Relationships that are broken by infidelity can lead to permanent damage or even divorce. But those who are willing to repair and rebuild the relationship can do so with persistence and effort. Here are some of the typical steps that many couples follow when working through a relational breach.
- Both parties must exchange forgiveness. This means that both people will admit their part in the problem. Often one person is guiltier than the other, especially where an affair is concerned. But perhaps the other spouse had developed a cold attitude toward the offender, driving him or her to an outsider for affection. Even if there appears to be no direct connection between the two parties’ behaviors and the affair, a breach provides the opportunity for self-reflection and a commitment to improved relational qualities, such as communication and patience.
- The offender must promise not to repeat the problem. Whether an affair has disrupted the unity in marriage or a teenager has lied and broken trust with a parent, it is important for the bad behavior to be recognized as wrong and be avoided in the future. If a series of flirtations led to an affair, the flirting needs to stop. This may mean the couple will stay away from events where attractive women will pay attention to the straying husband, for example. The parties should discuss contributing factors to the troubling issue and come to an agreement about how to interrupt the process that has lead to the problem.
- The offender must become accountable. This can take two forms. One type is with the spouse or family member that has been hurt by the other’s actions. If he used to come home at all hours without much explanation or an untruthful explanation, he must now offer contact options to the other person so that his whereabouts and excuses can be verified. The other type of accountability is with a friend or mentor. This involves meeting or talking on a regular basis to discuss the offender’s commitment to correcting a problem behavior, with the mentor providing advice or support as well as admonition when needed.
- The offended family member must be willing to take a supporting role. This may require a change in behavior or an attitude adjustment. There can be no bringing up the past once it has been dealt with. Nor should the offended person hold a grudge. Instead, an attitude of patience and support will help the offender overcome the problem actions and stay on course for rebuilding the relationship. A friendly demeanor or a pat on the back can help a struggling partner feel valued and worthwhile.
- The pair should celebrate successes. With every milestone, such as annual commemorations or other anniversaries, the two family members need to emphasize the positive in their relationship while downplaying the negative. This will help to reinforce unity and build forgiveness into the fabric of their relationship.
Trust is a prized possession. Once you earn it from someone, don’t surrender it easily. Be willing to do what it takes to keep the relationship fun and functional.