Welcome to “Love and Sex Today.” I am Dr. Doug Weiss and today I am going to talk to you about trust after betrayal.
I’ve seen thousands of men and women betrayed. I’ve seen relationships rebuilt better and stronger than they’ve ever been before. I’ve seen marriages turn into powerful, pleasant, loving, caring, relationships that have lasted decades after betrayal. You’re going to want to read this entire post today, and you’re going to want to share it, especially if you know a man or woman who’s been betrayed. Send them the link to this, because they’re going to need to be encouraged. In order for them to be able to trust, they’re going to need the information in this post.
I’m going to go into my office today and I’m going to listen to someone who’s been lied to or cheated on, whether it’s been infidelity, or other kinds of secrets and lies. It’s what I do, every Monday. People fly from all over the country, all over the world. They come to our office at Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs and they tell us their story. Their story, because of what I specialize in, is often about betrayal.
Betrayal is not your fault. It’s your partner’s choices. What do you do? How do you walk back into this relationship? Because often times, you still love this person. You have a life together. Sometimes you have a house, or properties. You might have a business together. You have children together. You have families together. You have memories together. You have pictures together. You still care, even though they’ve betrayed you in the deepest, most painful, sacred parts of your relationship. Maybe it’s totally cracked and damaged, but you want to work on it.
Most of the couples I work with, this is their exact goal. They come to my office and they want to work on their marriage or relationship. They want to see it and make it. We give them the tools to do that. Most do actually, who’ve been betrayed. I have worked with couples that have dealt with infidelity, with maybe even a hundred partners outside the marriage, and their marriage still makes it. That takes some work. That takes some heroes. That takes some courage, but I want to talk to you about how to reestablish trust. It’s the only focus of this post.
I want to talk about the long way. Some couples do that even before they come to my office. The long way can take three to five years, at least. During that entire process, the person who did the betrayal is not trusted, even if you’re the best boy scout or girl scout ever. Maybe you don’t even look at porn anymore. Maybe you carry a cellphone that doesn’t have Internet access. You’ve made all the changes. Maybe you’ve done recovery for sex addiction, if you had a sex addiction. You’re doing all the work, but you’re not trusted. Over years, that isn’t fun.
Let’s just suppose it was the man who cheated, although women cheat as well. The wife will usually go through a couple rounds of depression, gain about 30 pounds or more, and have other issues because she doesn’t really know for sure if the man she’s married to has stopped lying to her. Or it could be the other way around and the man doesn’t know if his wife has stopped lying. She doesn’t know when he’s traveling if he’s being honest about who’s in the hotel room or where he is. Even if she has the best tracking device, she knows there are ways around those things. The anxiety of that just grows in her life, her heart, and her body. It really can be riveting to your health.
In my counseling center on Mondays, I suggest the short way. The short way is going to sound radical. I remember it was in the early 90’s when we did this with our first client. We’ve been using it ever since. I was the first person to use this in a therapeutic process, and now we have changed the way my field operates. For a while my field didn’t like it, but now they see the wisdom in doing a polygraph test. That’s right, a lie detector test. In my office, that’s available every week.
Why? Because, let’s suppose the husband has been unfaithful for 25 years. He looks at his wife and says, “Well, I’ll stop.” She’s like, “How am I supposed to know? How am I supposed to believe you?” Well, we do a polygraph test and we verify that he’s telling her the truth about how many partners. No details, you don’t want to know details. Get in the facts, the facts are there. Then we take another polygraph in three months, then six months, then nine months, then a year, then 18 months, then 24 months after. They can set this up anyway they want. It’s set up so the secret world of the person who cheated is totally gone. If they’re texting, calling, emailing, going on Facebook and trying to groom somebody, they’re going to get caught. If they contact people from the past, they’re going to get caught. If they go have sex with somebody, either someone from the past or a new person, they’re going to get caught. They know they’re going to get caught, so they really stop. In over 90% of our cases, they stop. If they don’t, they get caught. The wife isn’t waiting for another 20 years to find out that he’s grown up. The husband who’s put up with this behavior for 15 years isn’t going to have to wait another 15 years to find out if she’s having an affair.
It totally sets the couple up to be successful because it puts the acting-out behavior at bay, or at least brings it to awareness. There’s no longer going to be this big, secret divide. They’re going to know what the truth is. If you’ve been betrayed, you want to know the truth. You want to know the facts. You don’t want to know details per say, because that could be a really dangerous thing. We can talk about that maybe in another post.
As you’re going forward, there are a couple things that can be helpful. One is, believe behavior. You don’t want to believe the words. The words are empty. If the person has a sexual addiction, are they in a group? Are they making phone calls? Are they getting the help they need? If they cheated for some other reason, did they discover what that is, and did that reason get resolved? There are issues that contributed to it, whether it was a personal reason or character issues, because a bad marriage does not make someone cheat. Okay? If there are issues in your marriage, you need to honestly discuss them, and get engaged to solve them.
You want to believe the behavior of the person. You do not want to get into what we call “verbal reality,” of just believing their words, and then they get to do whatever they want. This is the time to change the system. The system needs to be based on behavior so that you can say, “Okay, they’re not calling these people. They’re not grooming anybody. They’ve changed their heart, their mind, and their lifestyle.” It becomes evident they’re fighting for the marriage, not just to win it back for the next few months, but to permanently engage in a lifestyle that’s conducive for better love, better sex, and a better relationship. They begin to desire to protect the heart of their spouse or partner. You want to believe behavior.
Next, you want to acknowledge it’s a process. You need to be gentle with yourself as you are trusting after betrayal. I would strongly encourage you to have some support. We have phone groups that are available. You don’t have to go through this alone. You want to be really careful about involving your family until you’ve made a permanent decision about your marriage. You really want to have a counselor that gets this. I can tell you, if you’re seeing a counselor that we’ve trained through the American Association for Sex Addiction Therapy (aasat.org), those therapists know what to do with betrayal because they’re trained in this area. That’s what we do. It’s what I do every single Monday.
Today I’m talking to you before I go into my office. Today, I am going to hear a story from a man or woman, who’s going to come in and say, “Yeah, you know, I kind of had this relationship.” “Well what exactly? Is this one relationship, five relationships, ten relationships?” They’re going to give me a number. We’re going to give them an opportunity to do a polygraph test and they’re going to verify that number. Then their spouse is going to go through the grief process we have talked about in a prior podcast, and they’re going to start their journey to healing.
Oftentimes in my office, the journey ends in happily ever after. I can’t tell you how many thousands of couples have found success through this process. We follow up three or five days after they’re with us. Sometimes I get cards and emails, years later. They’re on vacation in Hawaii, or some other place. They take a picture and say, “Thanks, Dr. Weiss. It’s ten years and our marriage is strong and better than ever.”
I just want to encourage some of you. You might be in the darkest moment of your life. The most painful day of your life is when you found out, or your spouse disclosed, “Hey, I’ve been unfaithful to you.” That pain can change your life. That’s a bullet. It doesn’t have to take you out, but you do have to take it out to be able to work through the healing process. I want to encourage you that there are stories of success, but trust is a process. It’s not going to be instantaneous.
If you’re the person who has done the betrayal, I want to give you some words of encouragement. You need to be really patient. You’re spouse is going to be hurt and angry. They’re going to act abnormally. This has added an incredible amount of stress to their entire life. It’s not just your relationship. Now they have secrets with their family. Now they have secrets with their best friends. They don’t want to tell everybody what you’ve done. They’re trying to maintain their life and maybe care for the children. If they work, they’re trying to manage that, and limp through with this bullet wound. So you need to be patient. This was not a little thing. This wasn’t a just a mistake, this was an atomic bomb in your marriage. Okay? The consequences have waves. You need to be really concerned. If you are that person, I would encourage you to get our DVD called “Helping Her Heal.” It’s really aimed more for men who have cheated, but women who have cheated have gotten a lot out of it as well. It’s two hours long. It gives you some really practical tools on what to do.
Betrayal recovery is a process you’re going to go have to go through. If you want to reengage in a relationship, it is important to reestablish trust. Today I’ve given you some very practical tools to help you do that.
Don’t forget to go to loveandsextoday.com, where you can get a free chapter from one of my books. Subscribe there and write a review on iTunes, so that we can hear what’s going on in your heart and how we’ve been able to help you. This is a post you want to pass along if you know someone who’s been betrayed. Let them know there’s real help for them. One of you who write a review will be selected for a private conversation with me. It’s priceless, fun, engaging, and will help you improve some area of your life. And remember—always have great love.