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21 Questions & Answers On How To Build Trust After Cheating Or An Affair

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21 Questions & Answers On How To Build Trust After Cheating Or An Affair

1.       Is it possible for couples to rebuild their marriage, and specifically rebuild trust, after the discovery of infidelity?

Yes, 70% of the couples who decide to make a commitment to extramarital recovery counseling, do find ways to restore a bond of intimacy as researched by Shirley Glass, who has explored the dynamics of the aftermath of cheating.

2.       Are there any things that we should know to get through the first few weeks?

Ask a few questions like who was it, who knows, how long did it last, where did it take place, is it.  Get plenty of sleep, eat healthily, exercise aerobically, call timeouts if the fight is getting circular unless the partner who has stepped outside of the relationship can sit and listen.  Confide only in friends whom if you know they will trust your judgment and decision to stay together.

3.       What is the predominant feeling for each partner?

The hurt partner will feel a sense of betrayal having assumed that their partner had cherished the promise of fidelity.  The partner who has reached outside of the relationship will feel a deep sense of regret and remorse as well as an absolute amazement at the amount of pain that the step has caused.  While

4.       Should there be more questions right away?

The impulse to demand details poses a huge temptation.  You experience that you have a world turned upside down.  One note of caution: if you wait until you are feeling more grounded, you will be able to take in the facts without them becoming etched on your brain for flashbacks later.

5.       What are flashbacks?

After 9/11, many people would see beautiful blue skies and “flashback” to their memories of fearing that their loved one was dead.  They would re-experience the terror almost as if it was happening again.

Most individuals who have felt betrayed by infidelity will notice certain triggers like a movie about an extramarital affair will cause a re-experiencing of helplessness upon learning about the details of the infidelity.  These memories can explode into consciousness bringing it all back.

6.       What helps in the recovery?

You know the saying, “Time heals all wounds.”  In the first few weeks and months, both of you will struggle with the pain.  As you trust, you can turn your attention to having fun again.

7.       Why helps to re-establish trust?

You must follow your remorse by an intentional commitment to being open to scrutiny and living up to promises.

8.       However, doesn’t this become tedious and leave a sense of being entirely controlled by the other?

Yes, those feelings come on strong.  Like the police officer who wants to find out if you’re telling the truth, the person feeling betrayed finds themselves interrogating late into the night.  Your spouse may feel very unclear about the details.  When new details emerge, this can be quite damaging to developing trust.

9.       How should I respond to the interrogation, if I feel I cannot stand it?

Agree ahead of time, that at times you will need a time out.  Be sure to pick up the discussion the next day to go back over the details so that healing can take place.

10.    It seems like this will never stop.

You probably both fear that.  The betraying partner can see how hard it is for the hurting spouse to control the feelings and compassion may ensue.  The two of you can work together to see that caring about the obsessive thought poses the challenge rather than turn and attack each other.

11.    How in the world do we do that?

Teach other what works.  The partner who needs soothing, when the flashbacks come, needs to identify what behavior that the other can offer to help walk through the beginning, middle and end of the episode.

12.    What would work?

Sometimes, a hug will work if offered with compassion.  Just knowing that the other is willing to sit through the feelings of hurt and outrage and listen, can make all of the difference.  In the past, the person who went outside of the relationship would not listen to anger.  Now “just being with” the other in times of deep emotion will give a sense of hope.

13.    Why are these feelings so intense?

  1. Know that these feelings have a beginning, middle, and end. Challenge yourselves to ride the wave with confidence that they will pass.  You can hold each other through them.  They will recur, but slowly they will be less intense and occur less often.

14.    How will I ever be able to forgive?

Forgiveness requires enormous psychological and spiritual maturity.  If you come to realize that you want to take the risk of trusting again, make a promise knowing it was a calculated risk, that you will forgive yourself if your partner regresses back to another betrayal. You know what you will do.

15.    I would feel like such a fool.

Your anticipation of this will drag you down.  Of course, you will feel this, but you can block this by giving yourself credit for taking a chance for your children or for the relationship to see if you can learn new forms of communicating.  You cannot guess in advance what the relationship will be like if you both work hard to rebuild the intimacy bond between you.

16.    Why is the pain so intense?

Deeper down, the pain may overlay previous betrayals in your childhood or other relationships.  So the sense of helplessness and injustice piles onto the immediate feeling of hurt and rage.

17.    I don’t understand how anyone who loved me could do such a thing.

Of course, this does not make sense though most partners will feel that they did love the other.  Neither of you could anticipate the devastation this has created.

18.    So what caused the affair?  I felt we had a good relationship.

Many factors can underlie the decision to be unfaithful.  One of the reasons has to do with one or both partners feeling distant from the other or even that the other does not care.

Many factors can contribute to this sense of distance.  Many couples trace the beginning of losing touch with each other to the arrival of their kids.  Long hours at work or travel can exacerbate the disconnecting.  Sickness or illness of a parent or child can add to the preoccupation. Difficulties with one’s job or loss of work can add to the sense of loss of the other.

19.    Did the process happen in a way that neither of us paid attention?

Yes, as couples begin to have trouble through fighting or not having time for each other, they lose themselves in other things.  Our screens, devices, and games become significant distractions that allow couples to sense that the other doesn’t care.

20.   So what can we do now that would make a difference?

Recall the activities that you often did when you dated and put some new energy back into playing in that way.  Have conflict free zones where you both know you will not focus on the pain or the details.  Turn your attention back to taking care of the details of normal living. Express gratitude often for what is right about the relationship. If you both are comfortable with hugging again, do\ make that a part of your daily rituals.

21.   What can we expect from our work together through relationship or marriage counseling?

They have said to me after their counseling is complete that they know the infidelity was the worst thing that had ever happened in their relationship. However, at the end of marriage counseling, they will assert that it’s the best thing that has happened to them.  The hard work of growing from the experience and learning new tools and skills has opened them to a sense of intimacy they never expected.


Dr. Walkup has helped many couples discover how to build trust after cheating. In counseling couples learn that they not only can recover from an extramarital affair but they can thrive by building a new relationship that they did not know they could have.  Call Dr. Jim for a free 15-minute consultation to explore if therapy is right for you at this time: 914-548-8645 for either an appointment in White Plains or New York City or you can email him as well at



  1. donald dewille March 30, 2017 at 11:27 pm

    I recently found out after 30 years of marriage my wife cheated off and on for the first 10 or 12 years with at least one long term (possibly 2yrs.) when confronted she told me two of the people names and said it was one time each, the third person she said she doesn’t remember who it was but denied it was a stranger, as for the long term one it was the last one which I suspected while it was happening but could never catch her at but she was spending long nights away from home (coming in at 5 to 7 am and she did not work nights.
    Do you believe she doesn’t remember a lover or could have a long term relationship with a male friend, spend almost as much time if not more with him as you and still not have sex with him ?

  2. Doctor Jim April 13, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    The question you both need to ask: do you both want to create a new relationship? If you both can earn trust by putting together how you lost eac other, expressing remorse and seeking to change the challenges that got you isolated,than you will know what you need to do.

  3. Rionnaig April 14, 2017 at 5:49 am

    My partner had an affair with a work colleague,it went on for 10 months but he says he started to hate her after her husband found out.As she became needy.Her husband found out 6 months after the affair started.My question is can my partner really hate the person he had an affair with?

  4. Doctor Jim April 25, 2017 at 3:46 am

    Hi Roiannaig, I can understand your feeling puzzled. However, when people have affairs, they often do not realize the neediness of the affair partner. After the husband found out and when your husband got some distance, his image of her may have changed. Not only might he hate the part of himself that got involved and caused you pain, but he may have a more realistic picture of the other woman and feel aghast.

  5. Carrie April 25, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    I recently found out about my husbands infidelity that happened 3 years ago. We have since had a good relationship but I didn’t know and knowing now is confusing. We have decided to move on but I still have questions. I have a sneaking suspicion who it is and he is afraid to tell me because I know her. I’m not sure how to approach and get an honest answer.

  6. jafta June 21, 2017 at 5:47 am

    My partner cheating on me and left the house. However after 2 years. She came back and started fixing. But the sad part is. I found out that they still talking begind my back.

  7. Jblunt July 30, 2017 at 2:14 am

    I recently found out that my wife of 12 years has been seeing a co worker for the last 5 months. She said that I abandoned her and that’s the only reason it happened. She said the only thing physical that happened was a kiss, twice. She has been at her job for 15 years and I can’t bring myself to,ask her to quit because if we don’t work out she needs a way to provide for our kids. He is very high in command at her work and there is no sign of him leaving either. What are some tools that I can use to rebuild the trust? 6 months later and I still look over as soon as she picks up her phone, I am clock watching when she should be home from work, every time her phone rings my gut turns upside down. We are going to marriage counseling, what else can I do to rebuild trust?

  8. Melanie McGrath August 6, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    Married for 10, but together for 16. I just found out my husband had a non physical relationship of sexting with a work colleague. It was going on for 4 months. I found a message he sent her early on with a term of endearment and told him it made me feel uncomfortable amd asked it he was cheating. He responded he would never cheat on me. 9 days ago…I found vulgar messages that were sent. I have been a an emotional wreck and cannot control tears and anger, as we had what I thought was perfection. I cannot eat, sleep or put my mind to rest. We just attended our 1st counseling session and it felt good to talk about it, but how can I continue to function knowing he still sees her everyday? He has sworn that he doesnt speak to her, but the line of business they are in…they have to. How can I cope?

  9. G September 13, 2017 at 8:10 am

    After lying to me for years, my husband confessed to having a one night stand with a hooker and being addicted to pornography. After several days, he confessed further that there were actually four women over several months. What does this mean? I know I’m stupid for not knowing because I trusted him but am I stupid if I stay? How could someone I love do something like this? The pain is unbelievable.

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