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How to Forgive and Rebuild Trust in a Marriage After Unfaithfulness

by Stacey Elkins, studioD

Whether you or your spouse was the one to have an affair, it is possible to heal your relationship as long as you both are committed to healing it. Keep in mind that the ability to trust and forgive is essential to having a healthy relationship, notes the TwoOfUs.org website, a project of the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. Forgiving and rebuilding trust in a marriage after unfaithfulness is difficult, but achievable with time and effort.

Apologizing and Forgiveness

You shouldn’t underestimate the strength of an apology to start the process of forgiveness, notes Dr. Alex Lickerman in his Psychology Today article, "How to Forgive Others.” The adulterous spouse should provide a sincere apology without placing blame on the other spouse for her actions. She must communicate regret for her behavior – and not just regret for being exposed. She should also affirm that she will not repeat the behavior.

Open and Honest Dialogue

To rebuild trust, both the betrayed and the betrayer have to communicate and hear the truth. In other words, you and your spouse have to overcome the past before moving into the future. It’s normal for the betrayed spouse to have a lot of questions about the affair. The betrayer should be willing to provide honest and open answers. Discuss what underlying issues contributed to the infidelity. For example, perhaps you and your spouse drifted apart, leaving the betrayer feeling unloved and unwanted. Remember that both of you will have emotions to face and overcome because infidelity damages the emotional safety of the relationship. The betrayed may feel hurt, sad, anger or shock, while the betrayer might feel guilt, regret, sadness and shame. Talk about your feelings with your spouse and listen to how she feels.

Hold the Betrayer Accountable

You'll also need to put a system of accountability in place to reestablish the trust in your marriage, according to the TwoOfUs.org website. For example, the betrayer needs to end all contact with the person with whom he had the affair. There should be no emails, texts, phone calls or in-person visits. If the betrayer hears from or sees that person, he should be honest and tell his spouse. This honesty will help rebuild trust. The relationship also needs transparency to rebuild trust. The betrayed should have access to her spouse's phone, email, credit card transactions and so forth. The adulterous spouse should tell his spouse where he is going and who he is meeting whenever he leaves the house while trust is being rebuilt.

Rebuilding Trust Takes Patience

Generally, it takes at least six months before signs of normalcy in the relationship return, though it can take up to two years to rebuild trust in your marriage following an affair, notes the TwoOfUs.org website. You and your spouse both need to make a commitment to the process of rebuilding trust. This process can be frustrating and difficult, but you need to exercise patience and not try to rush it.

About the Author

Stacey Elkins is a writer based in Chicago. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and a Masters in social work from the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she specialized in mental health.

Photo Credits

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