How To Deal With Trust Issues And Insecurities: Moving Forward After Infidelity
By: Corrina Horne
Updated December 16, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Karen Devlin, LPC
Insecurity in a relationship is not entirely unheard of; many people walk into a relationship with baggage and preconceived notions lending themselves to difficulty trusting or opening up to someone new. What happens, though, when trust issues and insecurities arise on the heels of betrayal by someone you love?
What Is Infidelity?
Infidelity has many definitions, and not everyone agrees on the exact nature of a relationship borne of infidelity. For some, any extramarital or extra-relationship dalliance with romantic interest or feelings constitutes infidelity. For some, only a physical affair warrants the term. For still others, only an intentional sexual encounter with someone outside of your relationship is a strong enough infraction to be considered infidelity.
Because infidelity changes from person to person, nailing down whether or not a partner has committed a betrayal can be difficult; some partners will not agree that an emotional attachment to someone else constitutes infidelity, and may make breaking up and moving on far more difficult as a result. Your partner might not think that a single kiss warrant breaking up, but if you feel that is an insurmountable betrayal, it may be considered infidelity.
To keep things simple, though, the most commonly agreed-upon form of infidelity is a sexual encounter with someone who is not your partner. Infidelity could be as light as kissing someone else, or as intense as a months-long sexual affair. Regardless of the exact nature of the infraction or the duration of the affair, infidelity can tear a relationship apart.
Trust Issues and Insecurity
Trust issues can start after a single romantic betrayal, or they can start in early childhood, and expand as you grow older, to include and influence relationships of all types. Trust issues are usually developed, followed significant betrayal or betrayal that continues on an ongoing basis. People who do not feel supported, loved, and cared for by their parents, for instance, are more likely to have trust issues in other relationships. People who had friends, family members, or romantic partners betray them in adolescence are also more likely to struggle to connect and trusting others in adulthood.
In a similar vein, insecurity usually develops following broken relationships or unhealthy communication and attachment styles in childhood and beyond. Insecurity is often closely related to a fear of abandonment and is usually used to describe a state in which people do not feel they are worthy or deserving of love, affection, or commitment. In friendships, insecurity can be difficult, but in romantic relationships, insecurity can be downright toxic and damaging to both partners.
Although each of these can exist independently of romantic relationships, this particular type of relationship often seems to magnify each; trust issues might not be readily apparent in a friendship, but consistently refusing to let your partner in, or altogether avoiding opening up to your partner will be evident early on in your relationship. In a friendly or familial relationship, you might not require constant reassurance that you are loved and wanted, but a romantic relationship might reveal that you are afraid that no one will love you after they truly know you. Then again, these feelings might not have a place in your personality or relationship until you have been betrayed.
The Aftermath of Infidelity
If trust issues and insecurity did not exist in a person before infidelity, both are likely to develop at some point after infidelity has occurred. This is because betrayal breaks down the foundation of a relationship entirely, effectively destroying any semblance of trust the two of you may have had. Insecurity often also develops, because many people trend toward self-blame when something goes awry in a relationship. If your partner cheats, your immediate reaction might be to assume that something is wrong with you: perhaps you are not attractive enough, interesting enough, or worthy enough for someone to maintain their devotion. The infidelity must, in some part, be your fault.
Although these thoughts are toxic and entirely untrue, they are common feelings to experience following a romantic betrayal, and may even include harmful thoughts, such as "I'm worthless," "Life is pointless," and "I don't feel anything anymore." The emotional effects of infidelity are large and long-lasting and can infiltrate even seemingly unrelated aspects of your life. This is because a romantic betrayal disrupts your view of reality; where you thought you were safe and loved, you discover you are neither safe nor (it can be argued) properly cared for, which can make you question other parts of your life you'd taken for granted.
This process following infidelity can be a particularly painful one because it is usually the start of a period of intense growth and change. You might struggle with emotional fluctuation multiple times a day. Most people who go through infidelity come out the other side a little bit more jaded and more cautious in their romantic pursuits and do not offer their trust, affection, and devotion as readily. This can be a good thing, however: increasing your standards and allowing your guard to remain intact for a trial period at the beginning of any new relationship can help keep your heart protected from extensive emotional damage, and can help you seek out relationships that operate from a healthier place, to begin with.
Healing Trust And Insecurity
Despite the potential growth involved in undergoing betrayal, no one needs or deserves to be betrayed, and the healing process can be a long, painful one. That being said, healing and moving forward with health and confidence is possible, through utilizing simple, intentional practices. These might include:
- Self-Care. Self-care is one of the most important parts of healing. Far from a simple series of checklists regarding skincare and general health, self-care means checking in with yourself regularly to make sure that you are living in alignment with your values, and that you are living with compassion for yourself and others.
- Holding onto the pain of betrayal is neither satisfying nor healthy. Although you may want to continue to see your former partner as a monster, and view them with nothing but contempt and anger, practicing compassion for your former partner will make sure that you are moving forward with integrity and health, while also allowing yourself to let go of the relationship the two of you once had.
- Practicing mindfulness has a host of benefits, not the least of which is decreased anxiety. Anxiety levels can skyrocket following a betrayal, largely due to feelings that might encourage you to question your sanity. Practicing mindfulness, especially multiple times a day, can keep anxiety at bay, while also grounding you in the present moment, instead of living in your past, or worrying about your future.
- One of the greatest benefits to experiencing the pain of betrayal is the ability to truly dig down in your mind and decipher what it is that you truly need and what it is that you want from your life. So many relationships that end up in betrayal began in unhealthy patterns and practices, and you might have been unduly influenced by your partner to determine what you want, apart from your partner's wants and desires.
- Creating Support. Now is not the time to withdraw from friends, family, or loved ones. Now is the time to do the opposite, and dig in with and encourage brutal honesty within the relationships you have, and the people you still trust. Your support system can be as simple as a therapist you entrust your experience to, or it can be a long list of childhood friends, community members, and coworkers, who are all willing and able to help you stay strong amidst the fear towering over you.
Healing after a betrayal is trying work, and it can be difficult not to feel angry and further betrayed by being thrust into an unexpected period of growth and change. This is a time for you to create better habits and stronger, healthier lifestyle practices, though, that will not only help you heal amidst this trial, but will allow you to emerge a stronger, healthier, and happier individual.
Moving Forward After Betrayal
Betrayal is a tumultuous event that can tear asunder every aspect of your life and create numerous emotional and mental wounds. These wounds might be healed relatively quickly, or might persist for years before they are dissolved. The most important thing to remember, though, is that your healing journey is your own, and does not need to follow any trajectory other than the trajectory you set and the pace you create for yourself.
Moving forward after a betrayal does not need to be done on your own; healing in the wake of immense betrayal and emotional pain is usually best done with a solid support team that can be as small as a therapist, such as those available on ReGain.us, and single trusted friend, or as expansive as a group of friends, family, and a series of health professionals.
Moving forward after a breakup is deeply personal and, although it might start on heels of another person's poor decision-making, it is wholly up to you and the exact course it takes is for you to determine. While the world, your friends, and well-meaning peers might urge you to speed up healing to recover as quickly as possible, you can take your time in healing your relationship hang ups and difficulties, and expend as much time and effort as is necessary to feel safe and comfortable moving forward.
Issues in a Relationship
In romantic relationships, there are many different things that come up that are challenging. What are the common issues in a relationship is when one individual is extroverted, and the other one is introverted. It can cause a conflict as to social activities. Maybe someone suffers from social anxiety in the connection. It can cause issues in the relationship when the extroverted person wants to go out and have a good time at a party, and the other partner wants to stay in. The two partners need to learn to compromise, so it doesn't cause further issues in a relationship. Sometimes people have different senses of humor. Another one of the issues in a relationship that people cope with is when one of the partners doesn't like the other one's family. That can cause a divide between the two of them. It's something that causes issues in a relationship because the person doesn't feel comfortable going over for holidays to their partner's house. There are so many issues in a relationship that could cause friction. There could be different intimacy preferences. One of the issues in a relationship is when one person wants to have sex more than the other one does. It can cause a conflict between the two partners. This is one of the common issues in a relationship that we see in couples counseling. There are other problems that, between partners in romantic connections. Another one of the common issues in a relationship is trust problems. When you don't trust your partner, it can cause serious issues in a relationship. There could be jealousy, resentment, or fighting. A lack of trust can cause a variety of issues in a relationship. Once you don't trust your partner, it breaks the foundation of your connection. It's one of the most serious issues in a relationship that you can have. A lack of trust is not easy to overcome. It's one of the most serious issues in a relationship. If you don't trust your partner, you can't feel safe in the connection. You can overcome trust issues if you work through them in therapy, but it will take time.
Feel Your Feelings
After your partner has been unfaithful, your ability to trust is damaged. These issues in a relationship are extremely painful. One person betrayed the other. There's love there, but there's also hurt. Infidelity can lead to trust issues. It's understandable that you feel that way. Your partner betrayed your trust. It caused issues in your relationship. When your ability to trust is broken, it will take time for you to regain it. Relationships are built on a foundation of honesty and communication. When there are issues in a relationship, it's because of a break in trust. It's possible to repair the connection but to do that, each person needs to feel their emotions. One of the best ways to deal with broken trust is talking openly about these issues. Maybe you talk with your partner directly or work it out in couples' counseling. You can fix trust issues by working on it collaboratively. You and your partner need to be on the same page that you want to repair the bond. It's possible to rebuild trust over time. But, if you don't trust your significant other, it's important to be real about it. You don't want to cause further negative issues in a relationship. You may be feeling insecure about the relationship because you're afraid they will cheat again. If that's the case, be honest about that. It's okay to have a trust issue after your faith was violated. One of the best ways to deal when your partner is unfaithful is to be real with them. To work through the emotions and rebuild trust, you need to tell them how you feel and experience your emotions. You may be angry, sad, frustrated, or scared. Those are all valid emotions. The first step to building trust in a relationship is to meet your partner where they're at, and don't force them to feel a certain way. It takes a lot of effort to overcome trust issues. When there are serious issues in a relationship, it's important to honor each person's feelings.
Take it Slow
There's no rush to rebuild trust. If you try to speed up the healing process, it won't work. You want to fix trust issues in the relationship, and that is possible when you and your partner work together. Each person has a right to their feelings. The person who cheated isn't the only person who needs to fix trust issues in a relationship. It's up to both people to work through these emotional challenges. Overcoming trust issues is possible, but you need to take it slow. After a partner cheats, there are many emotional issues to unpack. Why was the person unfaithful? What's missing in the relationship that caused them to stray? Can the partners fix trust issues between each other? These are all questions that the two people can work on answering in couple's therapy. If you want to fix trust issues in a relationship, you need to meet your partner, where they are emotional. If you're the one who cheated, your significant other doesn't trust you. That hurts, but that doesn't make the relationship hopeless. You can fix trust issues in a relationship if you discuss the fears and insecurities in an open way.
How to Build Trust
If you want to rebuild trust in your relationship, there are exercises you can practice together. When were you can build trust in a relationship is to be vulnerable. When you are truthful and speak your mind, you make your partner feel safe. That builds trust in a relationship. When you see a couple's therapist, they can show you how to overcome trust issues. These are skilled mental health professionals who understand what comes up in romantic connections. They know the importance of building trust in a relationship. When you feel secure with your partner, it will better your connection with each other. No relationship is perfect. Everyone has problems and challenges to overcome. If we didn't, then we would not be human beings. It's important to accept that everyone makes mistakes, and we are doing the best that we can no matter what. There are always issues in a relationship. No connection is perfect. But these problems are surmountable if people want to confront them. The issues in a relationship are as big as people make them. You get to decide how you deal with hurt and anger from your partner. It's difficult when the issues in a relationship involve one person lying to another. Once a partner lies to the other, there's disloyalty. It's crucial to have trust in relationships. It's a foundational element in a connection between two people. When you are confident in your partner and their choices, you feel safe. You can build trust in relationships by being true to your word. You may be scared that you will never get that faith back
Overcome Trust Issues
It's possible to overcome trust issues in a relationship. The first step is validating the feelings that come along with that betrayal. If you cheated on your partner, they might be angry, sad, or confused by what happened. These are intense emotions. You can't overcome trust issues instantly, because infidelity is traumatic. When there's trauma, there is also pain. One way to start to overcome trust issues is for you and your partner to go to couple's therapy. A licensed mental health professional can mediate between the two of you. A therapist knows how to help facilitate building trust in a relationship. Many couples come into couple's therapy with problems. It's natural to have issues in a relationship. A couples counselor helps people work through a variety of problems. From infidelity to intimacy problems, they have seen it all. They understand the array issues in a relationship that occur. It may be possible to overcome trust issues, and it may not be. The only way to find out is to try to work through them in couples therapy. And it starts in counseling, but the work continues outside of the therapy setting. If you want to build trust in a relationship, you need to be committed to doing so. You can overcome trust issues if you are determined to do so, and your partner is as well. But remember, there is a chance that you may not be able to trust one another again. The only way to know whether you can overcome trust issues is to try. If you can't fix the relationship, it's not because you failed. Many people struggle to overcome trust issues. Remember that you did the best that you could, and many people would have given up after infidelity. It's a common one of the issues in a relationship that couples therapists see. And many partners work hard to overcome trust issues and can't do it. Whatever the outcome, it's important to try to build trust in a relationship so that you can feel safe and secure.
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. In the case of a struggling or failed marriage, there might be a lot of other factors at play that can make dealing with infidelity more difficult, like living under the same roof, sharing financial resources, children, and more.
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.
Marriages might be more likely to survive an affair or infidelity because of the shared lives and responsibilities of married people. 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.
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