Moving Forward After Infidelity: Addressing Trust And Insecurity Issues
Discovering that your partner has been unfaithful can be a painful experience, but it doesn't necessarily mean the relationship should end. There are ways to work past the lingering trust and insecurity issues and rebuild your connection to move forward together. Read on to learn why people cheat, how it harms the relationship, and how you can move on after infidelity—together.
What Is Infidelity?
Cheating. Betrayal. Unfaithfulness. There are many words to describe infidelity, but it essentially means one partner intentionally establishes an emotional or physical connection outside the relationship.
“Infidelity is the breaking of a promise to remain faithful to a romantic partner, whether that promise was a part of marriage vows, a privately uttered agreement between lovers, or an unspoken assumption.” — Infidelity, Psychology Today
Define What Cheating Is In Your Relationship
The boundaries of infidelity can be different for everyone, so it can be helpful to discuss with your partner what constitutes cheating for both of you. Is mild flirtation okay if there’s no intent to follow through? What if someone kisses them and they rebuff the advance but don’t tell you? Open communication and healthy boundaries can help you avoid a lot of pain due to misunderstandings by expressing what you feel crosses the line.
Types of Infidelity
- Sexual: A physical or sexual connection outside the relationship, with or without an emotional bond
- Emotional: Building an emotional connection and intimacy with someone other than your partner
- Cyber: Virtual messaging, texts, calls, or videos of a sexual nature outside the relationship
- Object: Obsession or interest in something over your partner, such as work or your phone
- Financial: Being deceitful about how much you earn, spend, owe, or lend money
- Micro-Cheating: Small actions that bother your partner but don't necessarily cross a line, such as flirting
How Infidelity Leads To Trust Issues And Insecurity
When your partner seeks physical or emotional solace with someone else, it’s common to experience difficulty trusting them not to do it again and insecurity about yourself or the strength of the relationship. You trusted your partner to be faithful, which didn't work out. So, where do you go from here? While the pain of betrayal undeniably hurts, take comfort in knowing that the feeling is temporary and you can heal from the consequences of infidelity.
What Cheating Does To A Relationship
Infidelity can affect your relationship in many ways. If your partner strays, you may feel many intense emotions, including anger, pain, grief, and insecurity, which could linger and develop into mental health conditions.
The Fallout After Infidelity
- You may feel traumatized by the betrayal. Some people may experience the symptoms of post-infidelity stress disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.
- You may go through various stages of grief.
- Changes to your brain neurochemistry similar to chemical withdrawal with substance use disorder
- If you have children, they may suffer from tension and disharmony in the home and possible trust issues in future relationships.
- Difficulty trusting your partner in the future
- Insecurity, low self-esteem, and self-loathing
- Mental health conditions like anxiety or depression
How To Move Forward
While many relationships don’t survive infidelity, it is possible to heal from the emotional damage and move forward together—if both partners are committed to making the relationship work. If your partner cheated and you're struggling to handle the aftermath, try some techniques to help you cope.
Taking care of your mental, physical, and emotional health helps ensure you are the best possible version of yourself. It can be easier to deal with relationship problems when your body is healthy, and you get enough sleep. You may feel bad about yourself if your partner is unfaithful, and self-care can reinforce a positive self-image.
Address Underlying Issues And Process The Pain
It may help some people to learn the exact reasons why their partner cheated so they can address those issues and process the related pain and distress. For some, the only way forward is through the mess, so try asking questions to learn what you need to know, feel what you feel, and then let it go.
Practice A Mindful Lifestyle
Many people find that practicing a mindful lifestyle, with strategies such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques, can help them reframe negative thoughts when trust and insecurity become a problem.
Identify And Change Unhealthy Patterns
You may notice unhealthy thought and behavior patterns related to your partner's infidelity, such as comparing yourself to other people and wondering who they find more attractive or instantly jumping to conclusions about your partner's actions when you're not together. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you recognize and reshape unhealthy thinking and behavior patterns.
Lean On Your Support System
While you may not want to tell everyone about your partner's infidelity, it can help to have a few trusted people you lean on to help support you through healing.
Forgive And Move On
If you’re both determined to stay together and make the relationship work, find out what you need to forgive your partner. Make your needs clear, and if they do what you ask, choose to forgive them and move on with the issue settled between you. As you continue together, devote your attention to safeguarding your relationship from infidelity in the future.
Keep Lines Of Communication Open And Check-In
Forgiving doesn't mean forgetting; you may still face insecurity and trust issues. Ensure you communicate with your partner regularly and occasionally check in so you know how they're feeling and that you actively express your emotions and needs.
Why Do People Cheat?
While the reasons an individual is unfaithful are unique, researchers compiled some common answers people have given when asked about the reasons for infidelity.
Some people may cheat because they are angry with their partner and want to hurt them.
Cheating can happen when someone outside the relationship provides the interest and ego boost they need to feel desirable and attractive.
Lack Of Love Or Intimacy
If your relationship lacks love or intimacy, your partner may stray to feel connected to someone.
Studies show that the cliché "once a cheater, always a cheater" may be more than folk wisdom; partners unfaithful in previous relationships are three times more likely to do it again.
Some people have difficulties maintaining a monogamous relationship for a variety of reasons. They may feel restricted by the commitment to a single person.
People with sexual addiction often seek sexual activity when and where it becomes available. While they are dealing with strong sexual impulses, it doesn’t excuse infidelity unless you’ve set boundaries about the subject together.
Symptoms Of Mental Health Conditions
Some mental health conditions, such as bipolar depression, may have symptoms involving risky sexual behavior, difficulty controlling impulses, and self-destructive behavior.
Feelings Of Neglect
If one partner feels neglected, they may seek the attention they crave elsewhere.
Rebuilding Trust After Betrayal
For many couples, rebuilding trust after infidelity is possible, but it requires consistent efforts from both partners to make it work properly. Both need to maintain open communication, check in with each other to monitor feelings, and continue to choose each other every day.
If You Cheated
- End the affair
- Take accountability
- Apologize with sincerity
- Move forward with transparency
- Address insecurity and trust issues.
If Your Partner Cheated
- Recognize that your partner’s cheating isn’t your fault.
- Decide a way forward together.
- Practice unconditional kindness toward yourself.
- Express your feelings and find a way to forgive and move on.
- Find healthy ways to address your insecurities and tell your partner how to reassure you.
The Importance Of Forgiveness
If you tell your partner that you've forgiven them for infidelity and then continue to act as if the matter's not settled, it can lead to further problems in the relationship. It can be crucial to genuinely mean it before you tell your partner they are forgiven. Otherwise, you may encounter repressed anger and resentment down the road.
Reach Out For Help
If you and your partner are having trouble moving past the insecurity and trust problems related to infidelity, you may benefit from speaking with a couples therapist to help you identify and address relationship problems with the support and guidance of a mental health professional.
How Couples Therapy Can Help Overcome Trust And Insecurity
Many couples have trouble moving forward after infidelity due to insecurity and trust issues. If this sounds like you, consider working with a licensed therapist online through a virtual therapy platform focused on relationship issues like Regain. Therapy can help you identify the underlying issues that led to cheating, build healthy communication methods to communicate feelings and needs, and teach practical coping methods to help you manage stress and resolve conflicts.
Couples therapy works equally well whether you’re doing it online or in person, according to recent research from the Frontiers in Psychology medical journal. During the study, both groups showed similar results, with a reduction in symptoms related to anxiety, depression, and stress and an increase in relationship satisfaction. Online therapy tends to be less expensive and has shorter wait times while offering you a wide range of therapists so that you will find a good match.
Infidelity can be a traumatic event to overcome in a relationship, but it is possible to move forward together if both partners are committed to making it work. The information provided in this article may offer some insight into why people cheat, what it does to the relationship, and how couples therapy can help you find ways to process your feelings and build a stronger connection with your partner for the future.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can a relationship go back to normal after cheating?
Whether or not it’s a good idea to try to mend a relationship that’s been affected by infidelity depends on a lot of factors. You will probably want to consider how long the relationship has lasted, the nature or severity of the infidelity, how the infidelity has been handled, and more. Even if you and your partner decide to try and rebuild your relationship, things may never feel quite the same again. You might struggle with feelings of insecurity, jealousy, or fear. You might continue to harbor hurt and pain as you go through the process of getting things back to normal.
Important parts of any relationship include communication, honesty, and openness, and this is especially true when you’re trying to work through difficult obstacles. Brutal honesty and hard conversations will likely need to happen. You may want to seek the assistance and guidance of a trusted friend, loved one, or mental health professional as you work on rebuilding your relationship.
It’s not likely your relationship will go completely back to what you’ve come to know as normal. You will likely feel hurt in the wake of infidelity, and that’s okay. You may want to consider whether or not your relationship is worth saving, or if you would be better of finding ways to forgive and move on. It’s hard to heal from an affair or cheating – don’t feel like you have to pretend things are okay when they aren’t.
Either way, it may be a good idea for both of you to get some distance. Sometimes there are serial cheaters, who simply enjoy the act. But oftentimes cheating is one symptom of a greater problem. Is there something going on in your relationship that you have not been addressing? Are you genuinely happy to be with this person? When you consider continuing on with the relationship, do not think about the cheating as an isolated event, but rather in the context of the entire union between you and this person.
Can you move forward after cheating?
You, as an individual, absolutely can move forward after cheating. Even though you may struggle with the pain that infidelity causes, it’s entirely possible to work through it (see “does infidelity pain ever go away?” for more).
As far as healing the relationship goes, moving forward after cheating may or may not be a good idea for you and/or your partner. A relationship that’s been affected by cheating may be salvaged, but sometimes it’s best to part ways and move on. That will depend on your situation, and you should use cheating as an opportunity to look closely at your relationship and ask yourself if adds to your quality of life or subtracts from it.
There really is no one answer for whether or not you should give someone who cheated another chance. There are some signs of a toxic individual or relationship you may want to look out for, like being cheated on multiple times, a lack of communication, lack of respect for boundaries, or anything else that makes you feel like your partner isn’t caring for you the way they should.
As you begin healing and make decisions regarding your future, you will probably want to be able to rely on a healthy support system. Friends, family, counselors, therapists, etc. can all be good sources of advice and continuous support as you work through the thoughts feelings and realities of dealing with infidelity.
How do I move forward after my husband cheated?
Moving forward from pain caused by an unfaithful spouse may be or seem more difficult than other cases of infidelity.
You might struggle with your self confidence and self esteem after being cheated on by a spouse. It’s easy to blame yourself for infidelity by telling yourself you weren’t good enough, desirable enough, etc., but it’s important to remember that this is not true. In times of turmoil, it’s crucial that you have a good support system in place. This can consist of family, friends, other loved ones, and healthcare professionals.
You will likely need to give yourself time to fully process, accept, and deal with the reality of infidelity. During this time, be brutally honest with yourself about what you need to heal; don’t shy away from being truthful about your emotions. Speaking to a counselor or therapist might be especially useful for working through your specific challenges.
Remember, if someone cheats on you, it is not your fault. You can look at the relationship honestly without being torn up by guilt, wondering if you were good enough. Take some time to focus on you and build up your confidence and self-image. It may be a good time for a wardrobe or interior design change. Make a change in your exercise routine, or start cooking yourself some healthy and delicious meals. Being cheated on can have very negative affects on your confidence, and it is important to remember that fostering your self-love will help the whole relationship, and you as an individual!
Does infidelity pain ever go away?
When you’re struggling with pain, hurt, or betrayal, it can feel like things will never get better. Sometimes infidelity leads to changes that impact your entire life – you may have to change your living situation, for example, or worry about children or other loved ones. Infidelity can feel like a big deal beyond just the personal pain you might expect.
You might also feel like you’ll never find ways to heal or trust again in a future relationship. It can be difficult to feel safe putting yourself back out there when you have experienced betrayal in the past. Despite all of the challenges that healing from infidelity pain might pose, you can (and will!) overcome them.
Earlier we discussed some ways to promote personal healing and growth. You might focus on self-care, for instance, or try out new hobbies and spend time with friends. You also might feel better giving yourself a break from romantic relationships; this gives you the time that you need to focus on becoming your best self.
It may take what feels like a long time to feel like yourself again, but with resources like family, a best friend, or even a mental health professional, you can land on your feet even after something as hard as infidelity.
Do you really love someone if you cheat on them?
Infidelity is a complicated issue, and no two cases are exactly the same. We generally assume or believe that people who cheat on their partners don’t truly care about them. Cheating on someone is undoubtedly a huge betrayal of trust, and it’s typically considered a selfish decision.
Sometimes cheating can stem from a lack of physical, romantic, or emotional intimacy in a long-term relationship. Cheaters might seek these forms of intimacy or connection from someone other than their partner but be unwilling to (or afraid to) accept the consequences that come with ending their existing relationship. This is not to excuse the actions of the cheater, but to suggest a scenario in which an individual might feel trapped or unhappy and resort to infidelity.
Understanding the thought process and motivation of a cheater can be hard, especially when you are on the receiving end of infidelity. Many cheaters will feel regret and remorse for their actions. Sometimes, people who cheat will do so multiple times. This reality may be indicative of deep problems and insecurities on the end of the cheater that may need to be addressed.
Do cheaters deserve a second chance?
Whether or not a cheater deserves a second chance depends on a lot of factors. What sort of cheating or infidelity was involved? Was it a mere case of social media interaction or something more serious? Was your partner honest about their mistake? Do they have a pattern of cheating? What is the root cause of the infidelity?
It might be tempting to go with a sort of gut feeling decision, especially if you are hurt and heartbroken by your partner’s actions and don’t want to/aren’t ready to give them up. Sometimes, though, it may be in your best interest to move on. You can find more helpful information and insight throughout the rest of the FAQ section about how to process where to go next.
Do cheaters feel guilt?
Oftentimes, people who are unfaithful in relationships aren’t having affairs or cheating out of malice. There are a lot of things that might lead someone to cheat, like a lack of physical or emotional intimacy in a current relationship, feeling trapped in a long-term relationship, or other situations. These aren’t excuses for cheating, nor do they excuse it, but they might help you understand how it’s possible for someone to feel guilty while/after cheating.
It’s also possible for someone who has cheated to feel regret and remorse. They may not feel that whatever they hoped to gain from the affair wasn’t worth sacrificing the trust and bond they had in a relationship with you. Cheaters are people too, and it’s likely that they don’t feel great about being unfaithful, especially if it causes pain for someone else. However, guilt does not excuse behavior.
How do cheaters react when confronted?
How a cheater might react when confronted depends on the affair and the person. It also might depend on the nature of the confrontation itself. Someone who cheats might feel safe being honest in a calmer situation than they would if suddenly and emotionally confronted. Denial, defensiveness, deflection, and other emotional responses are more likely to happen when tension is high.
If you suspect your partner may be cheating, it’s probably wise to sit them down to talk about it. You may want to give your partner the chance to be honest with you about the circumstances of the affair, or you may just simply want to know and understand the truth.
Should you forgive a cheater?
You might have a gut feeling about whether or not to forgive a cheater, especially if the actions were especially hurtful or selfish. Sometimes it’s not so clear whether or not you should move forward in the relationship or simply try and move on.
Try to avoid thinking about the reaction of your partner if you were to leave them for cheating. Cheating is often a symptom of an unhealthy union, rather than the illness itself. Ask yourself about your personal feelings about the relationship.
Some questions to consider:
- If you had never met this person, would you feel relieved or disappointed?
- When you picture your future together with this person, are you excited or uneasy?
- Are there other people who you would like to be with as well, or other dreams that you would like to fulfill?
- Does this person improve or worsen your quality of life?
- Before the cheating, were you already questioning this relationship?
Speak to yourself frankly and honestly. Rather than worrying about what other people will think, or what you should be expected to do, think about what you really want. Do you want to be in this relationship?
This is the time to ask yourself the difficult questions. Because if you move on from this, it may make your relationship much stronger. Infidelity will make or break your union.
See “do cheaters deserve a second chance?” for a longer, more detailed breakdown.
What percentage of marriages survive infidelity?
Many surveys claim that about 60% of relationships survive infidelity. However, exact statistics and numbers for how many marriages suffer from infidelity issues and how many are ended because of them can differ. It’s also important to consider that surveys might only represent the number of people who actually admit to infidelity.
In other words, there might be other factors beyond just the relationship that motivate a married couple to work on fixing their relationship, like family stability. Some figures estimate that about half of marriages impacted by infidelity don’t end in divorce, but others report much lower success rates.
Ultimately, whether or not a marriage makes it through infidelity likely depends a lot on the unique circumstances surrounding the affair.
- Previous Article
- Next Article