Can couples really heal from infidelity? Is it possible to trust again? Are people who commit affairs able to be fully transparent and honest with their partner again?
These are some of the questions that came to mind as I was listening to colleague therapists discussing perspectives on why people have affairs, and how the healing process needs transparency and complete honesty. If one or both spouses are not aware of who they are and honest with themselves then how can they be expected to be honest with another?
Below are 4 Myths regarding building trust through transparency to heal from an affair.
I took a moment to reflect on each of these concepts and decided to call them myths, by challenging each one and providing an anecdote or alternative.
1. The spouse that committed the affair, needs to have frequent contact throughout the day without his spouse asking for it.
Challenge: This idea of needing him to check in is controlling and based on fear. If one of the spouses is having to assure the other that they are not committing an affair again by having to do “check-ins” the likelihood of resentment for being controlled will occur and the spouse that got cheated on will never feel secure because her suspicion will continue and get worse.
Anecdote: Learn to accept the affair which does not mean approve of it or agree with why it occurred, just be willing to get to a place of letting him go and walk through steps of how you would cope if he did commit the affair again. This gives you the ability to face the fear and loosen the resistance to having the affair occur again. This will also build trust in yourself that you will be able to survive if it should happen again.
2. Openness, regarding access to cell phones, phone bill, computer and social media.
Challenge: This will build sneakiness and feed fear in you. If you feel the need to monitor these devices of communication, the likelihood of focusing on whether he is doing it again takes priority over focusing on the healing.
Anecdote: Listen to your “gut” if he is doing something suspicious. Being hyper vigilant is not going to work for you in the long run. If your brain is busy seeking validation for your fears and needing to check on social media, etc. then perhaps it is time to take a “time out” reflect on the value of the relationship and your mind needing to check on him. Is this worth it to you to provide brain space for this type of thought process?
3. Not having conversations that are out of your hearing range. For example, he goes to the other room to discuss or have a conversation on the phone and you find yourself asking “who was that?”
Challenge: This puts you in a place of “policing” your spouse, he is going to feel like you are his gatekeeper so to speak, and with that said feel controlled and may possibly rebel against the control.
Anecdote: Observe, listen to your “gut” if he is moving to a different room to have a conversation with someone you don’t know, learn communication skills on how that makes you feel safe, and ask for what you want in an effective way. Couples therapy can help with this.
4. When he travels for work, include you to make sure he does not cheat.
Challenge: This puts you in the position of “baggage” and having to monitor your man. There are times when it is absolutely appropriate and fun to work travel with your spouse, but if the intent is to keep an eye on him, this is controlling and feeding the fear.
Anecdote: If you have an “affair proofing” conversation, explore your willingness to build trust and be able to communicate when you are feeling vulnerable. Both should be in therapy in a willing manner and discuss temptations and triggers.
Building trust and healing the relationship after an affair is a complicated process, the relationship will never be the same again, but that does not mean both of you will be weakened by it, you can both build strength, learn from the experience and yes, build trust.
A perspective on this is the willingness to let him go, have an inner commitment to value yourself if the mind becomes obsessive or too controlling over preventing him from doing it again. The reality is, if he wants to have an affair, he will find a way to do it regardless of how much you police him.