If you and your partner have experienced a major breach of trust, there is hope for healing. Gottman Institute research shows that repairing your relationship is a three-step process: Atone, Attune, Attach.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it is — and it isn’t.
Before the process can begin, you need to assess whether or not your partner made a one-time mistake or if this is a pattern of behavior.
It’s also essential to understand that you need to have enough fondness and admiration for your partner — despite their betrayal of trust — to undergo the painful process of rebuilding your relationship.
And then, the involved partner — the one who caused the betrayal — has to be willing and ready to repair through the first step of Atonement. This is a difficult thing to do for some people. It means getting to a place of admission, contrition, and a desire to repair.
If you and your partner agree to undertake the work of repairing your relationship, you must agree to be fair and open and vulnerable with one another. There is no room for defensiveness here.
Some involved partners will say their spouse “caused it” — or that they cheated because their partner was a failure in some way.
This will not lead to healing.
For the time being, the focus needs to be off the hurt partner and any failures — real or perceived — in the relationship. The partner who cheated — or broke trust in another way — must take full responsibility for their actions.
Many people are frustrated in their relationship and still choose not to have an affair. If you truly are unhappy and have tried to fix your relationship, then you should leave that relationship altogether before beginning a new relationship.
If, on the other hand, you are both committed to repairing your relationship, the involved partner should be able to:
- admit to their wrongdoing,
- be able to listen to the pain they have caused their partner, and
- end all contact with the other person.
The involved partner will need to give their spouse a lot of reassurance. Remember, it’s as if their whole relationship has been crushed. You’ll need to rebuild from the ground up, and this will take time and patience on the part of the involved partner. Oftentimes, it is advisable for the involved partner to go to therapy, individually, in order to hold space while their partner moves through this process however they need to.
In our next two posts, we’ll cover the second and third phases of repair: Attune and Attach. Keep an eye out for more soon!