Learning how to start over in a marriage after infidelity—or in any romantic relationship—is a complex and emotionally intense process. With tensions running high and so much at stake, many couples fall into despair and assume the pain of infidelity never goes away. But this doesn’t have to be your fate. An affair doesn’t have to permanently define your relationship with others or yourself. You and your partner can successfully navigate through the stages of healing after infidelity, and forge a stronger bond—so long as you avoid common relationship reconciliation mistakes.
Although every situation is unique, there are three critical things all couples should avoid during affair recovery:
- Holding yourselves to a timeline
- Letting mistrust consume your relationship
- Trying to heal by yourselves
Let’s take a look at each of these pitfalls in more detail.
Don’t Hold Yourselves to a Timeline
How long does infidelity trauma last? In truth, every couple’s healing journey looks different. Although many sources try to project timelines—the most common industry answer is that it takes about 18 months to recover from an affair—this isn’t the most helpful approach. Naturally, all couples desire to heal as quickly as possible. But the reality is that affair recovery, when done right, takes time. Trying to move too fast can cause problems to linger and put pressure on individuals to rush their healing process.
A healthier approach is to set realistic goals for you and your partner and frequently check each other’s progress in achieving your goals. These goals can be related to communication, trust, conflict resolution, and many other important relationship pillars. Really, diligently meeting your goals and ensuring positive outcomes are much more important than “quickly” moving past an affair. If you and your partner are unsure of how to do this, working with a skilled relationship counselor will set you on the right path.
Don’t Let Mistrust Consume Your Relationship
At the beginning of affair recovery, it may be tempting to set strict ground rules after cheating. Some negative ground rules include:
- Giving your partner a curfew
- Monitoring their social media accounts
- Not letting your partner go on vacations or work trips without you
Because infidelity has long-term psychological effects, many people who have experienced infidelity develop severe trust issues, which causes them to become much more controlling in a relationship. Although this reaction is completely understandable, it’s not a healthy approach and can often do more harm than good. Rebuilding trust is one of the most difficult aspects of affair recovery, but controlling your partner won’t help you learn to trust again. Instead, it will push them away and make you feel even less in control.
So, what boundaries should be set after infidelity? Appropriate boundaries look different for every couple, but can include things like cutting off contact with the affair partner and determining the level of intimacy you are comfortable having with your partner. To set healthy boundaries, working with a professional marriage or couples counselor can empower you and your partner to successfully navigate trust issues throughout your affair recovery journey. This brings us to our next bit of advice…
Don’t Try To Heal by Yourselves
Discovering how to heal after being cheated on and stay together is an overwhelming task for any couple. Mainly because they do not have the tools to succeed. Marriage counseling offers couples access to an unbiased professional with the experience needed to truly recover from an affair. For example, a marriage counselor can show couple how to make sense of what they are feeling. For the person who was cheated on, a therapist can enable them to explain how they are affected by the infidelity without making their partner feel attacked. For the person who strayed from the relationship, a therapist can help them listen to their partner without becoming defensive.
Additionally, a professional counselor will encourage you ask and answer difficult questions like:
- How do you build safety in a relationship after cheating?
- How do you deal with triggers after cheating?
- Is a marriage ever the same after infidelity?
At Well Marriage Center, our counselors will work with you and your partner to examine what led to the affair and explore methods for rebuilding your relationship that benefit you and your partner. We strive to help you forgive, rebuild trust, and move past infidelity.
Couples often report a stronger, more open, and more compassionate bond after working with us. The skills and tools we impart empower individuals and couples to work together on issues like communication breakdown, conflict management, intimacy, trust, and so much more. All of this is important, especially after an affair.
If you’re ready to start healing, take the first step and schedule your appointment today.