You’ve been betrayed and your entire world has been rocked. Not only does the person you thought you knew suddenly feel like a stranger, but your own identity and sense of self becomes so wobbly that you wonder if you will ever feel “normal,” safe, or happy again.
Many ask, “Is it possible to rebuild trust with your partner after infidelity?” The answer is yes, and when you do, you will also rebuild trust with yourself, your future, and the world in a way that enables you to be stronger and healthier that you were before.
What Does it Take to Trust Again After an Affair?
Trusting again after an affair begins with a radical understanding and untangling of the multitude of ways you were betrayed. Too often we characterize infidelity or betrayal as a single act, or if there was more than one partner, as multiple, countable acts of betrayal. Contrary to what you might think, each “act” of infidelity, or each person that your partner cheated with, is much more than a single betrayal.
Each act of infidelity, whether emotional or physical, involves multiple betrayals, many of which have nothing to do with your partner! Instead, they have to do with culture, ideology, beliefs, and even yourself.
Yes, betrayal involves the obvious breaches of emotional, financial, marital, and sexual trust by your partner, but there are also the less obvious violations of trust around your idea of how the world is “supposed to” work, what it means to be married, and what you grew up believing your life was “supposed to” be like.
Of course, it’s difficult to trust again after infidelity! But it’s not impossible. Let’s walk through the steps necessary to understand the complex nature of trust, untangle the many ways that you were betrayed, and reconnect your back to yourself so you can start building trust with your partner, yourself, and your life once again.
Figure Out Who and What Betrayed You
First, let’s separate and untangle the many ways you were betrayed, and how your trust was violated. To do this, pull out a pen and paper and start ranting about every way you were hurt, violated, or betrayed. But instead of moving into blame, shame, or victimhood, get a little analytical and write down who and what betrayed you.
My list included being betrayed by my husband sexually, emotionally, financially, and friendship-wise. But it also included feeling betrayed by God, for not keeping me safe and protected from harm, by the promise that if I did right by others, they would do right by me, by my belief that marriage as a sacred institution, by my intuition because I somehow “missed the signs” of my husband’s infidelity, and by the marriage counselors we had seen early in our marriage who had really messed us up, and by the script in my head about how my life was supposed to turn out.
Heal Betrayal – One Piece at a Time
After you have made your list and have started to figure out who and what betrayed you, sort through your list and mark which of the betrayals seem the easiest to get over, and which ones feel the most difficult.
I had been betrayed by my husband, by God, by a promise that I thought had been made to me by society, by my belief created from my culture, by my intuition, by marriage counselors, and by the script in my head about how my life was supposed to be.
For me, rebuilding trust in God felt easier than rebuilding trust in my beliefs or worldview. I had evidence that God had been there for me before, and my past experience showed me that even when things felt hopeless, they tended to work out in ways I would have never seen coming. But the idea of rebuilding my beliefs about the way the world worked, the institution of marriage, and why bad things happen to good people seemed really, really difficult!
Start With What’s Easy & Rebuild Your Self-Trust Muscle Slowly
As with any skill, it’s important to begin at the beginning so you can build up your skills and confidence for more difficult tasks later on. Don’t start with something huge like “forgiving your spouse” or “trusting your partner on a business trip!” Start with what feels easiest and build up from there.
As you do, you learn to trust yourself again. Without conscious effort, your worldview begins to shift. You develop a new set of beliefs, integrate different narratives or scripts into your life, and you explore new and different ideas. This is the process of learning to trust yourself again.
Maybe more than you ever trusted yourself before.
Because being betrayed makes you wise. Having experienced the quintessential “fall from innocence” you now know your life really is all about you. You are the only one who can feel your own intuition, recognize (and either release or revamp) your stories or beliefs, and you are the only one who can choose who, what, and when to trust again. Most importantly, you now know the only way to trust others again is by learning to trust yourself. One decision at a time.
How to Rebuild Trust After an Affair – A Process, Not a Destination
The essential first step in learning to trust again after a betrayal is getting clear about who or what betrayed you. Knowing this helps you heal faster and more completely because instead of lumping all the pain of betrayal together, blaming everything on your cheating partner, and being paralyzed by the overwhelm, it allows you to separate out and heal different facets of your betrayal individually. So you don’t get stuck in resentment, locked into cynicism and hate, or stuck in the soul-shattering pain for any longer than you have to.
Building your self-trust muscle back up takes time. But starting with what’s easier and working up to what’s harder, let’s you develop the confidence, skill, and grace necessary to get back on your feet, and get back to healthily trusting both yourself and others again.
For more information about learning to trust after betrayal, and to explore the eight-step process for rebuilding trust with your partner after an affair, check out my podcast, How to Rebuild Trust After an Affair with Yourself, Your Partner, and Life.
Download your Sparkle After Betrayal Recovery Guide at www.BetrayalRecoveryGuide.com and start reclaiming yourself and your life today!