Trust in a loved one is the bedrock of any solid relationship. It’s vital to be able to rely on your life partner’s word. In all things, actually. Not just fidelity. Though I know you’re the same person inside that you’ve always been, your spouse is looking at you like you’re a stranger now. They not only do not trust you right now, they don’t even trust their own judgment. They never thought you’d betray them. Below are some key essentials for rebuilding broken trust, though it’s certainly not all.
Truth is the only recovery tool I’ve been able to find that will restore a person’s faith in you. Think of trust as a solid and reliable wall that has now come crumbling down. The only material you have to rebuild that wall is the Truth. A forthright brick at a time. The more difficult the truth is for you to tell, the more he or she will likely regain trust in you.
Don’t cherry-pick the truth. Your spouse is entitled to all the information that he or she needs, to decide whether you have a future together. If one more lie is discovered, it’s usually over. Don’t try to control the outcome.
Everyone is different, and therefore the time your partner needs to understand and forgive you can’t be estimated. What I do know is that the more you rush a person to move forward and “forget” what happened, the longer it will take. So don’t shoot yourself in the foot!
We all know the difference between a hollow apology and one from the toes. If you feel remorse, express it. Repeatedly. And don’t blame the lack of a quality relationship between the two of you. You had other options; say so.
Own your mistake. You have lots of company. Most critical, you have to permanently change, and let it be known that that shadow person that you sometimes were, exists no longer.
Share passwords and even share you location on your phone so that your spouse has a source for reassurance. I know it’s an invasion of your privacy, and hopefully it’s only temporary. Just remember who is responsible for the intrusion. In the midst of this digital age, this is a very important aspect of rebuilding broken trust. You cannot ever get caught in a lie again or it’s likely over.
I understand that you’re hoping like hell that your partner won’t bring it up, AGAIN, or ask more questions. Or worse, keep asking the same questions. Please initiate difficult conversations first sometimes. I know it’s hard, but find your courage. Ask them how they’re feeling about things today. And understand that it’s normal to ask the same questions repeatedly. They’re not just looking for consistency, they’re using it as a means of blowing through their own shock. It’s a good thing. Stay patient and answer each question as though it were the very first time.
Even though you think you ended the affair, it’s important that you both treat the joint recovery as a team. Assuming you won’t risk getting sued(!), consider co-writing a benign and non-specific email or letter together, to the other person, requesting no further contact. Or place a joint call. Make sure that you both write with dignity, and craft something you’d be proud of five years from now.
Even though you’re the person wearing the black hat right now (though never with me), your spouse is thinking that he or she isn’t good enough or you wouldn’t have strayed in the first place. They blame themselves silently. That’s one reason why full ownership is so important. I know that our species is not monogamous, but people whose hearts have been broken don’t see it like I do. So please don’t use that as an excuse.
Unless you want the holidays to be extremely uncomfortable, it’s better to sort this out between the two of you. Though you’re not in a position to ask anything from your partner right now, encourage them to seek counseling, or a non-judgmental good friend, or one who lives three-thousand miles away.
Children and mothers are a particularly regrettable choice. One day, hopefully, it will be a part of your past, and seeing people who know, will bring painful thoughts front and center for you both. It can actually kill other family relationships, even after you’ve mended and grown together.
There is no excuse and no explanation good enough to justify a lousy decision. I know it’s tempting, but it’s a bad idea. When a mistake has been made, by anyone, BIG people own their stuff. So if you want to point the finger at someone, point it at yourself. You’ll live.
It may be a movie, perhaps a billboard, or nothing you can put your finger on, but your spouse will be struggling with things that trigger him or her. They’re not doing it on purpose. It’s painful to them. Recognize the signs, and show up for them with comfort and acknowledgement. Do not under any circumstances get defensive.
This isn’t even close to all the things I have learned from clients, over almost 20 years, who successfully navigated their way through rebuilding broken trust, and were able to build way more solid relationships as a result. So please forgive my length as well as my brevity.
Eventually, it is also important to forgive yourself. Good people make bad choices all the time. I could write a book with some of the crummy choices I have made, and I’m still breathing. So learn from your mistakes, make the person you injured whole again, and do the best you can to never make the same mistake twice.