How To Move Past Cheating As A Couple, According To Experts
If you or your partner cheats, it can feel as if your relationship will never recover. And rightfully so. Cheating is a massive betrayal of trust, and it can be difficult to rebuild a sense of security once you've gone behind each other's backs. But even still, there are ways to move past cheating if you choose to give it another go.
It might be tricky, but it can help to keep in mind that "cheating does not mean a relationship is doomed," Dr. Jessica L. Dubron, licensed clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. "Many couples successfully move past cheating and, while it takes work and time, it can even be a turning point that leads to a better and more honest relationship."
For example, during the recovery process you might find ways to improve your communication, or spend more time together. That's not to say, of course, that cheating needs to happen in order make these changes. "You can certainly do the work without going through infidelity," Dr. Adi Jaffe, PhD, a mental health expert and relationship counselor, tells Bustle.
This is, however, a way of spinning the situation into a learning experience. Having a positive mindset can be helpful while moving on, as can several of the tips listed below. If you follow them, experts say you may be able to move forward as a couple, and move past cheating.
1. Come Clean
In order to move forward in your relationship, the person who cheated (whether it was you or your partner) will need to come clean and be honest about what happened, without making any attempt to downplay the situation. As Dubron says, "Rebuilding trust is imperative to moving forward, and that can’t happen if there is any more deception."
That doesn't mean, however, that you need to start sharing every detail. "It is rarely productive and can be destructive," Dubron says. "The details aren’t important. What’s important is understanding why it happened, what it means, and how to move forward."
2. Decide Whether You Can Move Forward
Once you know what happened, that's when you'll decide to either stay in the relationship and work on moving forward, or leave. And remember, it's a decision you'll both have to agree on in order for it to work.
"Both parties have to decide whether or not they honestly want to move forward," Dr. Miro Gudelsky, sex therapist, couples counselor, and intimacy expert, tells Bustle. Do you want to work on moving past the betrayal? Is the relationship worth another shot? "Sometimes the answer is no and that is fine but [you] must be honest about it," Mayo says.
If you both agree to stick together, the chances of moving past the incident and creating a stronger relationship will be much higher, since you'll both be on the same page.
3. Mourn The Loss Of Your Old Relationship
"It is important that both parties mourn the loss of whatever their relationship used to be in order to move forward into the next phase of their life together," Gudelsky says.
After all, as sad as it is, you won't be able to go back to the way things were before the cheating. And trying to do that so will only lead to more pain and hurt feelings.
Instead, accept that you're entering into a new phase, and begin looking for ways to rebuild as a couple.
4. Help Each Other Understand
"Understanding why the betrayal happened is important," Margo Regan, relationship and sex therapist, tells Bustle. And that includes opening up about how you're feeling, and trying to get to the bottom of why it all occurred in the first place.
"What was going on in the relationship before it happened? If you were unhappy in the relationship, did you communicate why this was so? One of the reasons affairs can happen is because you are looking for external validation from someone else," Regan says.
So be honest, then figure out ways to keep similar issues from happening in the future. Do you need to work on the way you communicate? Spend more time together? Make each other a priority? Figuring that out can be the difference between staying together and going your separate ways.
5. Go To Therapy
"Seeking therapy is beneficial for couples overall," Dr. Saniyyah Mayo, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "However, when infidelity has transpired it is better to have someone there to help guide the discussions for understanding and healing."
You'll have a much better chance of moving on with a mediator in the middle, since they'll be able to help you see things differently. "Many times couples have conversations but may not be able to see past their own hurt and frustration to engage in a healthy conversation to find solutions," Mayo says. "Having a therapist present will challenge them to be open to heal."
6. Let Go Of The Past
While you'll never be able to fully forget about what happened, you can decide to let go of the past, and choose not to rehash what happened, or make it the central focus on your relationship.
As Mayo says, "If the couple keeps revisiting the negative details of the infidelity they will never move forward. It is OK to discuss what happened and what made the person decide to cheat, but do not fester on it and keep bringing it up."
Instead, focus on what you can do today to rebuild trust, and put that into practice in your relationship.
7. Make Actual Changes
It's all well and good to talk about making changes, and all the ways you'll rebuild trust in your relationship. But you need to actually do these things in order for it to work.
"The cheater has to work diligently to show their partner they have changed," Mayo says. "They cannot just say they have changed but it must be reflected through their actions." And this can mean sticking to a new set of boundaries within your relationship, so that you both feel secure.
It can also help to do a little personal reflection, even if you weren't the one who cheated. While you certainly shouldn't blame yourself, it can help to make a few changes yourself in order to keep the relationship strong. Again, focusing on having better communication can be a big help.
Moving past cheating can be tricky, but it's certainly possible to do so. By following these tips, you and your partner just might be able to make it work.