How do I Gain Trust after an Affair?

My spouse of 15 years had an affair with someone at work. It went on for a year. My spouse shows remorse and says it meant nothing, he wants to work it out. He says we can get past this but I look at him with absolute disgust. I feel humiliated and heart broken. Is it possible to ever move past this? It's been a month and he's doing everything he can to make me happy but I am holding a grudge big time. I don't want a divorce but I have lost all trust and I am so hurt.

How do you recover after your significant other had an affair? It feels like someone is literally stabbing you in the heart, and the pain doesn't go away after the affair ends and apologies are said. It's so much deeper.

We asked an expert, a professional counselor.

I had the pleasure of talking with Licette Sangiovanni, MHC with the Relationship Institute of Palm Beach on this topic.

Take it away, Licette!

Regaining trust after an affair can be very challenging, but there is hope. As the partner who has been betrayed, the feelings around this experience can be very painful to process through and forgive. Your spouse’s remorse may be genuine, but your sense of trusting him again may not ‘yet’ be within reach. In my clinical experience, the partner who is seeking forgiveness often tends to increase the pain with a premature apology, and as a result, it creates further distance in the relationship.

While there isn’t a less-painful way to process through this traumatic experience, it begins with forgiveness. 

Forgiveness does not mean that you’re forgetting about the affair, you are actually making a commitment to authentic healing, for you and for your marriage. Forgiveness occurs in two phases. In the first phase, you must work towards forgiving yourself to begin the process of letting go of the pain you have endured- that blow that caused you to feel hurt, anger, humiliation, and betrayal.

It’s important to be mindful that during this phase, you can experience these powerful emotions at any time. They will come in waves, and at times, you may feel heartbroken and confused in the process, struggling to find answers.

Be kind to yourself and avoid seeking an emotional intense discussion with your spouse. Give yourself space and seek support from a friend or a loved one you can trust to be open with about your feelings and experience. When you learn forgive yourself, you can work towards forgiving your spouse through reconciliation. 

Forgiveness through reconciliation is the second phase. It creates a chance for growth and allows you and your spouse to begin the healing journey in your marriage. Reconciliation provides an opportunity to explore the factors that contributed to the marriage sliding into a vulnerable place. Both you and your spouse must work towards gaining an understanding of what happened, what needs were unmet, and the unsuccessful attempts to seek those needs in the marriage.

This by no means makes it an excuse for your spouse to have an affair, nor should you take blame, however, identifying the problems provides an opportunity for the both of you to gain awareness to the contributing factors that drove your spouse to have an affair. It opens up the marriage for the two of you to have a chance at repairing the areas that made your marriage vulnerable and to become stronger as a couple.

During the reconciliation process, you may find yourself experiencing a constant need to seek evidence that your spouse is no longer having an affair.  It’s important for your spouse to work on creating a space where you can feel safe and loved again. This means no absences, gaps of time without communication, and no secrets.

While the process of these discussions will be tough, they are essential to heal from the affair and rebuild trust again. With therapeutic support, healthy communication, and a willingness to forgive, you may be able to reconcile and make your marriage better than before. 

More about Licette

Licette has extensive experience in the substance abuse field. She has worked with clients at all levels of care presenting with co-morbid disorders. She has co-facilitated family education programs to support the healing process of the family members and her clients. Her knowledge has helped families develop the tools needed to foster healthy communication, boundaries, and coping skills.

In her work, Licette utilizes traditional psychotherapies and experiential therapies. Her treatment approaches include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), motivational interviewing, and insight-oriented therapy. She has helped clients explore and process through grief and loss, relationship difficulties, and traumatic life experiences.

Licette believes in cultivating self-awareness and self-efficacy within her clients. She works both with individuals and couples. She is a certified Prepare and Enrich Facilitator. In this capacity, she provides assessments to help couples gain insight into the facts and feelings that may be affecting their communication.

Visit her website here.

Licette is also offering virtual sessions!

Thank you Licette, we are so grateful for you taking time out of your day to help others.

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