Ways to Rebuild Trust after an Affair

The most basic benefit of being in a relationship is the confidence you derive from having a teammate you can rely on to help with the vicissitudes of life. Below is a chart of life:

Ups and downs of life
Life chart

If we have a companion, confidant, and lover along the way, these unexpected dips and turns are easier to manage because you are not going alone. You know and trust that they will have your back through the inevitable pitfalls of life. When you have this trust, a sense of security is created.

Affairs usually occur because one or both partners have gotten squirmy and have started to bail on being teammates in one form or another.

Since the affair has put the foundation of the relationship into question for the hurt partner – much like a rug being pulled out from underneath them – it is up to the unfaithful partner to demonstrate that they are worthy of trust.

Dr. Janis Spring, author of After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful, states that to get to the rebuilding trust phase of a relationship, the hurt partner must first normalization his or her intense feelings and then make a decision to recommit with the unfaithful partner. After this occurs, ways to rebuild trust fall into two categories of behavior.

The first is what she calls low-cost behaviors, and the second is high-cost behaviors.

Below are examples of some low-cost behaviors for the unfaithful partner to begin to rebuild trust. Remember, it’s your job to continue to demonstrate that you are worthy of trust.

  • Leave little up to assumption. For example, give your partner the complete itinerary when you travel.
  • Let your partner know if you run into the affair person.
  • Check in throughout the day remind your partner you are thinking about them.
  • Remind your partner that you love them, and why you picked him or her.
  • Tell your partner that you find them attractive.
  • Tell your partner how much you appreciate them.
  • Leave little up to assumption in regards to your feelings and emotions. Fill your partner in on your emotional landscape, especially if you are not used to doing this.
  • Ask what you need from your partner to make the relationship more satisfactory. Do this in a way that does not blame your partner, or justifies your behavior.
  • Have patience — you can’t regain trust overnight.

Below are examples of low-cost behaviors for you, the hurt partner. Remember it is important to positively acknowledge your partner’s efforts to restore your trust.

  • Let your partner know specifically what low-cost behaviors you need from them to restore your trust; leave little up to assumption.
  • Let your partner know that you appreciate their above efforts – specificity helps.
  • Tell them that you are feeling more optimistic about your future together.
  • Be open to feedback.
  • Demonstrate that you are trying to address his or her dissatisfaction at home.
  • If your partner is trying to be more emotionally open, be patient, and appreciate such efforts especially if your partner is new to it.
After the Affair
I highly recommend this book.

These low-cost behaviors are the building blocks for rebuilding trust. They are essential for sharing responsibility for what went wrong in the relationship. Dr. Springs states that low-cost behaviors are not enough.

High-cost behaviors are the bedrock of the trust-building phase that squarely falls on the shoulders of the unfaithful person.

She writes:

“It’s not enough for you to say, ‘Trust me, honey – I’m here to stay.’ You have to back your claim with dramatic gestures that are ‘expensive’ – in other words, that require real sacrifice and will probably make you feel uncomfortable and vulnerable.”

Examples of high-cost behaviors are:

  • Allowing your partner to have your passwords, and bank account information if requested.
  • Having a joint bank account, or dividing assets in half.
  • Transferring jobs – away from the affair person.
  • Moving to a different city.
  • Going to drug and alcohol treatment, staying sober, or going to 12-step meetings.
  • Going to individual therapy in order to gain more insight into why the affair occurred.
  • Going to couple therapy to process the affair, as well as learn ways to prevent future infidelity by transforming the relationship.
  • Cutting ties with old friends or social groups.
  • Going on a romantic vacation.

The silver lining to such high-cost behaviors for you, the unfaithful person, is that they will make you a better person.

They will force you to be someone who is worthy of trust, someone who has examined his or her self and who now has nothing to hide. You will be a better example for your kids if you have them. Although difficult at first, you may find such integrity and transparency altogether more satisfying.

The good news is, if an affair has occurred and you both wish to remain in the relationship, you can take concrete steps to become teammates again.

You can’t schedule the restoration of trust and most likely it will never return to how it was, but eventually it can be better. With work, strongly committed couples can rebuild the trust and security that is the foundation for a happy relationship.

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