| October 5, 2012

In any loving relationship, it's vital that partners trust each other. But when your partner has an affair, that trust is broken and you are confronted with the fact that your partner is not as dependable, reliable or as honest as you thought he or she was.

Nonetheless, do cheaters often get a second chance? According to a new survey by OurTime.com, at least 42 percent of adults would be willing to work through things with someone who was sexually unfaithful, no matter the circumstance.

So can trust ever be rebuilt after an affair? Being willing to work on the relationship is not the same as rebuilding trust. It takes a lot of work and commitment on both partners’ parts. Studies find that only one out of four couples can move beyond an affair and regain the necessary trust in their partner. Keep in mind that you may be able to forgive your partner, but you will never forget what happened.

If you’re willing to give your partner a second chance, here are six strategies to help you rebuild trust after an affair.

  1. Make an agreement. You and your partner should set a specific time period (minimum of six weeks) during which you pledge not to leave each other and to commit to working on the relationship. The betrayer also must avoid the circumstances that led to the betrayal. For example, if your partner had an affair, he or she cannot see or communicate with that person. As a therapist, I typically have partners sign a symbolic contract that stipulates the terms of the agreement.
  1. Apology. The betrayer must give a heartfelt, serious apology, taking responsibility for his or her actions. Accepting the apology may depend on whether it was a one-time behavior or a consistent pattern in the relationship. Also, talk to your partner. You don’t have to agree with the reasons or explanation, but you do need to understand his or her perspective.
  2. Don’t blame yourself. Your self-esteem and self-worth are not dependent on your partner’s behaviors. You can be a part of the solution or work to change the relationship but you are not the cause of the betrayal.
  3. Anger. Express your anger in a constructive way. Studies show that journaling or writing a letter to your partner can be helpful. After you’re done with the letter, do not show it to your partner. Throw it in the garbage. This exercise is just for you. Talking to friends and family about what happened and why is also useful.
  1. Positive qualities. Make a list of the positive aspects of your relationship. Do you remember the good that brought you together? You might be hurting and in great pain, but if you can think beyond this grief and anger to what was positive, this will help you see the overall light of the relationship.
  2. Seek professional help. This situation can be difficult for anyone regardless of how strong you are. When a relationship gets into a pattern of hurt and anger, it can be tough to break the pattern. A therapist’s perspective can be beneficial.