Trust is a fragile commodity. It takes a long time to earn. If done right, that trust is firm. However, it can be lost in a heartbeat.  Case in point: infidelity. The proverbial rug is pulled out from under the betrayed partner and, at that moment, reconciliation is a pipe dream.  Of course, there is plenty of nuance in every relationship — and in every relationship problem. Not every couple breaks up after experiencing betrayal. What makes it possible for some to work through the nightmare of cheating?

What is Infidelity?

At first glance, the answer to this question seems obvious. Regardless, each couple should define what “cheating” means for them. There can be so much more to betrayal than engaging in a particular sex act. A few questions to consider:

  • Are some sex acts off-limits while others are not?
  • Where does flirting fit in?
  • Do you wish to have an open or polyamorous marriage?
  • How do you handle online/texting interactions?

If you have agreed upon your personal parameters and boundaries but still end up betrayed, it’s normal to feel the full gamut of emotions.

Common Feelings Felt after Betrayal

  • Shame
  • Desire for revenge
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Fear
  • Hopelessness

Allow yourself to feel. As much as possible, take some time before charting a path or making any big decisions. In the meantime, assess the situation to start gauging the potential for working through this crisis.

6 Ways to Tell If You Can Work Through Betrayal

1. Communication Remains Productive

Amidst the anger and accusations, you have found your way back to a more healthy, productive style of communication.

2. The Betrayer Has Apologized and Taken Responsibility

“I’m sorry” is not sufficient. The betrayer must acknowledge what they did and authentically apologize for it. This involves showing remorse, empathy and understanding for the impact of their action on their partner, promising to change, and demonstrating a willingness to immediately make such change happen.

3. The Betrayer Has Cut Off All Contact With the Other Person

The betrayal has happened. Now is the time for counteractions. Besides the above apology, there is the practical and essential act of separating oneself fully from the other person. Trust cannot be rebuilt as long as that person remains present in any way.

4. The Betrayed Spouse is Given Room and Time to Set the Agenda

The spouse who has been cheated on is not to blame. They have every right to feel what they need to feel for as long as they need to feel it. The guilty partner must never rush or pressure them as they set the pace for possible recovery.

5. You Find Ways to Focus on Other Topics

It is a good sign if the spouses can interact about other life issues — particularly if there are children in the picture. Recovery is paramount but not the only issue.

6. New Parameters of Transparency Are Being Created

Rebuilding trust from the ground up involves full disclosure and transparency — right now. Once again, the betrayed spouse can take the lead here.

When Betrayal Leads to a Stalemate

By now, it should be quite obvious that infidelity can create a toxic brew of conflicting emotions. On top of that, of course, trust has been shattered. These conditions can make any situation feel hopeless. As a result, many couples turn to counseling to facilitate healing. Attending weekly therapy sessions — both together and/or individually — can help break through the fear and anger to attain a clearer image of your relationship.

Couples counselors are adept at assisting both partners to heal the damage and make the best possible decisions on how to move forward. Betrayal can lead to separation or a reuniting. It really helps to have a professional guide you through this painful process.