When you love someone it feels like you’re in a nice, safe, love-infused bubble that no-one can penetrate. Then, overnight, with a confession or a discovery, that bubble bursts. And boy does it burst with a bang.
Some couples do survive infidelity but only if both of you honestly think the relationship is worth it and the guilty person is prepared to do everything it takes to win back your trust and love.
This will help you decide and guide you through the process of recovery.
Give each other space
Your first reaction will be to want to cling onto him and not let him out of your sight. Do not.
There are two things you need to establish at this point; that you mean business and their behaviour is not acceptable and that you have dignity.
If you live together, get him to move out for a few days. You need this time to logically sort through your emotions.
If you don’t live together, say you do not want to see them for a while. Start a diary of all your emotions and your questions and use it make a list of questions you need answers to at the end of the time apart.
This is not a kiss and makeup session. It is a meeting to decide if there is enough worth saving. Warn your partner there are lots of questions you still need answered. If they’re not prepared to answer them, forget it.
If they are, start asking.
This will be incredibly painful but it’s essential you get honest answers to what you need to know. Armed with answers, do you feel reasonably confident you’ll both pull through and there is still enough to work with?
Now is the time to move back in or start seeing each other regularly again.
Build a new relationship
Your old relationship, the damaged one, is dead. You now need to build a new one.
Yes this is sad, but it is also exciting. Just think! It may well end up even better than the first in lots of ways! What will be missing though, is innocence and trust.
The aim is to replace this with other qualities, like, “We are survivors – even this didn’t break us up.”
You will feel insecure and you will feel angry. You will fight about it, over and over, to begin with. This is normal. To get through it, you need to set some rules for the new relationship. These are specific to you two but you might want to think about things like telling each other where you are all the time, checking in during periods that might be hard for you to cope with, sending lots of reassuring texts.
Be prepared to change
All of the above looks after you, the wronged party. But as much as it should be skewed to look after you, it is unfair to discount your partner’s needs. Your partner cheated for a reason.
What did they get from this new person that they could not get from you?
Who were they with the new person? When couples have been together a long time, it’s hard to reinvent yourself and get your partner to see you as someone “new”.
Were there parts of themselves that felt satisfied with the other person that aren’t being satisfied with you? What are they?
Explore ways to help him be able to do this with you. One final question that I am asked all the time: when will I feel better and the pain go away? The answer is this: time heals wounds that are able to be healed. In six months, you should be feeling better most of the time; one year on, trust should be developing again. If it is not, it is time to move forward - solo.
Are they worth it?
Some cheating partners don’t deserve to be forgiven. Ask yourself these five crucial questions:
• Have they cheated on other people in the past? If so, they will continue to do it again (and again) until someone – hopefully you – dumps them brutally and they realise they can’t get away with it.
• Why did they do it? A one-off incident with seemingly genuine reasons to explain it is a lot easier to forgive than repeated slip-ups or a long-term affair.
• Put yourself in their shoes. If you were them, feeling the way they did, in the situation they were in, what would you do? Can you understand it?
• What do you think they will do if they are in the same predicament in the future?
• What guarantees can they give you that it won’t happen again?
• How was your relationship when it happened? You’ll be much more likely to forgive (if not forget) if you were aware your partner was unhappy, the relationship was not great and you were suspicious. If you thought you were blissfully happy and did not notice a single sign that anything was wrong, it is desperately hard to trust again. If there were no clues last time round, how will you know if it happens again?
• Do they regret what they have done?
They should be even more miserable about the pain it is caused than you are.