How can I look at future relationships without letting trust issues cause a problem?

Last year I found out my partner was having an affair with a work colleague. I was completely shocked. We have two young children together. I had trust issues before I met him due to an ex cheating. How do I not let this affect any potential future relationships?
Asked by Joann

Dear Joann,

First of all, I am deeply sorry to hear this news. This is devastating. What happened to the marriage? Did you two seek marital counseling? Did you two try to work it out? There are a lot of reasons why infidelity happens. When problems in the marriage is dealt with, in an appropriate manner, including infidelity, there are high chances for reconciliation, and therefore a deeper and long term trusting relationship. 

The Gottman Institute, well known couples counseling team of psycho-education providers, highlights reasons infidelity happens:

- Lack of affection

- Loss of fondness for each other

- Imbalance of give and take 

- Breakdown of the communication as far as the emotional and relationship needs

- Physical health issues such as chronic pain and disability

- Mental health issues such as bipolar, major depression, and severe anxiety

- Addiction to substances such as lethal chemicals and/ or impulsive behaviors such as sex or gambling 

- Fear of intimacy or avoidance of conflict

- Life changes such as transition to Parenthood or becoming Empty Nesters

- Stressful period such as long distance relationships due to military deployments or long term work travels

- Personal dissatisfaction and low self-esteem

Finding out the facts, and connecting the dots, then ultimately coming to the conclusion, validated by the partner, of the deep unfathomable deception, can undeniably be hurtful for you. As you mentioned in your posted question, it could not have been easy for you, because you already had a history of infidelity, before having a family with your recent husband. 

Your question is now how do you go on into finding a new partner after these events have transpired. First off, definitely take a pause in starting a new relationship for now. I highly recommend just taking a break and instead learn to date yourself for the time being. Focus on yourself first for now. Spend time healing yourself at this time. You cannot enter a new relationship or even give this recent one (your husband) a second chance, if you are still clearly very distraught about it. 

Some proven helpful coping techniques for now:

- Stay distracted

- Pick a task to do that you never had the time before because you were always with that other person

- Gather your thoughts and isolate the ones that have been centered on your relationship first, then redirect them to automatically focus on self-healing starting now ("I can't do this because my husband will say something." Turn this thought around to, "I CAN do this now because my husband can't say anything now!") 

- Do something nice for yourself for a change

- Take good care of yourself

- Work for yourself (and your children)

- Set goals towards happiness and kindness towards others

- Journal, Paint, Draw, Read, Exercise! 

- Surround yourself with positive and supportive people

- Recognize you are vulnerable right now and ask for help. Realize that you need to take it one step at a time. 

- Remember You Are Good Enough. 

- Do what you can. Do not overdo it. 

- Do spend quality time with the kids and make sure their needs are met including therapy for them as needed. 

- Assure the kids that no matter what happens to mom and dad, they will always be loved first, and make it intentional that this will always be true.

- Whenever you are ready, focus on forgiveness. This will be better with an individuals therapist. 

- If you want to give your husband a second chance, I recommend a couples counselor. 

Good luck! Wishing you the best on your self-healing journey. 🙏🏼

Very respectfully,

Grace, LCPC, Maryland Therapist