It takes seconds to destroy trust, and years to rebuild it . . .
Few people understand how devastating infidelity can be to a relationship. Affairs rape the emotional trust at the core of love. However, there is a way to repair the damage wrought by an affair. Be aware -- it's not for the faint of heart or the uncommitted.
The Four H's
When one partner has an affair, it triggers Four H's in their mate: Hurt, Hate, Hesitation to Trust, and Holding on to Resentment.
If you had the affair, your partner felt hurt by having her emotional trust betrayed. She hated you for taking away that trust -- the most important element for love -- and having to worry over what else you might be lying about.
Your partner is hesitant to trust you only to risk being betrayed again (many people who have been cheated on say that if they made it through one infidelity, they know they wouldn't be able to make it through another).
And finally, she's going to hold on to resentment. She won't want to, but may feel powerless to let it go.
The Four R's
The corrective responses to the Four H's are the Four R's: Remorse, Restitution, Rehabilitation and Request for Forgiveness.
In order to heal the hurt, your partner needs to see and feel your genuine remorse. This means looking her straight in the eye and saying how sorry you are for the hurt you've caused. Your "I'm sorry" must be simple and clear and not followed by excuses or "but it wouldn't have happened if you hadn't . . . "
As much as your partner's hurt needs remorse in order to heal, her anger needs vengeance in order to be expunged. The best restitution is for you to let your partner verbally vent every bit of revulsion, disgust, disappointment and hurt that you caused. She needs to feel completely drained of all the negative feelings your betrayal engendered. And you need to stand there and listen and take it without defending yourself. This outpouring of emotion will help satisfy your partner's need for revenge and help clear the air so you can move on to the next step.Her hesitation to trust you needs to see you rehabilitating yourself. You need to learn how to cope with upsetting issues in your life or marriage without resorting to an affair. You also need to reach the point where you actually favor your new and improved way of handling issues over resorting to deceit.Finally, your partner's resentment needs you to request forgiveness. Make this request only after you've built up a track record of remorse, restitution and rehabilitation for at least six months (and perhaps even as long as the length of the affair). Forgiveness is something that must be earned.One last point to keep in mind: If you demonstrate a solid track record of remorse, restitution and rehabilitation, and then request forgiveness and are not forgiven, you are no longer unforgivable --- your partner is unforgiving. Dr. Goulston is co-founder of CouplesCompany.com and author of The 6 Secrets of a Lasting Relationship (Putman, 2001).