Recovering from the painful damage caused by infidelity is never easy. In the aftermath of infidelity, marriages and committed relationships that have been built and nurtured over years, even decades, can quickly crumble, leaving one or both partners devastated.
But there is hope and a way forward for those couples who are willing to make the commitment and do the hard work. The trauma of infidelity needn’t last a lifetime.
In counseling couples over many years in the wake of infidelity, I’ve identified 7 Survival Steps that must be followed in order to repair their relationships and create a fresh start. These seven steps place the greatest burden and responsibility on the partner who strayed, but both partners must embrace and adhere to the process.
In my last post, The First Step in Surviving Infidelity is Ceasing All Contact with the Outside Person, I explained why the partner who strayed must severe all contact with his or her paramour for the healing process to begin. That is true, even when breaking all contact is hard, expensive, or inconvenient.
The second of the 7 Survival Steps, which I discuss in this article, is Prove That the Affair Has Ended.
Infidelity is a breach of trust. Once lost, trust is more difficult to regain than it was to build in the first place. We’ve all heard the expression, “Burn me once shame on you, burn me twice, shame on me.”
That adage resonates with people who understand that after being tricked or misled, each of us should be on guard to prevent a reoccurrence.
That is doubly true when it comes to those individuals who have been betrayed by a trusted spouse or partner.
For the sake of illustration, in this article I will refer to the partner who strayed as “John” and the partner who was betrayed as “Sue.” I will name John’s sexual partner, “Violet.” The model would be no different if the gender roles were reversed and it was John who was betrayed and Sue who strayed.
If John and Sue decide to reconcile, it is then John’s job to do what is necessary to rebuild Sue’s trust in him. To do so, John will have to go to extra lengths to prove to Sue that his affair with Violet has ended and all contact (Step One) has ceased.
John must recognize that Sue has a “need to know” — and a right to know — that he is finished with Violet.
The burden, as I noted, is on John. He shouldn’t wait for Sue to ask him about the affair (or affairs, if Violet was not his only outside hookup). John should give Sue full access to his email, text messages, cell phone, and any other communications devices, so that Sue can verify — anytime and without notice — that there has been no hidden contact between John and Violet.
When Sue and John are not together, John must be willing to share details of whom he is meeting with, where, and for what purpose — should Sue ask. This is a limited-time restriction until trust between Sue and John is fully and rightfully restored.
John should avoid one-on-one meetings, with anyone, that could create suspicions for Sue. To limit even the appearance of impropriety, John would be well-advised to bring along a “chaperone” whenever possible.
Should Violet attempt to contact John, he must abstain from connecting and immediately let Sue know about Violet’s attempt. Only after Sue is reasonably confident that John has had no contact with Violet, should John and Sue proceed to the next of the 7 Surviving Infidelity steps, which I’ll be discussing in subsequent articles.
Note, that it is normal for Sue to have lingering doubts regarding the possibility that John is still communicating with Violet, however logic would dictate that it is in fact over and that reconciliation should continue.
This step, proving that the affair has ended, won’t be easy. While John is a composite character representing clients I’ve had over the years, many men and women feel that having to prove their innocence is embarrassing, humiliating, unfair, and even a violation of their rights.
It’s understandable why they may view it that way.
Were it not necessary to regain the trust of Sue, I wouldn’t recommend such naked transparency. But it is necessary to prove the elicit relationship is 100% over. And by voluntarily making himself an open book, John can greatly contribute to Sue’s healing and the rebuilding of the relationship.
In fact, the very act of complete and utter transparency – as required by this step, presents the best possible opportunity to demonstrate John’s re-commitment to Sue. When John sets aside his own feelings and puts those of Sue’s first, this is a reversal of the essence of what infidelity is — putting someone else before Sue. And making one’s legitimate partner first is the essence of fidelity and loyalty.
The uncomfortable feelings and emotions that arise in the aftermath of infidelity are common. It might help to think of these various discomforts as a test. If “John” is sufficiently remorseful, while still being committed to the relationship, then he can prove his resolve to Sue — and to himself — by being faithful to each of the 7 Surviving Infidelity steps requirements, as unpalatable as some of them might be to him.
I consistently note, if more men and women understood the tremendous costs of infidelity,
no doubt many of those who stray would think twice before ever beginning an illicit affair.
Are you or a family member struggling to cope in the aftermath of infidelity? I offer other helpful articles at SurvivingInfidelity.info.