What Boundaries Should Be Set After Infidelity?
Infidelity, one of the most harmful lies in a relationship, occurs between 20 to 40% of married couples. This doesn’t even include partners that aren’t married. Many people are surprised by these numbers, but affairs are something that happen across cultures and generations, for any number of reasons. People generally don’t set out to hurt each other, yet it happens and each situation is unique.
The good news is that affair recovery is, in fact, possible. When both individuals want to continue, heal, and process after the trauma of infidelity, and with appropriate counseling, around 60 to 75% of couples are able to improve communication and rebuild trust as they work through the stages of healing after infidelity, primarily:
- Discovery of (and reaction to) the affair
- Beginning to forgive
- Recommitment and reconciliation
Let’s take a look at the importance of setting—and respecting—effective boundaries in the aftermath of infidelity.
What Is the Importance of Setting Healthy Boundaries?
The importance of developing mutually-agreeable relationship and marital boundaries—whether infidelity has occurred or not—is difficult to overstate. Boundaries serve an essential purpose in establishing a healthy and balanced relationship. They create an environment where each person can feel heard and understood without one person needing to “win.” These, of course, aren’t physical boundaries; they’re better considered as behavioral and emotional boundaries.
When infidelity has occurred, it’s a sign that a relationship’s boundaries may have been compromised—if they were even set in the first place. Luckily, affair recovery counseling is designed to explore those boundaries, understand where their vulnerabilities lie, and reset them as needed. Our team of qualified professionals at Well Marriage Center provide strengths-focused affair recovery services that can help you set healthy boundaries, process through the trauma and strong emotions of the cheating, rediscover or rebuild your love, and get your relationship on a healthier track.
What Are Examples of Boundaries in a Marriage?
“Boundaries” can mean a lot of different things, but when applied to any relationship, they outline ground rules in areas like:
- Communication and honesty
- Domestic life
- Individual autonomy
- Privacy and personal space
- Relationships with in-laws and other family members
- Reliability and trust
As a couple works together to develop boundaries that respect each partner’s expectations, it creates space for healing and establishes a strong foundation for the relationship moving forward.
What many people don’t realize is that setting boundaries isn’t just important in the aftermath of an affair. In reality, healthy boundaries can apply to various stages of affair recovery, from infidelity prevention through reconciliation. Next, we’ll take a closer look at how boundaries can apply at three different stages.
What Are the Boundaries After Infidelity?
Some broad examples of healthy boundaries in a marriage or relationship that relate to affair recovery could include things like:
- Creating plans for taking “timeouts” when emotions are running high.
- Determining what kinds of boundaries, like allowing phone calls or visits, should be in place between the cheater and who the person they cheated with.
- Setting ground rules after cheating for when—and how often—you will discuss the affair.
- Considering a temporary physical separation.
How Do You Go About Setting Boundaries During Reconciliation?
Working with a licensed counselor to establish boundaries during the reconciliation process empowers each partner to explore and unpack their feelings in a safe environment. It’s important to know that you don’t have to “go it alone” during this emotionally-charged time.
When we learn about and react to the discovery of the affair, we experience strong emotions like shame, unworthiness, confusion, anger, and PTSD. The cheating partner often experiences inadequacy, shame, guilt, and sadness. It’s important to work through these emotions with an experienced clinician to minimize long-term, damaging effects and misguided coping mechanisms.
While this might be your first experience with infidelity, our team knows what it takes to survive an affair and can help you at every stage along your path to healing.
While you could take a shot at boundary-setting without working with a couples or marriage counselor, that approach can get messy. Working with a therapist helps to ensure that you and your partner maintain mutual respect throughout the entire reconciliation process. A counselor can help you zero in on the types of boundaries you should be setting—and how to implement them.
How Do You Set Boundaries to Prevent Infidelity from Happening Again?
As you set healthy boundaries in your marriage, a marriage counselor can help you to identify the root causes of conflict in the relationship in a way that can work toward preventing infidelity in the future. The boundaries you develop through couples and marriage counseling should improve future communication, account for each partner’s needs and expectations, and, ultimately, rebuild trust.
Of course, once these boundaries have been established, there will still be work to do. Here’s an analogy:
Let’s say you’ve always wanted to be a competitive marathon runner. You’ve spent months, if not years, training for your first race. At some point, you experience an injury.
You really want to run this marathon, right? So you go see a sports medicine specialist, who helps you to rehabilitate your injury through physical therapy. In the short-term, it helps get you in the kind of shape it takes to just get back out on the road.
Over time, though, the specialist helps you to determine the root cause of your injury, whether it’s wearing the wrong kind of shoes or the need for surgery. That way, you’re less likely to suffer the same injury as you’re ramping back up.
Once the injury heals, you don’t just resume your training from where you left off. Instead, you have to be vigilant to correct the causes of your injury so you don’t find yourself hurt, again, a few months down the line.
And it’s like that with affair recovery, too. Yes, it’s important (in the short-term) to address the hurt feelings, but it’s also important to guard against future problems as well. A couples therapist helps individuals meet and honor each other’s expectations in a way that doesn’t compromise anyone’s boundaries.
Ready to Get On the Road to Recovery?
Infidelity doesn’t have to mean the end. Whether an affair has just been discovered or you’re looking for reconciliation after infidelity separation, the team at Well Marriage Center is ready to help. Our patient, empathetic, and strengths-based approach is designed to help you rebuild trust, commitment, and ultimately make your relationship stronger for the future. Learn more about our affair recovery services, or schedule an appointment today!