The 5 steps all couples need to take if they want to repair their relationship after cheating
- A 2018 report from the Institute for Family Studies found that about half of people who cheated on their spouses are still married to that person.
- While it certainly isn't easy, there are steps couples can take to properly repair a relationship post-cheating.
- The cheater has to be remorseful about what they did, and both the victim and cheater must be willing to examine where their relationship failed in the past.
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People often assume cheating means a relationship has to end, but that's not always the case. A 2018 report from the Institute for Family Studies found that about half of people who cheated on their spouses are still married to that person.
While it certainly isn't easy, there are steps couples can take to properly repair a relationship post-cheating, according to psychotherapist and Tribeca Therapy founder Matt Lundquist. Here, he tells Business Insider what they are.
The couple should seek out a couple's therapist
The first step involves a trip to a couple's counselor - and neither partner should be dragging their feet.
"People who are able to say, 'I need to go through a process here' are more likely to do successful work to recover from [cheating]," Lundquist said.
Therapy can help both a cheater and the person who was cheated on understand the reasons infidelity occurred, which is a key to repairing lost trust and forgiving each other. But that's only one of many steps a couple must take to repair a relationship broken by infidelity.
The cheater must also be remorseful about their actions
In order for an open and honest discussion to take place in counseling, the cheater has to feel sorry for how they acted.
"The person doing the cheating needs to be somewhat unsettled and allow themselves to be disrupted by the experience," Lundquist said. "It needs to be treated as a significant life event. It needs to hurt a little in order to grow and change."
If the cheater brushes off their actions, however, it could be a sign the relationship is ultimately doomed. If, for example, a cheater blames their infidelity on alcohol or an inability to control themselves rather than taking responsibility, it could mean the relationship is beyond repair, Insider previously reported.
The couple must address the conditions that led to the cheating
After cheating occurs, it's understandable for the person who was cheated on to feel betrayed and, in turn, lose trust in their partner. Although there isn't one surefire way to rebuild that trust, Lundquist says "giving a credible understanding of how the cheating happened" can help. "If the conditions that produced cheating aren't addressed, it will happen again," he noted.
Read more: 7 traits most cheaters have in common
Often, those "conditions" are more about the person who committed the act than the person who was cheated on.
"Many times, people who stray are also hoping to reconnect with lost parts of themselves, with the lives un-lived, with the sense that life is short and there are certain experiences … that they are longing for," Esther Perel, a sex and relationship expert, previously told Business Insider.
A person might also cheat because they're afraid of getting older, feel stressed out, or are unhappy with their lives, Insider previously reported. Lundquist said family history or childhood insecurities can play a role in infidelity too.
Once the cheater determines why they cheated and shares that information with their partner, they can discuss whether they want to resolve the issues.
Both parties have to reflect on where their relationship went wrong
Typically, the cheater has to do the majority of the work to understand their motivations and rebuild the broken relationship. "Is there some trauma or trouble with commitment? Is this relationship for you?" Lundquist asked.
But the person who has been cheated on plays an important role too.
A person's dissatisfaction with their sex life, for example, can cause them to stray from the relationship, Lundquist said. Or maybe the victim was a workaholic who unknowingly neglected their partner, leading the cheater to look for fulfillment elsewhere.
While these aren't excuses for infidelity, they're situations that are important for both parties to understand so they can support each other and move forward.
The victim should be given time to forgive
Lastly, the person who was cheated on shouldn't feel rushed into forgiving their partner. "Most couples we see in therapy are wanting to forgive and might want to do it too quickly as to not hurt the other person," he said.
Offering immediate forgiveness, however, can result in resentment and perpetuate issues with the relationship. Instead, both parties must take time to heal.
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