I’ve been working with couples for decades and I can tell you one thing for certain. You absolutely can build a new and even better relationship after cheating, but you’ve got to follow these 8 guidelines:
Find out information about any cheating or affair (don’t assume), but stay out of the nitty gritty. It’s focusing on the details that will cause you to put your energy into the wrong things. Also, the more you know, the more you can picture and create in your mind. Those pictures will never go away and will become harder to move past. If you find yourself overly focused on your partner, then this video should help.
Have conversations, but no screaming matches. If you can’t help yourself and do yell and scream, try to THEN have a conversation where your partner talks too. This also means you don’t want to speak for hours and hours about it. If you can’t resolve this yourselves, get thee to a good therapist! Listen to what your partner says in these conversations. Are they remorseful, angry, indifferent, defensive? How your partner reacts will tell you a lot about how to move forward.
Don’t allow yourself to be blamed (“We haven’t had sex in six months, what did you expect me to do?”) but also take responsibility for your relationship being in this place. You co-created this relationship with your partner and you absolutely have responsibility. If you don’t see that, you won’t be able to move forward. If you’re the one who cheated and your partner continues to blame you and take no responsibility, you’re going to need professional help if you want to make any changes.
Is your partner willing to do anything different now? It’s not just about saying you’re sorry and moving on – what created the situation where this was able to happen? What is going on in your relationship? Are either of you happy? What’s underneath the affair? Being able to build trust again is going to be key and everyone needs to be open to that.
Don’t speak to 20 different people about the infidelity. Pick one or two trusted folks (hopefully one is a therapist). Otherwise you’ll get 20 different responses and it’ll get VERY confusing to know what to do.
Don’t make any long-term decisions for at least 30 days. If jealousy is overtaking you, watch this video.
Don’t cause more damage: “I just want to make him hurt as much as he hurt me.” “Well, she just gave me a free pass to cheat myself.”
Unless you or your children are in danger (physical or extreme emotional duress), don’t let anyone tell you what to do. If whomever you trust to speak to makes any suggestions such as: “leave her,” “forget it ever happened,” “move on,” etc. then stop those talks. You want someone to ask you questions so you can decide with your own mind what’s right for you to do. If they don’t do it, you need to ask yourself questions:
- What am I really feeling right now?
- What am I most afraid of right now?
- What do I think this means?
I have absolutely, 1,000% worked with couples who have had an infidelity and on the other side, found more closeness, more intimacy, everything that wasn’t there before. When they did the work to move forward, it’s incredible. Ultimately, what this boils down to is you need to figure out if your relationship is worth saving.
I’ve also got a free Make a Commitment worksheet for you, which will help you figure out what you want and need.
At the end of the day, you can’t have a love relationship based on fear. You can’t move your relationship forward based on jealousy, anxiety and distrust. So you’re going to have to go through these guidelines and really be open to what’s next.
But the good news is, you absolutely can build something really amazing that you might have never even thought was possible before. But both people have to be on board — you both have to come together for this.
I wish you so much love in this journey.