How can I do this? How in the world can I do this? How can I rebuild our relationship after cheating on her? After I cheated in such a terrible way?
Those were the questions that had been going through Jacob’s mind for the past seven days. And yet, even after an entire week, he was still at a loss on what to do.
Jacob messed up terribly and he knew it.
He had been in a wonderful relationship with Alice for little over two years. A relationship that only remained so strong because she sacrificed so much for him; because she was so patient with him.
And how did he decide to repay her?
By having an affair with her friend for the past four months. “You really blew this one up, Jacob,” he breathed. He had told himself so many things in the past four months, but perhaps now was the first time he was truly being honest with himself.
How could this have happened? I don’t understand. Am I really so blind to everything that happens around me?
Alice had no answers to her own questions. It’s been seven days since she felt as if a stake had been driven through her heart. She often wondered how she was still able to even stand.
The pain breaking her was so intense it felt strange… frightening, even.
But that was not the worst of it-not by a long shot. If two weeks ago someone told her Jacob would have been the one to wrack her mind, body and heart with agony like this, she would have thought the person a fool.
How ironic was that she was the one who now felt like a fool? After she gave Jacob her everything? After sticking through it all-the good and the bad, the joy and sorrow-a broken heart was the reward for her efforts?
“This relationship is over,” her quiet whisper came.
“It’s over. I am done.”
The scenario above may just be simple fiction borne from the mind of a writer, but its implications are all too real and factual.
Couples all over the world go through what Jacob and Alice are going through: the challenge of rebuilding a relationship after an affair shatters it, be it extramarital or otherwise.
Let’s Talk About How to Rebuild a Relationship After Cheating Happens
If you are seriously considering staying in your marriage and working things out after infidelity, understand it is a long process to work through trust issues that come about because of the betrayal.
And you’ll also need the right tools to rebuild. This can take the form of couples therapy, relationship counseling, books or online programs.
An Ending, Or a New Beginning?
Relationships are necessary aspects of life.
They make us human.
No man or woman out there can claim wholesomeness without the support, strength and love of another human being. Sometimes, friends and family suffice; other times, the answer lies with only a husband or wife-or a boyfriend or girlfriend.
So what happens when the person who gives you a shoulder to lean on suddenly fails you?
When that person decides your attention and care is unsatisfactory? It leaves you wondering what to do when he pulls away.
Is that it?
After everything, that’s the harsh, abrupt end?
Sometimes, yes. That’s the painful reality.
But other times, that ending is a new beginning; an opportunity to learn from the past and right what was once wrong; a path to explore other avenues that were once untouched.
What I’m trying to say is, regardless of the challenges you may face in your relationship, it is never beyond salvation. Never. That much I can promise you.
We all have expectations and most often than not, those expectations are a far cry from the reality. The best way to deal with this is to constantly remind ourselves our expectations-until met-are merely fictional; but life is as real as they come.
What You May Expect Isn’t What You May Get
This happens to all of us. We all go into a relationship with lofty expectations of what we want from it-from our partner, but we are soon disappointed by what we are met with. Yes, a few of us may have their expectations met, but most of us wont.
Here’s what you should muse over: if what you seek in a relationship isn’t given, and if what you desire in a partner isn’t what you meet, don’t you think the same applies to your partner?
Maybe he or she expected the exact opposite of what he or she is getting from being in a relationship with you?
There is no law out there that mandates us to be perfect representations of what our partners want from us; what they see in us; what they expect from us.
Love and attention may not be reciprocated in the same way you give it because your partner is not the same as you.
A successful relationship does not entail what one spouse wants. That is not possible. It’s all about what you both want and making compromises so you both get it.
Money is Not Always the Root of All Problems
This is especially true for marriage and relationships. Just like any other aspect of life, relationships are susceptible to problems.
That is simple fact.
They come with the good and the bad, and you simply have to learn to live with the latter, making compromises where necessary. One partner having an affair is one of the bad ones and unfortunately, it’s one of the most debilitating of the lot.
What has happened can’t be undone, but it can be fixed.
The question is, are you willing to get it fixed?
That’s a very important question. Maybe you’re the root of the problem, or maybe it’s your spouse.
It matters little who is to blame though, because if neither of you are willing to reconcile and take the next step in making things work again, then your problem will forever be an unresolved one.
My words can only guide you. In the end, everything lies with you and your partner. If both of you aren’t willing to put your heart and soul into it, or to put in the effort and sacrifice it takes in building trust again, then what you’re reading right now will be of little use to you.
If, however, you’re ready to stand up and fight for you and your partner’s happiness, if you’re ready to ignore the pain and hurt-no matter how intense, if you believe in getting back up even after taking a hard hit, then you’ve already won half the battle in rebuilding the relationship.
You already have half of what’s needed to rebuild your relationship; all the necessary tools to rebuild. I will simply provide you with the plan on how to go on about it. Lend me your ear.
I Broke It, But We Can Fix It
Your relationship was only given life because the two of you came together. It is broken now, and it will need the two of you to breathe life into it again. One partner may be at fault, but both partners suffer the consequences, and both partners are needed to make things right again and restore the broken trust.
It will not be easy to survive infidelity, that much should be obvious. And it will take a lot of dedication, patience, commitment and perseverance. But in the end, it’s not an impossible task.
The aftermath of adultery in the relationship will hit you in ways you can’t anticipate. You might think yourself ready, expecting the worst; but what you meet might prove you woefully wrong.
The challenges you will face are many, and will probably be more debilitating than you can imagine. After all, if you’ve never gone through something like this before, then the experience will undoubtedly leave much to be desired.
How you tackle these challenges go hand-in-hand with your ability to handle yourself, because overcoming these unexpected challenges is something that can only be done by you.
As with all challenges, particular steps need to be taken to fix the ones stemming from a broken relationship. These steps are simple, yet difficult to execute. But as I said, not impossible:
It Begins with You
Uncovering your partner is cheating on you opens a floodgate to so many emotions. You feel anger, confusion, sorrow, loathing, fear, worry, shock; many more that serve no essential purpose but to further break you.
You feel betrayed; self-doubt and fear leave you unsure of the next step to take; anger clouds your mind and erodes your judgment capabilities; pain renders you unable to do almost anything.
And the worst part of all this? These emotions are recurrent. They will plague you nonstop until you get a hold of yourself. They will leave you a shell of your former self.
The way you normally think and react to situations will cease to be-you will cease to be, and in your place will be a stranger who is nothing like you. Someone who behaves and talks nothing like you do.
Here’s what I want you to understand.
All this is perfectly normal.
It’s okay if you experience such things. If so many emotions overwhelm you, it’s simply human nature, because you’re merely reacting to an action.
There is a cure though, and that cure is you.
Reach out to yourself. You’re allowed to be angry and ashamed.
It’s okay to feel sorrow. No one will accuse you of being too distrusting of people afterwards, because the trauma you went through necessitated it.
But opening yourself to these emotions is not an end, rather a means to better yourself.
Embrace these emotions, but never let them consume you. Never let them grow so strong they have a permanent hold on you. Let the tears flow, but the time will come where you have to stop crying. Wipe your tears away and breathe easy. Once the moment passes, don’t let it return.
Once you free yourself from anger and pain, strive not to get caught by them again. These emotions will try to break you again and again, but deny them. Remain steadfast and look towards the next phase of dealing with this compounding problem.
And this goes for both you and your partner.
You may be the one who was hurt but your cheating spouse might also be overwhelmed by feelings and emotions: regret, guilt, obstinacy, anger at oneself; maybe your partner is going through similar trials to yours; the fact he or she was to blame in the first place notwithstanding.
Regardless of what you’re both feeling, the struggle begins with you.
So take care of yourself.
Learn to control your emotions and keep them in check lest your thoughts perpetually remain irrational and illogical.
One Decision Determines It All
It is often said some relationships are broken beyond repair. That trust, once broken, cannot be mended. If this is true, then it means people are forever unforgiving.
Do you believe that?
I certainly don’t, but that’s just me. I can’t force you to accept my beliefs, but I can give you reasons why they are so-and back them up with proof.
It all depends on whether you’re in the right mind-frame. So long as you don’t make decisions when emotions control you, there is still that chance of saving what many people believe can’t be saved.
Psychologists have affirmed this. They advise against making decisions when in the wrong mental state, because such decisions are almost always hasty, even if they feel right to you.
So calm yourself, and then make a decision. There are always four options and the one you choose will determine the next step to take:
1) Option number one leads to the permanent end of the relationship. You both decide it cannot be saved. This is the one you should do everything in your power to avoid.
2) Option number two means the relationship will persevere and live on, and what broke it will be never be discussed by either of you. This option may gain momentum at first but it’s highly unlikely if it can be a permanent solution.
3) Option number three makes the relationship an open one, much like an open marriage where one or both partners indulge in extramarital affairs. This option is even less likely to succeed than the one above, because the human psyche will not permit it to. Jealousy, guilt, anger and depression are just a few reasons why.
4) Option number four has you both willing and struggling to keep the relationship afloat. Intimacy plays a big part in this but ultimately, it comes down to how a new channel has been opened for both of you to explore what went wrong and discover new ways of strengthening the rebirth of your relationship and ultimately rebuild trust.
So the decision is yours to make. Whatever option you decide to pick goes a long way in determining how you want your future to be shaped. If you choose option four as I hope you will, then the next step is where the real work and rebuilding process begins.
Rebuild it, Word by Word
I mean that literally.
Rebuilding your relationship entails doing it word by word, because communication is the main key to doing it. Through communication, you both get to understand what went wrong and where.
One of you may be to blame, but what prompted the offender to do it? You both get to find out things about each other you didn’t know, because you talk about the root of the problem and endeavor to solve it.
Anyone who tells you this will be easy is lying through his teeth. This takes incredible time and patience plus 100% commitment. You have to be able to listen with an objective mind, as difficult as it may be for you, especially if you’re the one who was being cheated on.
Enlisting the assistance of a professional, such as a family therapist or life coach, won’t go amiss too, because such people are specifically trained for this sort of thing.
Psychologists normally outline certain areas that need to be addressed more than all others in the process of rebuilding broken relationships:
- Engage in conversations with either of you speaking about what you’ve learned from the affair. For one partner to put the entire fault on another is rash and irrational, even if it is deserved.
Ask yourself if you contributed in some way to your partner’s betrayal. Don’t just point your finger and accuse your partner of everything, and neither should your partner do the same to you. Doing that will yield nothing but drive the stake between you two deeper.
A better option is to learn from the affair that almost broke you two apart. Did you fail in your responsibility just as your unfaithful spouse failed in his or hers?
Perhaps you did, though it may have been inadvertent. You might have never known but because of what happened, you will now. In anything, conflict breeds progress, and this is more than true for relationships too.
- Explore the means where trust between you two can be restored. Actions are your greatest tools here, because trust is something you can show by your actions. If you hurt someone, show you’re willing to do what it takes to win and earn back their trust. Even if you have to go out of your way to do it.
You owe it to your partner for the hurt and disappointment you caused. You must make sacrifices if your partner truly means anything to you. Be completely honest to him or her. Change your behavior where necessary or proper.
So long as you can make your partner believe you will forever remain faithful, you’ve earned back his or her trust.
“The breach of trust is like a sword through the heart. It will take a lot of work for that broken trust to be healed. An apology is only the first step. Change the behavior and build back the trust” –Dr. Jane Greer, Author, marriage and family therapist
- Speak about what led to one partner cheating on the other-what caused it and was only one partner really to blame?
In this instance, you can’t move forward and leave the past behind without talking about it. Doing that risks recurrent arguments and a revert back to the previous way of things.
Both partners should be allowed to express themselves-the partner who suffered the brunt of the affair must explain what he or she went through and is still going through, and the partner at fault should be permitted to explain what pushed him or her to commit such a thing; to elaborate on any dissatisfaction with the relationship.
Just this once, vulnerability is needed, because only then will your wants and desires truly show.
“Compassion is a key ingredient in repairing the marriage. The unfaithful spouse cannot be fully blamed for the marital breakdown.” Dr. Eric Franzone, Clinical Psychologist
- Sexuality most probably played a big role, so that’s a focal point of discussion too. Sometimes, a partner indulges in fornication with someone simply because of carnal desires.
A cheating partner’s actions don’t necessarily have to be based on dissatisfaction with the emotional aspect of a relationship. It can lean more towards the physical aspect. Perhaps your partner wanted more than what you provided. Or maybe he or she wanted something in particular, but you were unaware.
We all have desires. That is another thing that makes us human. The only difference is some of us may desire physical intimacy more than others.
Knowing whether your partner is such a person is imperative. Why? Because if you don’t know, all your efforts in keeping the relationship afloat will be for naught.
- Most important of all, what would the one who erred have to do to be forgiven? Some people say it’s impossible to forgive certain offenses. That may be so, but for relationships, I beg to differ.
Yes, it may be impossible for someone to be willing to forgive and forget the pain he or she has been forced to go through. But no, it doesn’t mean that person can’t forgive the one who caused it. Forgiveness is tantamount to a successful relationship.
We all must err sooner or later. That cannot be avoided. What can be avoided is holding a permanent grudge against our errant partner. And that, I truly believe, will ultimately decide the fate of any relationship going through recovery.
Addressing these five points will go a long way in paving a smoother path to reconciliation and redemption.
The Aftermath Is Another Battle
After all of this, after following all the points listed above and after doing your best to rebuild your relationship, you expect everything to fall back into place, don’t you?
I wish it was that easy, but it isn’t.
The damage has already been done, and despite the steps you take to undo that damage, it’s not an overnight process. It would have been wonderful if everything could be said and done in one night, but it’s impossible.
That’s your expectation-and hope-but it’s far from the reality.
Both you and your partner might expect things to be as they always were: to speak and behave towards each other as you always have; to go back to your normal lives; to have everything be a thing of the past; to have love flourishing between you two once more.
Sadly, neither of you will be able to do all these things, and neither will you experience them-at least, not immediately after the healing process begins. These are simply your expectations; your fantasies.
What you have to do is face reality.
And the reality is, rapport between the two of you will always be awkward. Trust has been breached, and there is always a tense time period before it can be won again. This period can last many, many months before you begin to trust again.
The reality is, the bliss enjoyed in the past will be slow to return.
Try as you may, the best things about your relationship prior to the affair will somehow always mange to evade you; what you will often recall is that moment when you found out your partner was cheating on you.
The reality is, love will perpetually be evasive. Both of you might try to show it, but the affair that broke you two apart will always be a detriment to your efforts.
Subconsciously, you might even feel as if the love you’re showing is just an empty husk with no feelings attached.
So why go through so much to fix something that seems unfixable? If the aftermath is really so challenging, is it worth your effort? The simple and obvious answer is yes.
No one said this would be easy. Always remember the two Ps: Patience and perseverance. Exercise them and you will eventually see a new resurgence of goodness in your relationship.
No relationship is so far gone it cannot be saved. Obviously it cannot repair itself, so the task is left to you. It’s your decision. You have to be willing to set aside the pride and anger to make way for love and harmony.
Try as you may, you know these words to be true. As intense as your pain is, it’s not always about you. It’s never about one person. The relationship only existed in the first place because the two of you put in your all to make certain it persevered.
Why then, should you leave all the work in fixing it to only one of you? These are things that, deep down, you know them to be true.
Anger and pain might temporarily buffer you against accepting reality, but sense and reason will not.
You want to be happy?
You both know what to do.
Should both partners have to bear equal responsibility in a struggling relationship? Do you feel the partner who erred deserves to suffer the full wrath of the other?
I don’t, because what good will really come out of it? Edward F. Diener, a professor of psychology, once made a quote that summarizes everything I’ve said so far. It’s the last thing you will read here. So go on and read it, then tell me if he’s not right. Tell me if I’m not right.
“Probably the biggest insight…is that happiness is not just a place, but also a process…Happiness is an ongoing process of fresh challenges and…it takes the right attitudes and activities to continue to be happy.” –Ed Diener, Author and Professor of Psychology