Q&A: Tips for rebuilding trust after an affair

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By psychologist Angie Willcocks

Q: My husband, who is a FIFO worker, cheated on me with someone he works with. We worked through it with counseling and he moved back home. As far as I know they only kissed and it only happened once. We are now in a better place than before it happened. However, I can’t shake the suspicions and can’t stop checking his phone at every opportunity. I recently found messages from someone he says is only a friend but I can’t help but think it’s happening again. I’m so jealous and suspicious and it’s been years! How do I get over it and trust him again?
 
A: First up I'd like to say very well done to you and your husband for sticking together through such a tough time. Cheating causes huge stress on a relationship, and it takes a lot of time, patience and energy from both partners to get through.

It's a big thing to learn to trust again and it's not unusual to find yourself acting suspiciously now and again. Ideally what happens in a situation like this is that when you snoop a few times you find nothing, so you stop snooping and things gradually return to normal. Unfortunately sometimes 'something' is found on a snooping mission and then confusion reigns and it can feel like you are right back where you started.

I am a little concerned that you seem to be 'owning' this problem as yours alone. I understand that you want to stop being jealous and suspicious and to trust your husband again, but I also think that he has to acknowledge his role in this too. If he is continuing to have problems expressing himself emotionally within your relationship, then it's important that he acknowledges that, and perhaps gets some help or support in that area. Sharing emotions with our partner hasn't always been seen as a necessary or normal part of marriage, but by today's standards and norms it is. If your husband is going to share his fears, hopes and dreams with anyone, it is reasonable to expect that he will share (most of them) with you.

Whether or not your husband has female friends and what is ok for him to share within those friendships is something for the two of you to negotiate within your relationship. The reality of committed relationships is that we sometimes need to make some concessions for our partner, whether or not we feel 100 per cent happy about this. I don't know what concessions are reasonable in your particular relationship, but I've had some clients make an agreement that each can have friends of the opposite sex as long as the marital relationship is never discussed. Other clients have said no to any individual friends of the opposite sex, at all.

While I think no friends of the opposite sex is a bit extreme, it does work for some. My professional opinion is that one partner sharing intimate details and emotions about their marriage (with anyone other than a counsellor, psychologist or other health professional) is ultimately bad for the marital relationship.

Obviously I have no idea if you really do have anything to be worried about, and I am certainly not suggesting that your husband's friendship has anything suspicious about it. It does sound as though you and your husband have some more to talk about, which is very normal even years on from a breach of trust. I think that returning to counselling to talk some more about this issue would be a good idea, especially since you have found it useful in the past.

You might also find it helpful to read my past column on infidelity and to read the book After the Affair.

Thanks for your email. 


To read other columns written by Angie Willcocks during her six years with Mining Family Matters, please click here. And remember that we offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career. All advice on Mining Family Matters is for general information only and should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. To talk with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To contact the info line at beyondblue: national depression initiative, phone 1300 22 4636.


Angie Willcocks is a registered psychologist with a private practice in Adelaide – for details about Skype consultations please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. She’s an expert in tackling issues such as depression, anxiety, postnatal depression, child sleep routines and relationship difficulties. She has a Bachelor of Health Sciences in Psychology and a Masters of Counselling Psychology. She is also the co-author of The Sensible Sleep Solution: a guide to sleep in your baby’s first year, which can be ordered from her website www.angiewillcocks.com.