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- New relationships are supposed to be happy and exciting, but cheating can bring that all crashing down — it can be way more than just a little complication
- However, cheating doesn’t mean the end of the relationship, nor does it mean the beginning of the end of the relationship
- INSIDER turned to experts to figure out how couples can make a relationship work when it starts with cheating
- After someone cheats, good communication is essential
- New boundaries are a must
At the beginning of a new relationship, things should be exciting and, generally, happy. It’s called the “honeymoon stage” for a reason, after all. But when cheating happens at the very beginning of the relationship, those happy, butterflies-in-your-stomach feelings can become heavier and more conflicted. Cheating, of course, complicates things and, in some cases can be the end of the relationship.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Experts say that there are things that you can do to make the relationship work — even when it starts with cheating — if that’s what you want to do.
“Cheating does not have to represent a death sentence for a relationship,” Anahid Lisa Derbabian, MA, LPC, NCC, a licensed professional counselor, told INSIDER. “When a relationship begins with infidelity and the lies and deception around it, a couple can turn the corner and create a healthy relationship if they are ready for deeper work, such as connecting deeply with themselves and each other, experiencing healing, and very real communication.”
If a relationship starts with cheating, there’s a level of dishonesty, betrayal, and a lack of communication. So it’s understandable that there’s a lot of potential obstacles when either you or your partner cheats at the beginning of your relationship.
The relationship isn’t necessarily destined for failure. But repairing it is going to take a lot of work from both sides.
“Difficulty establishing trust in a relationship that began with cheating is inevitable,” Dr. Michele Leno, Ph.D., LD, the founder of DML Psychological Services, told INSIDER. “While the relationship is not automatically doomed, it will require a great deal of patience and reassurance to work.”
One of the things that you need to do if you’re going to fight for your relationship after it begins with an episode of cheating is focus on being forthcoming and transparent. With cheating, there’s a lot of secrecy, and one of the best ways to rebuild the trust that’s been lost is by being transparent with one another, even when things are difficult.
“All relationships start with a necessary level of transparency as you’re getting to know one another,” Anna Osborn, MA, LPCC, LMFT, a licensed marriage, and family therapist, told INSIDER. “Relationships that start when cheating has occurred need to have a higher level of transparency in order for the couple to not only get to know each other but also to contrast against the secrecy that occurred during the course of the betrayal.”
Accountability and honesty both help with the healing process. It’s important to be proactive and set new rules.
Along with transparency, setting boundaries and holding each other accountable is key. That too will help you rebuild trust because you’ll both have an idea about what to expect and what’s OK and what’s not.
Keeping one another accountable is also important. “Following through on your word is extremely important during the initial healing process,” Osborn said. “Don’t make false promises or agree to things that you can’t follow through on.”
Dealing with other people’s perceptions of your relationship will also likely be a bit stressful on the two of you. If your friends and family members are aware of the cheating (whether it’s how you both got together or one or the other of you cheated at the beginning of your relationship), it can be difficult for them to wholeheartedly accept the relationship, Glover Tawwab said. “Also, if children are involved they may not support the relationship,” Glover Tawwab added.
Discussing why the cheating occurred can be beneficial. It can help form a deeper understanding of each other and your relationship.
When you’re struggling with repairing the damage that cheating did on your fledgling relationship, you might also benefit from talking about what might have led to the cheating in the first place.
Additionally, you need to determine what a successful and healthy relationship looks like to both of you. Again, this comes back to communication. You both need to understand the expectations that the other has for the relationship. Derbabian said that this kind of conversation can help provide a framework of support, helping you to work towards that ideal.
Working with a professional can also be a good idea, as it inserts someone who is removed from the situation and can speak from a place of help rather than judgment. And though some people might struggle to understand your relationship or why you’re fighting so hard to make it work, it’s important to remember that every relationship faces obstacles.
Most of all, recovering is going to take effort.
“Every couple is unique,” Prestell Askia, author of The Couples Cure Book: Mastering the Art of Relationships in 7 Easy Steps, told INSIDER. “Each couple has its challenges. An affair-based relationship requires even more diligence to preserve the partnership. Committed couples who sincerely choose to improve their relationship can make a partnership survive; fully understanding that it will take effort. Equally important these couples must be willing to do the work necessary to weather their partnership storms. My guidance to both individuals and couples has always been an attitude of acceptance. I also provide the following tough love counsel: you can’t change the past — what’s done is done; however, you can affect the future. The question is: what are you going to do about it now to make a better life for yourself and those you love? The affairs-based relationship is complicated…also know that it is doable.”