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How to Regain Trust in Partner After He or She Cheats

  • Discovering that a partner is cheating can cause extreme shock and emotional pain.

  • A person who is unable to fully trust their judgment may act defensively to predict future emotional shock and anguish.

  • In place of acting on unconscious defences that try to anticipate a negative event, embrace the possibility and consciously prepared.

A partner who cheats inflicts multiple wounds. He or she betrays, deceives, and blindsides a person. Each of these emotional blows violates trust and turns a person’s heart and world upside down. Feelings of grief and loss are often accompanied by searing emotional pain and confusion.

One brutal aspect of this situation may be the shock factor. The instant a person makes the discovery a partner is cheating, her world feels shattered. Often a person spins and obsesses about what was real and what was a lie regarding her partner. She may try to locate elements of the truth in the rubble of her past to find reassurance that her sense of reality isn’t completely faulty. Desperate to trust her perception again, she may struggle to differentiate the authentic aspects of the relationship from the deceptions.

As the person sifts through her past and clings to the aspects of the relationship that are authentic and can be trusted, she may decide to remain with the partner. Yet, as she attempts to move forward, often a wave of fear grips her and hurls her backwards into a state of panic. Her intuition warns, “It is happening again.” In a frenzy, she searches for evidence that her partner is cheating and confronts him or her.

Initially, patient and remorseful, the partner who is attempting to regain the person’s trust may grow exasperated at the intermittent interrogations. Eventually, the partner may lash out at the person, and demand she “let it go.” Now, the innocent party experiences deep shame for her reaction. She feels “crazy,” although she is not the one who is deceived. Frequently, the person reprimands herself for feeling insecure, unsure, and vulnerable while the guilty partner moves ahead less impacted psychologically.

Imprisoned by Defense Mechanisms

A person who feels as if her life has been instantaneously ripped apart by the discovery that a trusted partner is cheating may be experiencing a form of emotional trauma. The brain often unconsciously resurrects defence mechanisms to protect a person from having to re-experience sudden and unpredictable emotional anguish. One of these defence mechanisms includes anticipating the negative event in the future. This provides a person with the opportunity to psychologically prepare. Predicting the assault allows a person a chance to protect her world from suddenly shattering without warning, which is one of the most disturbing experiences a person can endure. So, like a detective, the person searches for any clue that this traumatizing event may occur again.

Although this defence mechanism serves a purpose, to protect a person from psychological trauma, it also keeps her imprisoned. Most likely, the hypervigilance exhausts the person and also frustrates her partner. In addition, an unfaithful partner’s possible lack of empathy may beef up her defences because she senses additional emotional distance in the relationship. Without continued closeness and trust, the relationship may feel like a ticking time bomb.

The unconscious impulse to protect oneself from a crushing emotional blow is human. Yet, a person who gains awareness of her unconscious defence mechanisms may be able to deal with the situation in a new way. Consciously adopting a different coping strategy may help.


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