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How to Build Trust in a Marriage After an Affair

by Dr. Sonya Lott, studioD

You have recently discovered your spouse’s affair. Trust is the foundation of a marriage. When a spouse betrays that trust by having an affair, it can be devastating. You may feel like you will never be able to trust him or her again. You may be wondering whether you should even stay in the relationship. A marriage doesn’t have to end after an affair. But for it to survive, trust has to be rebuilt. If the two of you are able to do this challenging work, it is possible to have a stronger marriage than before.

Take care of yourself first. You need to have a support system to help you deal with your emotions. In her book “The New Monogamy,” relationship expert and psychotherapist Tammy Nelson, Ph.D. suggests taking care of yourself physically as well as emotionally, and recommends getting sufficient rest and practicing yoga or meditation. Focusing on your own needs is a form of self-love. These activities will help to ground you while you are trying to get through the process of trying to rebuild trust with your partner.

Work on trusting your intuition. In the book "The New Monagamy" Tammy Nelson, Ph.D. states that it is necessary to work on trusting your own intuition again before trying to trust your spouse. This is especially true if you had a gut feeling that your partner was having an affair but he or she invested a lot of energy in convincing you that you were wrong. Your sense of intuition may be the best indicator you have of whether your partner is being honest in the future.

Commit to counseling as a couple or within a group for couples who are also committed to repairing their relationship after an affair. A psychotherapist can help you get through the steps required to rebuild trust. If you choose group therapy, other couples who are also working on repairing their relationship after an affair can be an invaluable source of support for both of you.

Figure out what was going on in your relationship before the affair began. This isn’t to place blame on your for your spouse’s affair. He or she is solely responsible for making this choice. However, assessing your relationship before the affair helps decrease the likelihood of another affair. If you are able to identify and resolve the problem, you will have more reason to trust that you and your partner will be able to move forward.

Establish explicit rules about dishonesty and accountability. In the book “The New Monogamy” Tammy Nelson Ph.D. states that after an affair the only rule about dishonesty that needs to be established is that it can’t exist. You also need to establish rules about her or his accountability. Once a pattern of accountability is established you will be able to trust him or her more.

If your partner violates your trust again, ask yourself if it is realistic to continue trying to rebuild trust. If your partner continues to be dishonest, he or she is not honoring the sacredness of your relationship. You may need to reassess what you need and want from the relationship, and whether or not you are getting it.

About the Author

Sonya Lott, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania, who offers online and in office counseling to individuals struggling with grief, loss or a life transition. She also facilitates mental health workshops for educational, professional, and community groups and maintains a blog on her website www.drsonyalott.com.

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