Moving on. For many, that’s an impossible task, even when it has nothing to do with cheating. But when you’ve been cheated on, or when your spouse has had an affair, taking even a single step forward feels horrible. The shock and pain of the discovery are going to be incredibly traumatic, maybe more traumatic than anything you’ve ever experienced.
But that doesn’t mean you have to remain frozen in time and stuck with the trauma. There are ways to cope and heal.
Here is how to move forward after cheating, according to a therapist:
Sign Up For Infidelity Counseling
If you want to move forward after an affair, then you and your partner need counseling. Depending on the situation, you may both also opt for individual therapy to discuss some underlying reasons why the affair may have occurred. Furthermore, it is always beneficial to have a professional’s unbiased opinion available. The therapist listens without judgment and can steer conversations in the right direction.
Therapy ensures that both sides get heard and that both people recover. While the infidelity or marriage counselor will focus on the hurt partner more for the first few sessions, they eventually bring the attention back to the matter at hand: the infidelity and why it happened.
Together with a therapist, you can work together in a safe place and revisit your relationship. Together, you’ll create new goals for your life together; in the end, you’ll be stronger for it.
Consider The Reasons Behind The Infidelity
Most people have a definition of cheating or infidelity that is unique to them. Some might assume that, because their partner has cheated on them, it means the marriage is over or that they are unloved. Studies have found that isn’t always true. Many marriages and relationships that have dealt with unfaithfulness were generally happy and content.
No, most of the time, the reason is far beyond “they don’t love me anymore.” Usually, you are both responsible for the affair in some way.
Affairs happen because one partner is hungry, angry, lonely, bored, and tired. This can manifest as needs in the bedroom not being met, emotional distance, or a faltering sense of self-worth and confidence from aging. There are many reasons why someone would cheat, although none of them are justifiable.
Therefore, both parties need to analyze why the affair happened. That way, they can address those issues, learn how to communicate more effectively, and be confident that it won’t happen a second time as they move forward.
Make Sure The Cheater Atones
As Esther Perel, an author and couples therapist, once said, “Healing begins when the perpetrator acknowledges their wrongdoing.” Now, here’s the rub: A lot of partners who have an affair will feel sorry for hurting their spouse as much as they did, but they do not feel guilty for the actual affair.
So how does the cheater atone? They must—and most importantly—end the affair. If they haven’t done this by the time you both agree to move on, something is wrong. Secondly, they must also let the hurt partner know this happened and disclose how it ended.
This action will start to stitch together the relationship because the betrayed partner has some assurance.
Look at Recovery For Both Sides
As mentioned above, one of the biggest steps in moving forward after cheating is for the one who had the affair to end the affair. The next step is honesty and transparency. If you are defensive about the affair and refuse to answer your partner’s questions, it’s only going to hinder progress moving forward. In many cases, a lack of transparency leads to the end of the marriage, because neither partner is able to trust the other.
The deceiver is going to have to relinquish some control, which is a task in and of itself. You might not want your partner to have access to your emails, texts, DMs, and phone calls, but this access is crucial to regaining their trust.
Now, this is where it gets tricky. Both people may require therapy. Emotional attachments, traumas from childhood, addictions, mental illness, and other factors all play a role in why the deceiver did what they did as much as how the deceived reacted.
In the end, infidelity therapy works to absolve the pain occurring in both parties. The partner who’s been hurt learns to deal with their anger and works on openness and tolerance. The one who had the affair must give up some autonomy and learn how to communicate their needs.
Work On Restoring Trust
When someone cheats on someone else, it creates a rift between them. The trust that you felt for the betrayer is gone. That is why rebuilding that trust plays a critical role in infidelity therapy. In order to move forward after cheating, a lot is going to have to happen.
In infidelity therapy, for instance, the therapist is going to make sure both sides tell their story. The goal is not to make the betrayer feel ashamed or to trigger the hurt partner. Transparency, honesty, and compassion are at the forefront of restoring trust in a relationship. This also gives the partner who was cheated on a sense of control and reassurance that their partner does want to stay with them.
You Can Move Forward Together
Hopefully, you now know how to move forward after cheating. Attending therapy sessions with a professional is vital to recovery, as is taking time to work through the trauma and the aftermath. Whether you had an affair or are the one who was hurt by it, you can move forward after cheating successfully. Yes, the road will be hard, but if you make the effort, happiness is at the end of the path.
Couples Academy was developed to help couples like you work through whatever challenges come your way—together. Created by an infidelity recovery specialist and marriage coach, Couples Academy gives you real tools for strengthening your bond. Learn to communicate more effectively and get more happiness out of your marriage. Fill out the contact form to learn more.