People cheat on their partners for a wide variety of reasons. But regardless of the reason, unfaithfulness is hurtful and it can create a permanent rift between two people. If your partner has cheated and has expressed remorse for what he or she has done, then you may need to take certain steps to move forward in the relationship. Keep reading to learn how to handle a cheating partner.
- Understand the nature of your partner’s cheating. People cheat for many different reasons and it is not always about sex. Sometime people cheat because they are seeking an emotional connection, trying to deal with a loss or crisis, or seeking an escape. Do not assume that your partner’s cheating was all about sex. Find out why he cheated before you move forward. Try telling your partner, “I need to know why you cheated and who it was. Please be honest with me and tell me what happened.”
- Request that your partner cut off all communication with the third party. In order to reestablish trust, you need to be certain that the third party is out of the picture. That means asking your partner to break all ties with the person. This severing may be difficult if the third party is a coworker or someone else that your partner sees on a daily basis. It may even be necessary for your partner to seek a new job in order to make sure that there will be no further contact between the two. If your partner is unwilling to cut off contact with the third party, it may be a sign that he or she is unwilling to stop cheating. In this case, you may not be able to repair the relationship. If the third party continues to pursue your partner despite being cut off, you and your partner may want to pursue a restraining order to keep this person away from you both.
- Communicate with your partner when you are ready. Learning that your partner has had an affair may cause you to experience a high level of emotional distress. In this case, you may need some time before you can talk to your partner about what happened. It is important to discuss the affair in order to move forward in your relationship, but don’t feel like you have to discuss the affair with your partner right away. Take your time and talk about it when you feel ready. If your partner pressures you to talk, say something like, “I appreciate that you want to talk, but I am just too hurt right now to talk about what happened. Please show your love for me by giving me space and time.”
- Set boundaries about relationships outside of your marriage. If you partner has cheated, it is more likely that he or she will cheat again. You can help your partner to stop an affair before it develops by establishing boundaries for relationships outside of your marriage. In other words, make sure that your partner understands what types of things are acceptable and what are not. You should also make sure that your partner knows not to disclose certain types of information to avoid having a friendship develop into an affair. For example, your partner should not talk to a work friend about you or your marital issues. You and your partner can work together to compile a list of topics that are acceptable as well as topics that are not acceptable for conversations with friends and coworkers.
- Ask your partner to make his whereabouts known to you throughout the day. This may be difficult but in order to reestablish trust, your partner may need to understand that he has lost your trust. For this reason, you will need to know where your partner is at all times. This may seem unfair to your partner, but it is necessary if he is committed to regaining your trust.
- Talk about your partner’s cheating, but set limits. Schedule two 30 minute sessions each week to talk to your partner about his affair, rather than spreading the questions throughout the week. Don’t ask your partner to reveal things that will be too hurtful for you to hear, such as sexual details.
- Forgive on your own terms. Your partner may be extremely apologetic and desperate for you to say that you forgive him, but do not feel like you must forgive your partner right away. It is okay if you need more time to heal before you forgive your partner. To help your partner understand, let him or her know that you are still too hurt to forgive just yet and that you need more time. Say something like, “I appreciate your apologies and I want you to keep apologizing, but I am just not ready to forgive you yet.”
- Seek help from a counselor. Dealing with a cheating partner on your own is difficult. If it is too hard for you and your partner to work through this process on your own, seek the help of a licensed counselor who specializes in marital issues. A marriage counselor can help you to deal with your emotions and have more constructive conversations. Keep in mind that marriage counseling will not offer an instant solution. Reestablishing trust in your relationship will take time.
- Encourage your partner to be more open with you. Sharing more of your emotions with your partner and encouraging your partner to do the same with you will help strengthen your bond. Make it a habit to confide in each other every day. Some opening questions for confiding in your partner include: “Remember when we used to go walking and talking around the neighborhood, walking the dogs together? Let’s do that again tonight…How about it?”. “What happened yesterday between us didn’t go so well, and I want to try another way-can we start over and this time I will take some deep breaths and listen more patiently. I also want to say what works better for me and find out what you are hoping for.”
- Be considerate of each other’s needs. In order to move forward in your relationship, you will both need to learn how to understand each other’s needs. The best way to uncover what your partner needs and let him know what your need is to talk about it. If you are not sure what your spouse wants or needs, the best way to find out is to ask questions and listen. If you still are not sure, ask more questions. For example, you could say something like, I think that what you need from me is ________. Is that what you mean?”
- Appreciate each other. Showing appreciation through sincere compliments is an important part of a healthy relationship. Make sure that you and your partner are aware of the importance of complimenting each other and that you both know how to do it well. Good compliments should not only be sincere and focused.
- Establish consequences to deal with the possibility of another affair. Since there is a possibility that your partner may cheat again, you should work together to establish consequences for another affair. These consequences may include things like divorce, losing custody of your children, or other repercussions. You may want to get these consequences in writing and work with a lawyer to make them legally binding.
- Know when to end the relationship. If things don’t improve despite all of your best efforts and the help of marriage counseling, you may have to accept that the relationship cannot be repaired. Signs that the relationship may be beyond repair include: constant fighting, inability to connect with your partner, inability to empathize with or receive empathy from your partner, hurt and anger that does not subside with time, inability to forgive your partner.