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5 ways to rebuild trust after Cheating in a Relationship

1 September 2023
5 ways to rebuild trust after Cheating in a Relationship

What you will learn from this blog:

  • A relationship can not only survive but emerge stronger after cheating
  • Cheating can be a wake-up call to address gaps in the relationship previously ignored
  • Repairing a relationship after cheating requires commitment and effort

Cheating can be emotional or sexual. As relationship therapists in Singapore, we see that cheating happens when one partner stops investing energy into building connection and intimacy with their partner, and behind to invest that energy elsewhere.

In this definition, cheating can be:

  • Watching porn to satisfy your sexual desires, instead of investing in sexual intimacy with your partner
  • Engaging services to satisfy your sexual/emotional needs, instead of building a sexual/emotional connection with your partner
  • Being emotionally/sexually intimate with someone else regularly, instead of working on emotional intimacy with your partner

What is trust?

First of all, trust in a relationship is NOT about “I can trust you to do what I expect of you”.

Instead, it’s about: “I can trust you to take me as a part of you.”

This does not mean that your partner will always sacrifice their own wants and needs for you, that they never make mistakes or that their trauma never shows up.

Instead, it means that they consistently take the responsibility to work on themselves and the relationship and take you into consideration.

We share with those who come to us for couples counselling, that it is only when we understand this, that rebuilding trust is possible.

Here are 5 steps that will help you do so:

Step 1 – Process Your Feelings

Cheating leaves both partners in pain. As relationship therapists in Singapore, we have seen how cheating can bring up intense emotions such as anger, loneliness, shame, and guilt.

It is important that both partners process their emotions consciously, rather than allow the emotions to come up unconsciously, for example, by blaming and attacking each other or being passive-aggressive.

Step 2 – Commitment

The natural question after cheating is: Should we still stay together?

Our suggestion as relationship therapists is to process your emotions first so that you can make a level-headed decision on this.

If both partners put in the effort, a relationship can emerge stronger after cheating; it can even be a wake-up call to:

  • Address gaps in the foundation of the relationship that were previously ignored
  • Bring greater self-awareness and healing of trauma
  • Renew commitment to the relationship

That said, there are times when cheating is a sign of incompatibility, and couples counselling can help partners understand what they authentically want as individuals, and part ways or transform the relationship in a conscious way.

Step 3 – Create an environment where healing can happen

This means removing as many triggering factors as possible, for example:

  • Putting an end to the cheating
  • Breaking contact with external parties involved
  • Distancing oneself from negative influences (e.g. unhealthy friends)

Step 4 – Identify and address the root causes of the cheating

This can include identifying both partners’ needs and working together to meet them while seeking emotional therapy to address the deeper trauma.

A big part of rebuilding trust is re-establishing open communication; cheating does not happen in an atmosphere of honesty and connection.

Here’s a practice that partners can do in a quiet and calm space when both sides are ready:

  • Sit facing each other, and write down all the thoughts that come to mind about your partner (e.g. “I’m afraid of opening my heart to you again. How can I trust you again? How dare you do that to me.”)
  • Feel your body and write down what sensations and emotions come up (e.g. tightness in the chest, ache in heart; “my heart feels closed off to you” “I feel dead inside”)
  • Share what you have written with your partner and allow them to respond with tenderness.

Step 5 – Apology and forgiveness

Apology and forgiveness are essential to healing any conflict between a couple, especially cheating. But they cannot be forced; they arise naturally as a result of a process.

True apology and forgiveness can only come after we are brave enough to face our own pain – anger, hatred, guilt, and shame – and show compassion for ourselves for it.

Only after our own pain has resolved can we recognise and feel the pain we have caused the other; and take responsibility for our part in it. If we apologise or forgive without doing any of these steps, it will not be sincere – we may be saying the words, but our bodies will still be holding on to resentment.

Rebuilding trust in a relationship is only possible if both parties are committed to staying and working on healing the relationship.

This blog is part of a series on cheating – a common challenge we are presented with in our couples counselling sessions at Intracresco. Here are the related blogs in our series on cheating in relationships:

Learn more on how you can work with us on couples counselling. We at Intracresco are two relationship therapists in Singapore, and we are here to support you.

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