From Hurt to Healed: 5 Steps to Recovery After Infidelity
Infidelity is one of the cardinal sins in a romantic relationship, because it destroys the trust that serves as the foundation of the relationship. Infidelity can take many forms, including emotional and physical infidelity. For the purpose of this article, we are discussing sexual infidelity which is often what comes to mind when we think of infidelity in the first place.
Sexual infidelity is when one partner engages in sexual activities with another person. It could be a one time thing, it could happen regularly with the same person or regularly with different people. There are many different forms of sexual infidelity, but it all boils down to not staying faithful to your partner. Often, infidelity is a sign of bigger problems in the relationship such as communication issues, mismatched sex drives, resentment and/or spite. And, a lot of the time, the problems that lead to infidelity are things that both partners need to take some responsibility for. Even though infidelity is ultimately the fault of the person that cheated, there are often things that both partners are responsible for that brought the relationship and the partner to the point of infidelity.
Sometimes the hurt will be too much to move on from, but infidelity doesn't always mean the end of the relationship or marriage. It is possible to recover from infidelity and reach forgiveness if partners are willing to evaluate their relationship and make the necessary changes to ensure that the relationship does not get to that point ever again. Couples reckon with infidelity in different ways, but there are generally five stages couples go through in order to recover from infidelity:
Get to the root
Like we mentioned before, infidelity is often a sign of bigger issues in the relationship. Infidelity normally doesn’t just occur out of the blue, and is typically a sign that there are serious issues in the relationship. Some people are more predisposed to infidelity than others (this can be due to insecure attachment styles, self esteem issues, self sabotaging behavior, etc. etc.) and in these cases, there may not be a root cause to why the infidelity occurred. But in most other cases, there is a root to the infidelity. Is one partner feeling ignored in the relationship? Does a partner feel undervalued and has the need to seek approval from outside of the relationship? Do partners have different sex drives leading to one person feeling as if their sexual needs are not met? Getting to the root of the problems (yes, there can be multiple) in your relationship, will help you identify areas of growth and find ways to heal the wounds in your relationship.
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Address the pain
Once you identify the roots of the problem, you and your partner will have to make moves to address the problems and the pain that they have caused. Addressing the problems in your relationship can be an emotionally difficult task, but it is something that you must do in order to make a change for the better. It is impossible to sweep something like infidelity (and its root causes) under the rug. Even if this seems like a temporary fix, it will only come back as an even more difficult problem further down the line.
Addressing the root causes of infidelity in your relationship can require time, patience, and in some cases even professional guidance through the form of counseling or couples therapy. Once you have dealt with the root causes and even while you are going through the process, it is also important to let the partner who was cheated on feel their feelings! Infidelity can cause an immense amount of pain and lead partners to doubt themselves and their worth in the relationship. Recovering from this breach in trust and blow to one’s self esteem can often take longer than addressing the causes of infidelity in the first place.
Rediscover your relationship
After identifying the roots of your relationship problems, and working through those problems, it’s important to rediscover the good parts of your relationship. After the newness of a relationship wears off and after you become so comfortable with your partner, you may forget how good you have it. If you and your partner commit to overcoming infidelity in the relationship, you have to remember what you are fighting for. What is the core of your relationship that makes you compatible and happy as a couple? What are things you enjoy doing together? What makes you feel close to your partner? What are your favorite things about your partner and your partnership? Rediscovering your relationship and rekindling your love for one another will help your relationship recover from infidelity.
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Create a plan
When you are recovering from infidelity, it is also important to make a plan. What are you going to do when there is a rough patch in the future? How can you prevent your relationship from getting to a place where a partner can justify cheating? What is your plan if you feel like your partner is being unfaithful? Talking out these details can help put over eager imaginations to rest. It can also help you feel secure in your path forward as a couple.
Forgiveness and healing
The final steps to recover from infidelity are forgiveness and healing. It is possible that even after going through all the other steps, people are unable to forgive their partners because they can’t get over the initial infidelity. If this is the case, it is important to recognize this and move on. It is not possible to rekindle a relationship if both partners are not able to move forward and forgive one another (notice we said forgive here not forgive AND forget). As we mentioned before, relationships are built on trust. In order to forgive and heal from infidelity, partners will need to learn to trust one another again. This can take time, but it is possible to accomplish. There are plenty of couples that have flourishing, happy and healthy relationships even after instances of infidelity, as long as they are ultimately able to forgive one another and focus on healing their relationship and connection to one another.
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