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Betrayed Partners: Healing After Betrayal

Robert Weiss PhD, LCSW

If you’re like most betrayed partners, the worst part of the cheating is not the actual sexual or romantic behaviors your partner engaged in. The worst part is the loss of relationship trust. You love your partner and you want to trust him, but after finding out that he cheated on you, it’s almost impossible to believe a single thing he says or does. And this makes you feel like you’re going crazy. One moment you love him as much as ever; the next moment you can’t stand the sight of him.

Unfortunately, you can expect this craziness to continue for longer than you might like. Usually, it takes at least a year before your relationship will start to feel normal again – and that’s if your cheating partner gets honest with you, makes the necessary behavior changes, and stays honest with you. If his personal process of healing progresses in fits and starts, the process of relationship healing will also progress in fits and starts.

Tips for Healing

As you begin the process of rebuilding relationship trust and emotional intimacy, we suggest the following to both you and your cheating partner.

  • Put your relationship into a safe harbor for at least six months. When you are in the heat of pain and mistrust, that’s not a great time to make decisions that will affect you and your family for the rest of your life. At the six-month mark, you’ll be in a better frame of mind when it comes to major decisions.
  • During the process of healing, do not rely on your partner as your primary source of emotional support. Instead, turn to a therapist, friends, or empathetic family members. Yes, you both need emotional support. But neither of you is in a place where you can provide that to or receive that from one another.
  • Take a time-out from sex. Sure, it may feel like make-up sex is the best sex the two of you have ever had, but sex is not relationship glue. Sex is what got the two of you into this situation. So, give it a rest and focus on the process of rebuilding trust and healing your sense of connection.

Finding Support for Yourself

Rather obviously, your cheating partner has a lot to work on if he wants to save his relationship with you. He will need to start therapy, identify and change his problem behaviors, overcome his denial, and become fully honest with you. He will also need to understand and feel the pain he has caused you. And he will need to do these things for a year or more before you stop living in fear that he will cheat, keep secrets, and tell lies to you again.

But what about you? You’re not the one with the problem. You’re not the one who caused this mess. So why should you think about getting help? My response to that is that you’re absolutely right to have those thoughts. You aren’t the one with the problem; you aren’t the one who needs help. But you have been hurt, very badly, and you deserve to receive some knowledgeable, empathetic support.

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If you have experienced relationship betrayal related to sexual addiction or chronic infidelity, you have experienced a significant form of trauma from which you will need to heal. At the same time, it will help you to understand how your addicted/cheating partner thinks and what your partner’s process of recovery entails. To this end, you may want to consider taking Seeking Integrity’s low-cost online Workgroup for Betrayed Partners. Our next six-week session starts March 1, 2023; click here for more information.