Sunil stumbled upon some online chats that his wife Rekha had been having recently with a male colleague. It created a feeling of doubt in him and he expressed his unhappiness and disapproval to her. Rekha promised to stop chatting with her colleague. However, Sunil was not able to trust her anymore. Thoughts of Rekha chatting with her colleague without his knowledge started haunting him - and the insecurity started becoming visible in his behaviour toward Rekha. Thus making the marriage unpleasant and uncomfortable for both of them.
Anu, while cleaning out her husband's closet, found bills and receipts of the hotel-stays that could not be explained. When questioned her husband admitted to meeting a ‘lady friend' while supposedly being out on work. It seemed like her whole world had collapsed, and she went through days almost mechanically, not feeling anything, or not being able to think. At times she found herself consumed with rage, alternating with periods of pain, when she felt like she would like nothing better than to sleep and never wake up.
Affairs mean trust is broken.
Trust is one of the basic ingredients for a good marriage. It is something that can be built up through careful nurturing and at the same time, it can be broken with great ease too. Trust in a marriage can be broken due to differing reasons - an affair, hidden addictions, lying or financial secrecy shown by one of the partners.
The very thought that your spouse has been unfaithful or has been lying or hiding something from you can make you go through a whole gamut of emotions. You may feel shocked, cheated, frustrated, angry, betrayed, uncertain and hurt. Sometimes you are overcome by a sense of helplessness and powerlessness. You may have difficulty sleeping or eating, or feel completely obsessed with the affair, for instance, wanting to know the details of the relationship, times when the affair partner and your spouse have met, the kinds of intimacy shared and so on. If you are an emotional person, you may cry a lot. You may want to be alone, or conversely, feel at your worst when you are. While unpleasant, these reactions are perfectly normal. Your faith and your trust will shatter and it's hard to think clearly in such an emotionally charged situation.
Breach of trust in a marriage can be devastating. Below are several possible outcomes.
1. The couple continues to live together but disengages as each partner withdraws and does not invest in the relationship
2. The betrayed partner or the couple realizes that the break in the levels of trust is too deep for any kind of healing to occur. They would then move on to separation and possibly divorce.
3. The couple decides that despite the intensity of the present pain, they recognize the value of what they shared earlier and commit to putting in the enormous effort that the healing work entails.
When your spouse does something to break your trust in the marriage, rebuilding trust can be difficult and time consuming, but it is possible with committed and intentional effort.
Here are some ways to rebuild trust and get your marriage back on track.
Partners in a relationship earn each other's trust by exhibiting trustworthy behaviours and communications. When your behaviours are consistent with your "talk", your partner learns to place his/her confidence in you.
For the Errant Partner
1) Acknowledge that you have done wrong and be prepared to show your partner that you are sorry. Back your words with actions that show that you really mean what you say.
2) Allow the wounded spouse to express the pain, rejection and other emotions that he/she went through. Don't get defensive or act as if the person is making a big deal of one wrong act.
3) Don't expect immediate and consistent acceptance of you and your efforts at making amends. Be prepared to be treated with caution and to respond to mixed emotions when relating to your partner. The betrayed partner maybe confused on what they are experiencing - it is up to you, as you make amends to be more accepting of the ambiguity of the process.
4) Be caring towards your spouse, get into the habit of saying more positives than negatives and showing caring gestures. We tend to trust people who are constantly good to us or who go out of their way to help us.
5) Start showing consistency in your behaviour. So make and keep promises from now on. If you say "Honey I'll pick you up at 6:15, make sure you pick up your spouse at 6:15, not at 6:19. It may be just a matter of 4 minutes for you, but it counts. The fact that you are working at keeping your word in small things can help convey that you really intend to keep you word with regards to serious issues.
6) Find ways of increasing accountability. Make a conscious effort to keep your partner involved in the ways you spend your time and money.
7) Improve communication skills. Be a good listener, reflecting back to your spouse what she/he said. This will indicate that you care, and are willing to put in the effort to rebuild emotional intimacy in your marriage.
8) Remember that being able to trust is a journey that can have several forward - backward steps along with some detours. You may reach your destination at some point, but you cannot hurry the process. Give your partner, the space and time he/she needs.
9) Make sure you do not engage in the errant behaviour again.
For the Wounded Partner
1) Accept your feelings for what they are - anger, sadness, shock, frustration. Give yourself the time and the space to figure it out. Cry if you need to; Express the rage you feel... write down your thoughts and feelings if you feel like it. The emotions you experience can vary from day to day. When your partner has an affair you may feel that the relationship has lost its meaning. You may also feel devalued and experience a loss of self esteem and respect. Give yourself permission to grieve.
2) You may also need to recognize that re-building the trust and the marriage, is not necessarily going to mean that the marriage will be like it was before; it could be better, but your relationship is also likely to be fragile and may continue to be so for a while.
3) Ultimately, healing the wounds of broken trust involves forgiveness. At some point you will need to forgive your spouse and let go of the hurt and anger. This is not going to be easy, nor will it happen in a hurry.