward.

Working with a professional can be extremely helpful when it comes to navigating sensitive discussions like these.

Together recommends:

  1. Come clean about the reason behind the lies and the betrayal.
  2. Practice empathetic two-way communication. For the hurt partner: practice forgiveness when you are ready.
  3. Work on rebuilding trust slowly, over time. This process cannot be rushed, so be gentle with yourself.
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Resolve your relationship pains with Together - a couple coaching app developed by leading therapists.

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Many Couples Call It Quits. What Happens to Those Who Choose To Continue?

“When you ask, hypothetically, ‘What would you do if your partner cheated?’, women say across the board that they would leave in a heartbeat, though that is not necessarily predictive of actual behavior.” —Christian Munsch, sociologist

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While many couples call it quits post-infidelity, some stay to nurture their relationship back to health and happiness.  

Those that decide to rebuild their lives together may have to put in years of hard work. It takes forgiveness, empathy, patience, and mutual understanding to reconstruct a relationship’s shattered foundation. Yet, the couples who successfully do so can come back even stronger.

Trust After Cheating: Build It Back Up

In his bestseller, “The Science of Trust”, Dr. John Gottman explains that you build trust by following through on your commitments over time. Trust has a great deal to do with your actions; it’s not a matter of blind belief. As Terry Gaspard puts it: trust is more about “what your partner does than what they say.” 

Restoring trust involves consistent communication, emotional intimacy, and honesty. These are the keys to rebuilding a safe base. 

Couples therapy is one option to help you navigate the uphill battle of rebuilding trust. You could look for a therapist or counselor who specializes in helping couples affected by infidelity. Alternatively, you could try a marriage counseling app, like Together. Although Together does not offer counseling in the traditional sense, its content has been designed by a psychologist to help couples work through a wide range of relationship issues at home. 

Closing Thoughts From Together

Being cheated on is a heartbreaking experience that can devastate any partner. Infidelity requires hard work to repair the damage it can leave in its wake.

With that said, an affair can also give couples a chance to redefine their relationship expectations and needs. It can prompt deeper discussions about unmet desires, and highlight weaknesses in a relationship’s foundation. Some people navigate the aftermath of infidelity by creating a healthier, more honest relationship. 

Often, couples will need a mediator to help them process the fallout from infidelity. You can also use app-based resources like Together to aid your relationship’s healing.

We will leave you with a quote by relationship writer and psychologist, Esther Perel:

“These days, many of us are going to have two or three significant long-term relationships or marriages. Often when a couple comes to me in the wake of an affair, it is clear to me that their first marriage is over. So I ask them: ‘`Would you like to create a second one together?’”

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