How can couples recover from cheating?

As hard as it is to accept, infidelity happens.

Relationship counselor and psychologist Lissy Ann A. Puno, author of Affairs Don’t Just Happen, shares that a variety of reasons can be attributed to this act of betrayal, some of which are valid but hardly ever justifiable. (READ: Why do people cheat?)

Cheating in a relationship can be viewed relatively – to others, an affair, whether emotional or sexual, is an immediate dealbreaker. Others though are able to see it as a relationship hurdle to "overcome."

As long as the promise of exclusivity and commitment to your partner has been broken in any shape or form, heartbreaking damage is instantly marked upon the relationship indefinitely.

Is cheating unforgivable? For some, yes. For others, not necessarily. As a couple, this is for you to both decide.

Choosing to "work it out"

Facts are facts: the cheating happened, and someone was gravely hurt in the process.

What now? Some couples cut ties, while other choose to "give it another shot."

Lissy Ann shares with Rappler concrete ways on how couples who do so can recover from the said damage, repair the cuts caused, as well some of the complexities couples may encounter during their bumpy road to recovery.

Can post-affair couples recover?

“A high percent of couples recover from affairs,” Lissy Ann shared. “Affair recovery seems impossible, but strong, happy marriages can be repaired.”

Recovery begins from a couple’s unanimous choice to keep and rebuild the relationship together.

After this vital first step, Lissy Ann shares a few resolutions both partners must commit to do:

  • Choose to love daily
  • Repair “negative” patterns within yourself, in your partner, and in your relationship that may block you from getting the love you want
  • Acknowledge the hurt, pain, fear and sadness to recover slowly from them
  • Adopt a hopeful and positive outlook that things will be better
  • Recommit every single day as you go through the natural ups and downs of marriage and not to “jump ship”

General advice is helpful, but undeniably, the healing process of both the betrayer and the betrayed will of course greatly differ.

What are the concrete steps each should take in ensuring a repaired relationship?

Recovery for the betrayer

  • Acknowledge the wrong you have done and the pain and hurt you caused
  • Express sincere remorse
  • Display self-awareness and then express your willingness to “grow” and “resolve” your problem areas
  • Demonstrate the determination, motivation, and commitment to make amends and “change for the better”
  • Begin to behave in open, trustworthy, and honest ways
  • Recreate a closer and loving relationship – bring back gestures of affection, acts of thoughtfulness in every day life
  • Do not put your relationship at risk for any reasons – avoid opportunities that may pose as temptations

Recovery for the betrayed

  • Allow yourself to fully feel the hurt and the pain
  • Accept that there was something missing in the marriage
  • See your partner for the wounded and imperfect person they are
  • Allow yourself to see the positive behavior being offered – don't always doubt it
  • Imagine yourself in the near future trusting your partner again
  • Choose to forgive even if you can’t seem to forget and move on just yet
  • Commit to be present in the relationship
  • Gradually engage in a loving relationship with your partner
  • Allow yourself to feel happiness, love, and security as it begins to emerge

Complexities in cheating cases

No infidelity-stricken relationship is ever the same as another's.

There are always “special cases” or different circumstances to factor in that vary among couples. These "complexities" may make the couple's road to recovery more challenging.

What are some of these complexities? “It gets very complex when one partners says ‘I still love you, that was nothing. I am back, it’s over,’” Lissy Ann said.

“Also, when the affair happens at work, and you are still exposed to the third party, rebuilding of trust can get very challenging.”

“When the betrayer is not remorseful and believes the short-lived happiness was deserved. When your feelings of hurt are invalidated and your requests for amends are seen as being dramatic and demanding.”

Other complexities include:

  • A child born from the extra-marital affair
  • A string of past affairs that makes trust harder
  • Having own children affected by the marital breakup, which adds another stressor
  • Years of thinking you had the “perfect marriage” makes you doubt yourself

“It’s possible,” Lissy Ann reiterates.

Although it may be one of the most – if not, the most – challening point of your relationship, with joint determination, commitment, and the genuine love your relationship was built upon, it can happen. – Rappler.com

Lissy Ann A. Puno, M.A.'s book, Affairs Don't Just Happen,delves into the commonplace of affairs and the warning signs to watch out for, underlying needs to be aware of and understood, and affirming, caring and loving ways to safeguard a relationship.

Steph Arnaldo

If she’s not writing about food, she’s probably thinking about it. From advertising copywriter to freelance feature writer, Steph Arnaldo finally turned her part-time passion into a full-time career. She’s written about food, lifestyle, and wellness for Rappler since 2018.

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