One question I often hear from couple’s who have experienced infidelity is: how do I trust my partner again? It’s a difficult question to answer, because while many people say trust is earned, I tend to say that it is given. Sometimes betrayals happen even after years of devotion, and it is hard to know how to “earn back” something that’s been broken. Sometimes when you’ve been hurt, you may want to resort to tactics that are intended to reassure you, like wanting to have more oversight of them by checking their phone, or their social media accounts. Unfortunately, I think these strategies tend to be ineffective in the long run when it comes to healing a relationship after betrayals occur, and may even exacerbate mistrust and conflict. They may provide some temporary satisfaction to the person who’s been hurt, but it’s important to think about long term results as well when you are trying to move forward as a couple.
Trust can be built back slowly as more of your emotional needs are met over time. However, it ultimately takes a decision that is made by the per son who has been hurt, to give that trust back when they are ready. Unfortunately, trust is always an emotional risk that you take. Frequent or reoccurring infidelity over time is, of course, an indicator that your partner is not deserving of your trust. Yet many people who have been betrayed by their partners still want to repair the relationship, even after multiple occurrences. How do you trust someone who has violated their commitment to you? The surveillance route is inadvisable in my opinion. It creates a dynamic in which the relationship turns into more of an adolescent trying to avoid being grounded by their parent than a couple trying to work through emotionally difficult times together. If this is where you are in your relationship, there are some things that you can do to try and work on moving forward. First, instead of talking about what happened, talk instead about how you feel about what happened. Instead of trying to figure out all the details, which may just cause more hurt to the person who was betrayed, talk instead about how that pain has affected them. Decide what needs to change in the relationship in order for the dynamic to return to a place of trust and mutual respect. These may be things like having more frequent time set aside for you as a couple to reconnect with each other, sharing letters or other writings that express feelings related to the infidelity, increased attention to the division of duties within the household, or sharing spiritual time or other meaningful activities together.
The commitment to these kinds of activities will tell you more about you and your partner’s ability to build trust and mutual respect over time than will checking phone records and social media accounts. Sometimes people really are not deserving of your trust. Knowing when to walk away is important too, but I encourage couples who do want to move forward to be mindful about how they choose to rebuild trust over time. Infidelity involves very real pain and damage in relationships, and the healing process must also involve some real effort and thoughtfulness on the part of both partners in order to move forward with true forgiveness and mutual respect.