One of the most important cornerstones of strong and healthy relationships is trust. Infidelity can sever the bonds of trust and intimacy between partners and unleash a storm of negative emotions and feelings that many couples have difficulty recovering from.
It may be small consolation, but if you have experienced infidelity in a relationship, you are not alone. Although getting exact numbers can be difficult due to a natural reluctance to admit to cheating, estimates suggest that anywhere from 20 percent of men and women admit to cheating, with the figure going as high as 40 percent, depending on the study and source of data.
Healing a Relationship After Infidelity
For many couples, recovering from infidelity becomes an insurmountable obstacle that ultimately results in the end of the relationship. But divorce or separation is not the only option after a partner has been unfaithful. Couples that wish to repair a relationship that has been broken by infidelity can take steps to re-establish trust, resolve underlying issues in the relationship (especially if addictions, like to sex or pornography, were a factor), and move towards healing by moving on (slowly) from the past.
Key Steps to Take After Infidelity
Take responsibility – After suffering a betrayal, it can feel natural to allocate blame and deflect responsibility. An honest assessment of issues in the relationship can help to establish an area of common ground from which to have open communication.
Open the lines of communication – Shutting down and taking some time to deal with the pain of an affair is a common coping mechanism. If moving forward and trying to save the relationship is the goal, honest communication, though painful and uncomfortable at first, is an important step towards healing.
Be honest about the relationship – People have affairs for many reasons. Openly discussing problems with the relationship and being honest about feelings and desires can help partners find new ways to connect and work on issues together.
Determine whether forgiveness is possible – The ability to eventually move on from infidelity and rebuild trust and a new level of commitment and intimacy is essential to saving a relationship after an affair.
Why Professional Help Is Key
Successfully navigating the pain and betrayal involved with infidelity is often too difficult for couples to handle on their own. Counseling helps couples recover in the same way it helps an individual. Particularly when issues like depression, anxiety, or addiction are involved, working with a professional can help to establish healthy coping mechanisms, develop self awareness and break old patterns and habits from the past. An objective third party is often the key to finding common ground.