Rebuilding trust after infidelity isn’t an easy process, but it is doable. Many people think it’s impossible to trust someone who cheated, and although infidelity is a deal-breaker for many couples, it’s also possible to nurture the relationship back to a happy and trusting place.
Research shows that rebuilding trust is one of the fundamental aspects of recovering from infidelity. That being said, recovering from infidelity and learning how to trust your partner again is hard work. We spoke to an expert about how to trust your partner again after cheating.
“Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to trust someone again after they have cheated on you,” says Dr. Elizabeth Fedrick, a licensed psychotherapist. “Not all relationships can repair after infidelity, but there are many that do.”
“It’s important to keep in mind that cheating can come in a variety of different forms and that the impact of infidelity varies for each individual,” she adds. “Cheating also happens for a plethora of different reasons; thus, infidelity is not as clear-cut as society tries to make it.”
According to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Sex Research, there are different reasons why people cheat in long-term relationships. Sometimes a partner is unfaithful because they’ve “fallen out of love” or they’re looking for a way to end the relationship. Other times, people cheat because they crave validation, sexual variety, or because their needs aren’t being met.
“The intentional efforts that are put into rebuilding trust are what is most important to this process,” says Dr. Fedrick. “If both people are committed to repairing the relationship and rebuilding trust, it’s possible to trust someone again and regain a happy and fulfilling relationship.”
“The key thing when rebuilding trust in a relationship after one partner cheats is for the partner who broke trust to acknowledge and take ownership of their behaviors and the impact of these behaviors on their partner,” says Dr. Fedrick.
“It’s also imperative for them to identify ways to rectify this situation, including ensuring that their words and actions align and that they are consistent in demonstrating trustworthiness.”
Dr. Fedrick says another key aspect is open, honest, and vulnerable discussions between partners about the ways they intend to repair the relationship.
“Finally, it’s crucial for the couple to be patient with the healing and restoration process, and to allow time and space for repairing their relationship and rebuilding trust.”
Identify and take ownership of the behaviors that resulted in breaking trust.
Show awareness and accountability in how your actions impacted your partner.
Apologize openly and honestly for how your behaviors negatively impacted your partner in this situation without justifying, making excuses, or blaming someone or something else.
Engage in transparent communication about the situation, what led to it, and what will be done differently moving forward.
Don’t get defensive or irritated when your partner asks follow-up questions or asks for clarification on the situation or your behaviors. Ensure that moving forward, your actions consistently align with your words. Allow both yourself and your partner time and space to work through the feelings associated with this situation without trying to force repair to take place.
Be patient with your partner when they are feeling triggered or insecure during the healing process. Rebuilding trust takes time.
Recognize that rebuilding trust doesn’t require a violation of your own boundaries — this is neither helpful nor necessary in repairing a relationship, and it could to additional resentments.
Seek help from a mental health professional to assist you in working through this situation if needed, as well as to address potential reasons for the infidelity.
Recognize that you have the right to your emotions. Regardless of what led to this situation, it’s appropriate to feel hurt when you’ve been cheated on. Be open and honest with your feelings about this situation.
Engage in transparent conversation about how this situation impacted you, as well as how it’s influencing your views and feelings about your partner and your relationship.
Work really hard not to berate, shame, or belittle your partner throughout the process of healing, as this will lead to further rupture in your relationship. You’re allowed to express your feelings, but it’s important to remain aware of how you are doing so.
Understand that there is no timeline for your healing and the repair process — there’s no need to rush this process or force forgiveness by a certain time.
Be aware of engaging in controlling behaviors, as this will not be conducive to healing a relationship and will not help you rebuild trust any quicker.
Recognize that your partner is not required to violate their boundaries, including providing you with passwords, etc. to rebuild trust.
Take time to process this situation and determine if it is in your best interest to move forward with this relationship. There’s no right or wrong decision — this choice must be made based on what is best for your mental health and well-being.
Seek help from a mental health professional to assist you in working through this situation if needed, as well as to address how to best move forward in or out of this relationship.
“There is no timeline on how long it will take to trust a partner again after they’ve been unfaithful,” says Dr. Fedrick.
“The repair process is unique for everyone, as well as for each couple. Attempting to put a timeline on this healing process ultimately proves to be more damaging than beneficial because it puts unnecessary pressure and expectations on a very unique and subjective experience.”
Rather than focusing on how long it will take to trust your partner again, she recommends focusing on giving yourself time and patience to grieve the betrayal.
“If this process seems to be taking longer than you or your partner can tolerate, it’s worth discussing how to move forward with this relationship and if there is potential that repair isn’t possible,” she adds.
“Allowing as much time and space needed for this process is the only way to work towards an effective rebuilding of trust.”