You may always think that there’s one line that your significant other can never cross, and if they ever did — in this purely hypothetical situation in your mind — you’d be out the door. Your trust would be broken, and there would be no coming back from that. How could you ever even consider trusting them again?
Well, the realities of relationships are not so cut-and-dry. If you’re early on in a relationship, this action can be an early sign of continued infidelity, and it might be best to get out while you can before you put down any anchors. But what if you’re in a long-term relationship, what if you’ve been living together for some time, what if the cheating partner is your spouse? What if they’re someone with whom you’ve built a life and can see a future? Maybe divorce isn’t the only option.
You need to establish that this was a singular mistake. An ongoing relationship or a repeat cycle is much harder to forgive. And if it is an ongoing thing, then it needs to be stopped. That is not negotiable. You’re not reading this if you’re in an open relationship. And it’s not just that the sexual relationship needs to end. They need to cease all contact with the individual in order to show that they mean business when they say they want to work on your relationship with you and earn your trust back.
Right now, you don’t trust them, so it may not seem fair at first glance to put limits on their social engagements if they include spots where they could potentially run into this person. Let’s say the other person is an old friend or a friend of a friend. That connection needs to be cut out. If it was a person from work, then even the most giving of counselors advise giving up that job.
If you’re like most Americans, you can’t just walk in and quit. There has to be some leeway for your partner to be able to find a new job, but they should include you in the process to show that they are making an effort. This is all about building trust that has been lost, and it’ll be impossible at first to just give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their efforts to cut this person out of their life. This may involve even moving to a new city to make this work. If you’re serious about making it work — drastic changes need to be made.
It basically goes without saying at this point. But you need to be able to talk this out with your partner. You need to have a safe space, so having a counselor there to mediate these kinds of conversations, especially at first, in order to lay out the ground rules and keep things healthy even if they can’t stay civil, is incredibly important. It can be very easy to go from trying to talk things out to fix things to trying to hurt your significant other like they hurt you.
Important to take into account is to schedule this conversation for the future. Getting a counselor involved will force that. But you don’t want to get into it right away in the heat of the moment. You don’t want to have this conversation as soon as you find out about the affair or indiscretion. This talk needs to include a fair and balanced look at what happened and what led to the affair in the first place. What were the circumstances in your relationship with your partner that led to them to seek sexual or emotional gratification elsewhere. While you are still the victim, be willing to accept some of the blame — not in the act of violence to your relationship but — in the circumstances and reasons that led to it.
It may be hard at first to look your partner in the eye. It may feel like you’ll never be able to do it again. But you need to schedule some time together. You’ll find yourself rebuilding bridges and the foundations of your relationship. You’ll find yourself figuring things out and rediscovering what made you fall in love with that person in the first place. Spending time together is investing in your relationship. You’re putting in the time to re-establish the normal patterns of your relationship which is key to having a relationship again.
Only after rebuilding the foundations of your relationship, and after your partner has shown that they are trustworthy, then start making small steps to trust them again. You have to let go of the leash at some point. But if the same patterns are re-emerging that gave rise to the circumstances of the infidelity in the first place, you need to go back to the drawing board. You haven’t healed the damage in your relationship and you need to work on that in order to be able to move on.
On the other hand, if that trust cannot be re-established, or there is a breakdown in the ability to make a clean break from the circumstances that gave rise to the infidelity, then you need to be able to know when to walk away. Some people are just not able to re-establish a relationship after experiencing such a violent moment in a marriage or partnership. There’s nothing wrong with that and you need to realize that there’s nothing wrong with you.
With something like this, there’s no simple way to just get over it. You may want to and pressure yourself to get there, but that’s just as unhealthy. If the relationship is important to you, and it’s worth it to you, you should put in the time and effort to make it work. But it’s important to know how to recognize the signs within yourself and your partner that it’s time to cut ties and just walk away.