Reconciling with your partner after adultery is hard.
Every person whose relationship is touched by infidelity has their world turned upside down.
For some, that event is the end of the road as far as the relationship goes. For others, there may be a spark of reconciliation that comes in time.
Whether or not to nurture that spark is a difficult decision.
After all, taking a chance on forgiving your partner and moving forward does open you up to the chance of being hurt again. But reconciliation can also free you both to move into a new phase of your relationship and emerge through the trauma and ultimately, be a stronger couple.
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable doesn’t have to mean that you go into anything about this new phase of your relationship feeling defenseless, though.
There are key behaviors and strategies to hold close to your heart and mind as you and your partner consider working your way back to each other.
Listen to Your Inner Voice
There are countless books and magazine articles full of advice about what you should and shouldn’t do after your partner’s been caught or admitted to cheating on you. But like every marriage, every affair is different, and every partner is different.
Only you know if and how you can reconcile with your unfaithful partner.
This is an important crossroads in your relationship, such that it is; spend some time alone really reflecting and thinking about what’s in your heart and what you want.
Of course, there may be friends and family members who are only too eager to tell you what they think you should do. But they don’t stand in your shoes. And won’t be walking in them with (or without) your partner, either.
So while their advice may be well-intentioned, listening to your own heart and mind is critical in opening yourself to reconciliation.
Meet with Your Therapist Jointly
In many cases, couples turn to a therapist to help them sort out feelings and their future as a couple after an affair. And professional help can assist people with clarifying their thinking and explaining their feelings to one another.
It might be tempting to have each of you meet with a therapist separately, so that each of you can speak freely. But that just continues the separateness. And what you’re trying to do is get back together.
So by meeting with a therapist together, you and your partner keep everything is out in the open from the beginning as you start over. Knowing that there’s nothing hidden about these conversations can help empower you to feel more comfortable with the vulnerability that comes with reconciliation.
Be Honest with Your Partner
Another key element of reconciliation is honesty. Be upfront in talking with your partner. Make it clear to them exactly how you feel: about them, about what they did, and about how you see your future, separately or together.
Specify what you need from your partner in order to undertake the reconciliation process. State what you expect from your spouse going forward. Don’t allow there to be any mistake or misunderstanding in what you communicate to them.
This honesty will help your partner to know what it will take on their part to reconcile with you.
Understand That This is a “Process” and Will Take Time
If you think that reconciliation is an event and not an evolution, you will inevitably be disappointed.
The factors and circumstances that made the affair possible don’t magically disappear once the affair is out in the open. Getting the relationship back on track and moving past it will take work.
Rushing it or expecting it to be quick only sets the whole situation up for failure before you even begin.
Adjusting to the idea that it’s an on-going process can help you to be open to reconciling because you’ll see that this is a series of small steps, and perhaps the occasional backwards step, instead of one great leap of faith.
As much as it’s painful, and so it’s natural to want the process to be quick, unrealistic expectations may doom the entire effort.
Set Clear Rules
You’ve been cheated on, and naturally, you feel hurt.
But perhaps you still love this person, and so you want to consider repairing the relationship. One of the ways you can be open to exploring reconciliation while protecting yourself (and your heart!) is by setting rules.
Be clear about what you want and don’t want, and what your expectations for behavior are.
For example, perhaps one rule is that your partner must always pick up your call. Another might be that he or she breaks off all contact with the other person they were having an affair with.
Simple rules allow you to retain some control, while ceding some trust to the other person. That way, the process of healing can move forward but in a measured way.
And once you set rules, keep to them, otherwise there is no point.
Take it Outside
Doing something together that’s outdoors can change the emphasis of your interactions with your partner from relationship-based to activity-based.
Things like hiking, for example, require you to plan, discuss, decide, and rely on each other in ways that are not directly related to the infidelity. Divide up tasks so that it’s not a one-sided experience.
Let’s go back to the hiking example.
One person packs lunches while the other plans the route; sharing a meal and sharing the map reading on the trail allow for you to talk and interact in a way that’s completely separate from your domestic partnership.
It’s a round-about way in which you can work on your personal connection without getting personal, and can help lay a strong foundation on which to build continued reconciliation.
Deciding on Reconciling with Your Partner
Finally, reconciling with your partner is, in some ways, comes down to choice. It’s a matter of choosing, every day, and with every single interaction, to try again. Only you can determine whether the potential reward is worth the struggle and hard work.
But mentally deciding to move forward in a positive manner can go a long way in minimizing some of the fear and anxiety about the potential for getting hurt again.