rebuild trust after infidelity

Rebuilding Trust After Infidelity: Best Tips to Try

Takeaway: Infidelity can shake the foundation of your relationship–but it is possible to heal. I’ve seen it firsthand with the couples I’ve helped in my years of working as a couples therapist. In this post, I share some of my top tips (including ones I give my clients) about how to rebuild trust after cheating.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been impacted by an affair. Maybe you’re the unfaithful partner, or maybe your partner cheated. Either way, your world has been rocked! Rebuilding trust after cheating is a difficult path to take, but so is divorce.

In this article, we’ll take a look at why people cheat and how to rebuild trust after cheating. We’ll see how important it is to accept responsibility for your part in the affair, we’ll talk a bit about having tough conversations, and we’ll see some ways to make marriage work.

how to gain trust back after cheatingUnderstanding why cheating happens

“Why?” “How could you do this?” “What was I thinking?!” “What’s wrong with me?” “This isn’t who I am…how did it get to this?” These are just a few of the questions infidelity brings up for both of you. The partner who cheated is sometimes as confused at the betrayed partner, and doesn’t know how to explain the affair. The betrayed partner needs answers to even consider moving forward and restoring trust. Relationships can be complicated and difficult. Let’s look at some of the main reasons people cheat.

Feeling Unappreciated

When one or both people in a relationship don’t feel seen, heard, and valued, it creates space for infidelity. Lack of communication about how each of you feels in the present moment can lead to misunderstandings, resentment, and a tendency to play the blame game. It’s so easy for one partner’s actions to make the other feel hurt, and this can be a reason that spouses cheat.

Open communication is necessary for a healthy relationship, even when what’s being said might be difficult to hear. Not telling the truth makes it hard to build trust, and without feeling valued, affairs can easily happen.

Physical Intimacy Problems

Sex research tells us how important physical touch is for people to thrive. Being close to each other physically is one way to maintain a healthy relationship, it’s important for building trust, and spending time together is one of the healthiest ways to make a relationship stronger. When people cheat, it’s often because they’re hungry for physical intimacy in their marriage.

Sex is one form of physical intimacy, and so are cuddling, hand-holding, spooning in bed, hugging and kissing. Each of those play an important role in helping partners feel connected to each other.

Blurry Boundaries

Often, people will say their affair wasn’t planned, it just happened. A friendship or work relationship got a little too intimate, feelings developed, and before they knew it, they’d committed a huge betrayal of their own values as well as their marriage. Lines were crossed, things went too far too fast, and an affair happened. Although they know they made a huge mistake, they often don’t know how to regain trust after cheating.

Couples therapy can help you clarify your boundaries for your marriage, prevent you from playing the blame game, and keep you moving forward in the healing process.

Lack of Commitment

Sometimes, even when there’s mutual respect and a pretty healthy relationship, there can be a difference of commitment, or lack of commitment. One partner’s actions might communicate they’re in a casual relationship, while the other partner’s feelings might be more committed. If they don’t communicate about this, what seems like healthy behavior to one person can look like cheating to the other. Having tough conversations about how each of you feel about the relationship, and how committed you each are, can help prevent cheating.

Falling Out of Love

The dopamine rush of falling in love may not last long. Excitement, passion, and the thrill of the beginning of a relationship usually fade over time. Long-lasting relationships do exist, but those butterflies you felt on the first date only get you so far. Once they go away, you may realize that there wasn’t really much love there.

Many people chase that rush, thinking that’s what a healthy relationship is. Over time, love can change and deepen, becoming richer and more robust than the giddy, early-stage infatuation many of us yearn for.


Sometimes people cheat on their partners out of anger or revenge. For example, if one partner has been flirting with a friend or even cheating, the other partner may cheat as well as a form of payback. Instead of taking responsibility for their choice, they may blame it on their spouse.

Situational Factors

Being on vacation, drinking too much, reconnecting with an old flame at a class reunion, being in a long-distance relationship…these can all be factors that might make someone decide to cheat. Often, there’s no real thought of the future, or the hurt, and no understanding that this could be a deal breaker for their spouse.

building trust after cheating

How infidelity impacts relationships

Once someone knows their partner has cheated, that becomes the focus of every talk. Both people need to process through some big questions. Is forgiveness possible? Can we get over the past? How can we heal after such a betrayal? Is this relationship even worth saving?

To Stay or Go?

The hurt partner may or may not want to rebuild trust after infidelity. The cheating partner may not realize that this will be a slow process, as both partners work through feelings, and learn to be honest with how much they hurt. Forgiveness may seem like a mistake at this early point, and blame might make this a very challenging process.

Children May Know

It’s hard enough to rebuild trust for the betrayed partner, but if children know about the affair, it becomes harder to know how to gain trust back after cheating. Building trust after cheating is often more difficult for the children than for the hurt partner. It can be a good idea to quickly get professional help, so everyone can learn to manage their feelings in healthy ways.

Sex or No Sex?

Julie Schwartz Gottman and her husband John Gottman, co-founders of the Gottman Method, talk about the importance of sex in a healthy relationship. But, it can be hard to be vulnerable and open to sex when you’ve been cheated on, when you have trust issues, and when your feelings are in such upheaval.

It’s OK to take a break from sex for awhile. Oftentimes there’s space needed when you try to trust your partner again. It’s also OK to find yourself wanting sex more than ever. It can be hard to know how to regain trust after cheating, and connecting physically can help the healing process.

Mental and Emotional Health Effects

It’s not uncommon for people to struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and uncontrolled anger following the discovery of an affair. Moving forward can seem unthinkable; trying to build trust again can feel daunting; and if the unfaithful partner doesn’t accept responsibility for what they’ve done, the long-lasting impacts to the betrayed partner can be significant.

In fact, both partners may deal with difficult feelings after infidelity. Individual therapy can help both partners’ healing process. Learning to be honest with themselves and each other is the healthiest way to make the relationship to rebuild trust after an affair

How to make up for cheating: 5 tips for when you cheated

So, what if you’re the one who stepped out? How can you rebuild your partner’s trust after infidelity? You already know this won’t be an easy process. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking

1) Cut Off All Communication with the Affair Partner

It may seem obvious, but if you want your marriage to last, you have to stop talking to your affair partner right away. And forever. It’s nearly impossible to rebuild trust after cheating when your focus is with your affair partner. End that relationship, leave it in the past, and prove your commitment to your marriage.

2) Be Honest with Yourself and Your Partner about Your Relationship

It’s time to have some tough conversations with your partner about your relationship. While there’s no way to prevent cheating, there were reasons for your cheating, and if you’re honest with yourself, you can focus on what went wrong and how to rebuild trust.

3) Full Transparency

Your partner will likely want to know details of what happened, when, and how. If you decide to be honest, it will go a long way toward rebuilding trust after infidelity. Open your phone, give passwords to your email, be willing to share your location for awhile. It’s a slow process, but trust can be rebuilt.

4) Communicate

Talk about your day, your thoughts, your feelings. Don’t make your partner pry it out of you. Being open and vulnerable is one of the best ways to rebuild trust after cheating. You’re hurt; your partner is hurt; your marriage needs to move past the betrayal and into a happier future.

5) Be Patient

Rebuilding trust is a slow process. You and your relationship need time to heal, and it won’t follow a timeline or schedule. I always recommend professional help for affair recovery. It can make things easier on both partners.

how to rebuild trust after cheating

How to build trust after cheating: 5 tips for when your partner cheated

You’re probably wondering what you can do to heal yourself after your partner cheats. Restoring trust may seem like an impossible task right now, and that’s OK. If you decide you want to rebuild your marriage, you’ll need to get to a place of forgiveness, eventually. Here are a few ideas to get you started

1) Honor Your Feelings

Finding out you can’t trust your partner can be devastating. Betrayal trauma is one of the worst feelings humans can experience. No matter how committed you were to the marriage, your partner wasn’t. You’re probably wondering whether and how to rebuild trust after an affair. It’s important to honor all of your feelings, even when they’re conflicting. You can both love and hate your cheating partner, and want to stay in and want to get out of your marriage, both at the same time. It’s a confusing and upsetting time, and it’s important to let yourself feel everything.

2) Ask Your Questions

The healing process takes time, and it takes information. You have a right to know the details of what happened, but be aware that getting every last bit of information may not be the healthiest way to make your marriage work. You can’t un-know what you’ve been told, and intrusive and obsessive thoughts might prevent you from restoring trust. If you already had trust issues, from other relationships or from your family of origin, the question-asking phase is going to be very important for you.

3) Communication is Key

Whatever you need, ask for it. When both partners’ needs are met, the relationship can become healthier and stronger. If there’s space needed for you to heal, ask for that. If you decide you need some time away, take it. This sin’t going to be an easy process. If your partner understands that you feel hurt and confused, they can do things that will comfort you and help you heal.

4) Don’t Make Rash Decisions

It’s easy to want to smash and destroy everything you and your partner have built, especially when they hurt you so badly. I urge you to try to stay in the present moment, focus on your own and your partner’s feelings, and get couples therapy to work on moving forward. You may be able to learn to trust your partner again, if you both can remember that this is the person you love.

5) Get Support, but Carefully

When you’re in such pain, reaching out to people you trust can be so helpful. If you and your partner decide to move forward, toward forgiveness and saving your marriage, it can be hard for those people to accept that decision. The more people you involve, the more people your partner will have to find ways to rebuild trust with. Take care not to further complicate an already difficult situation by bringing too many people into it.

how to regain trust after cheating

Couples therapy can help you and your partner reconnect after infidelity.

In my 20+ years of working with people on their relationships, I know how helpful therapy can be for people wondering how to rebuild trust after infidelity. By asking the right questions, helping both parties understand what happened to their marriage, and unpacking the reasons behind the betrayal, many couples can begin moving forward in their relationship. It isn’t an easy process, but by each person taking responsibility for their role, both partners can get to a place of using healthy ways to keep their marriage strong.

My approach is fast, comfortable, and focused on helping the offending partner regain trust, helping the betrayed partner feel better, and helping both partners operate with mutual respect and love.

If you’re facing infidelity in your relationship, please reach out to me for professional help. You don’t have to do this alone!