15 Common Mistakes To Avoid Making When Trying To Heal After Cheating
After a major betrayal of trust in your relationship, it might feel like a challenge to move on as a couple. And, in some instances, it will be. But if you and your partner decide to stay together after cheating, work on things, rebuild trust, and see yourselves through this rough patch, you certainly can. All it takes is time, effort, and an awareness of the most common mistakes couples make after a betrayal of trust.
And one of the biggest may be assuming things will be like they once were. "I often tell my clients that our work is not going to be about getting them back to how their relationship was but rather creating a new relationship for them," clinical psychologist Dr. Piper S. Grant, PsyD, MPH tells Bustle. "This takes time, communication, openness within themselves and each other, and the ability to tolerate one's own feelings while hearing the other's feelings."
By accepting that things may be different now, and that you may be creating a new relationship for yourselves, it can be possible to move on. It's also important to be aware of other pitfalls, such as sharing too much information about the cheating (that's a big no), or rushing through the process. Mistakes like these can actually make moving on more difficult, as well as needlessly painful. Read on for a few ways couples hold themselves back from healing after cheating, so you'll know just what to stay away from.
1. Assuming The Relationship Is Over
While it may feel like your relationship is over after a major breach of trust, it certainly doesn't have to be. As Grant says, "Sometimes people move very quickly to thinking that the relationship must be over, when in fact repair and healing of the relationship may be possible."
If it feels truly over, that's OK. You can certainly move on. But if you'd both like to work on repairing things, it'll be important to get into a mindset of healing, and away from one that feels like everything's ruined. Then you can start to move on.
2. Keeping Your Feelings To Yourself
While you might not want to shout from the rooftops that you're having relationship problems, it's not a good idea to keep these issues a secret, either. "This can be harmful because it adds pressure to your relationship and forces both of you to present to the world as though nothing is wrong," licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Racine R. Henry, PhD, LMFT tells Bustle. "Couples tend to compound the trauma of infidelity by creating this small circle within which the healing is to occur." So go ahead and discuss your feelings with a loved one or possibly even a therapist to start the healing process.
3. Asking Your Partner For Details
Even if you're dying to know how the betrayal happened, what went down, where it happened, etc., asking your partner for details is never a good idea. "Rather than feel better, [you will] feel worse because [you] now have vivid images of [your] partner in bed with someone else," says couples therapist Theresa Herring, MS, LMFT. And that can be an image that's difficult to shake.
Feel free to ask questions. Get the info you need to know. But resist the urge to learn everything. Too many details can actually make moving on difficult, and way too painful.
4. Not Talking About It At All
All of that said, you shouldn't go on with your lives and pretend like the incident didn't happen, since that can slow down the recovery process, too. As Grant says, "It is important that the couple be open in talking about their different experiences and emotions about the betrayal in trust, as a means to process their emotions and continue moving forward. Otherwise they can get stuck in resentments, unvoiced feelings, anger, and sadness."
5. Minimizing The Impact It's Had
When you do talk about it, try to be honest about the impact this betrayal has had on you. "Cheating in any way can make the person who was cheated on feel completely insecure," Angela Rosario, a relationship expert at TooTimid, tells Bustle. "You have to tell your partner when you are feeling insecure and what they can do to make you feel better."
6. Trying To Get Even
One of the biggest mistakes you can make? Trying to get even with your partner, perhaps by going out and "getting back at them" by also cheating or betraying trust.
If you have this urge, try to resist it. As Herring says, "[Getting even] leaves no room for remorse, reconnection, and repair. Couples who can't move past their anger are unable to rebound from breaches of trust."
7. Holding A Grudge
When you're trust is severely betrayed, it may be difficult to ever truly forget. So don't try to force your brain to magically erase what happened. Do, however, try your best to not hold a grudge.
Once a grudge has lodged itself in your brain, "you may continually take it out on your partner," spiritual counselor Davida Rapapport tells Bustle. "You may also treat them unfairly making it hard to rebuild your relationship on solid ground." And that's not going to get either of you anywhere.
8. Being Paranoid And Suspicious
If your partner betrayed your trust, it makes perfect sense why you'd feel paranoid or suspicious. You might be tempted to keep a closer eye on what they do or say in order to make sure it doesn't happen again.
But doing so will only further damage the trust in your relationship. "True trust demands that we tolerate what we don’t know about our partners, and intimacy can easily be squeezed out by these attempts at control," couple and family therapist Hayden Lindsay tells Bustle. She says moving on is less about "protecting the borders" of your relationship, and instead figuring out new ways to trust each other.
9. Trying To Rebuild Trust In One Fell Swoop
Couples can also sabotage themselves by expecting trust to be there 100 percent of the time. But, as Lindsay says, that's almost never how it works. You might, for example, be OK with your partner going out with friends at night, but maybe not going away for an entire weekend.
And it's important that they understand the difference. "Understanding that trust is incremental ... helps the offending partner realize that they haven’t 'lost ground' just because they seem to have trust one minute but not the next," Lindsay says. "Forgiveness, particularly for something as painful as an affair, doesn’t come all at once. "
10. Trying To Heal All By Yourself
If you're going to remain a couple, you'll have to lean on each other during this time — just like you would during any other tough situation. And yet, it's not uncommon for people to try to go it alone.
"It is often overlooked that the offending partner is hurting, too," says Lindsay. "They may have very reasonable grievances that, while not justifying the affair, need to be addressed." So be there for each other as much as possible, and it will be easier to move on.
11. Making Your Entire Relationship About The Affair
"For some couples, the gravity of an affair becomes the sun their world together revolves around," says Lindsay. "These are couples that have failed to incorporate the affair into their overall narrative. The infidelity becomes the story of their relationship, not a part of it." And if the betrayal of trust becomes the only way you look at your relationship, it may be difficult to move on from it.
12. Trying To Figure Out What Went Wrong
You might be tempted to figure out what went wrong, or which mistakes led up to the affair. But that, in and of itself, can be a mistake. "Infidelity doesn't mean the relationship was bad," says Grant. "There is this societal concept that someone cheats only if they are unhappy or their partner is not fulfilling them in some way. In fact many people cheat when they are in very happy and satisfying relationships."
So give yourselves a break, and be OK with not getting to the bottom of things. "When couples get stuck in trying to figure out 'what was wrong' as a way to make meaning of the infidelity, they may actually fail to see that there are in fact many strengths within the relationship," says Grant. Sometimes affairs just happen.
13. Expecting Things To Be "Fixed" Right Away
The process of recovery is likely to be a lengthy one. And that's OK. "Far too often people put a cap on their healing and will say things like 'it's been six months, I should be over it' or 'it happened three months ago, we should be back to normal,'" says Grant. "There is no timeframe that the healing from an infidelity should happen in, and often the placing of a time frame actually hinders moving through the whole process of healing and recovery from the betrayal. Additionally each parter needs to recognize that they will have different trajectories in healing."
14. Not Answering Your Partners Questions
If you have cheated or betrayed your partner's trust, make sure you answer their questions openly and honestly. "If you want your relationship to have a chance to recover completely, you need to share everything," health and wellness expert Caleb Backe tells Bustle. By doing so, you'll show that you're really ready to move on, as well as that you're ready to start reestablishing openness and trust.
15. Failing To Come Up With A Plan
"The biggest mistake couples can make after infidelity is to simply reconcile without a solid plan that has accountability," professional counselor Robert Betancourt, MA tells Bustle. What do you need your partner to do in order to feel secure? What do they need to say, or get off their chest? And how do you plan to support each other, so this doesn't happen again?
Once you can start a convo, and come up with a solid plan for the future, it'll be so much easier to move on.