How do I heal after a failed relationship shattered my trust?

Married over 10 years and the infidelity was never on my radar. But I learned they were unfaithful and my whole world crumbled and it tore our family apart.
Asked by BA

Despite the fact that you said that your "trust has been shattered" it is very possible to heal and move on to have successful relationships. If you are interested in reviving your marriage that is one issue. If you are asking how to move forward and begin again that is another.  If your are working on your relationship couples therapy is advised. If it has ended and you are trying to work through what happened individual therapy is advised. In both instances you will learn how to heal and develop the skills to move forward.

In both scenarios learning how to trust again is a key issue.  Understanding what happened and why in the context of your marriage is another.  What do you believe was the cause of the infidelity?  If you feel the relationship fell apart long ago for example was it due to communication issues?   Going through this story is a place to start.. Is there something you would do differently that you now realize that could have helped support the relationship?  Did you have a clear contract or understanding of the expectations of your relationship and moving forward what would that look like in a new relationship or a revision of the prior one.

In order to move forward you have to understand your part in all of this and what you could do to improve your communication. In order to trust however you will have to be clear with your partner what your concerns and needs are. Is reassurance from your partner to rebuild your trust a part of it?  This is generally "a yes" so how much reassurance is enough or too much to require from a new partner? These are all questions to consider as it is personal to you and your needs.

The level of intensity of what you need will also change in time once trust is re-established but it will take some time and you have to be patient, vocal about your needs and optimistic. Having corrective experiences with your old or new partner is also part of the healing  process and how you learn to trust again  so you can feel safe and assured.

Be clear on what you expect and what you can tolerate.  Avoid acting out in passive-aggressive ways because you find that you are angry. It is far better to talk these things out. If you are considering reviving your prior relationship what part does forgiveness play in it for you?

Be aware that your healing process will take time and your emotions will come in waves of feeling as when you are grieving. At times you may feel you are moving past the pain and then suddenly something triggers you and it can feel more intense but this improves over time  with more positive experiences and open communication.

This painful situation can be an opportunity to learn and grow and make necessary changes in your life  where you can be open and transparent with your partner with maximum intimacy. 

Infidelity can be an "awful event" but it does not have to define the rest of your life.  Leverage it as a "jump off point" to redefine the importance of relationships in your life and how you want to live moving forward.

Be clear if you are starting anew how to select the right partner. Get to know each other and talk about what you have been through so they are aware and can support you and vice versa.  This experience if handled correctly can help you improve communication, set boundaries and experience personal resilience.

This process is worth it but you have to be committed as initially it can prove quite painful as you review what you have been through to better understand it, learn from it and allow for closure. Be aware as well of self-pity and self-blame neither of which would be helpful to get stuck in.  As you review what happened it is better to find areas that you can avoid and improve so this experience teaches you something of meaning that you can help you grow as a person.

If you are seeking your own healing and not in your prior relationship then it is advised that you engage in your own therapy to first verbalize what happened and your feelings about it-the pain, the anger and the betrayal. When you have been able to do that the next step would be rebuilding and what you would like to experience in a healthier future relationship. This includes what to look for in a partner, how to communicate and how to manage triggers and fears that will arise as you try to form a new and healthier attachment to another. In this process you would benefit from knowing your own areas of vulnerability so you can express that with your partner and teach them how to best interact with you in a way that is comforting and soothing.

I commend you for what you are about to embark on and wish you the best!