Rebuilding Trust Tara Fields, Ph.D., LMFT Marin County, California

Affair of the Heart vs. Sexual Affair: Part 2 Rebuilding the Trust

No Trust – No Relationship.

Ripping down trust may take only a few minutes, but it takes a long time to rebuild it. We talked about transparency in Part 1 of this two part series, but let’s go a bit deeper into what it really means. Exhibiting total transparency in an effort to rebuild trust in a relationship means that if you say you’ll be home at 7:30 P.M., you’re home at 7:30 P.M. “What if there’s a traffic jam?” you ask? It used to be no big deal if you came home late because of traffic. Those days are over, my friend. If there’s a traffic jam, you call your partner and you stay on the phone as you drive home. If you don’t, you open a Pandora’s box of other possibilities. Are you lying? Are you not lying? Your partner can’t be sure.

But here’s the thing, even if you act in a trustworthy way, your partner is still going to have a hard time trusting you because of the time(s) you betrayed that trust. Which means now is the time for going overboard, for being 100 percent committed to trust building. Not one step out of line, for it could truly mean the end of the relationship this time.

You may even consider making little agreements with your partner just so that you can keep them and show that you’re trustworthy. For example, agree that you will be home by a set time (on the dot), and if something happens to hold you up, like a downed tree on the state highway, make a phone call and tell your partner to turn on the news to verify that a tree, indeed, is blocking traffic on the highway. Or if you’re going out to lunch or to a business dinner, you might agree to let your partner know in advance where you’re going and who you will be with. If you go to the corner store, tell your partner when you’ll be back, and then stick to the schedule. You’re past the point of being able to talk with your partner about your trustworthiness—it’s going to take total transparency and follow-through, honoring these agreements over and over and over again, in order to rebuild trust.

Be willing to forgive.

Whether trust was broken through an affair or through lying about gambling or alcohol addictions, the steps may be very similar for the couple in rebuilding trust. Once both partners have met the nonnegotiable conditions, the wayward partner has done the work, and enough time has passed to rebuild trust, the partner who was cheated on or lied to, has to take a leap of faith and offer forgiveness. Without it, the cheater may begin to feel there is no hope for rebuilding the relationship and may simply give up.

True, this step involves being vulnerable and being willing to take a risk. Be kind to yourself. Offering forgiveness is difficult. It may be one of the toughest things you ever do. It is a complex and challenging step, but it’s also necessary. Let go of the false assumption that by forgiving, you’re dismissing the pain you felt. Let go of the belief that if you forgive your partner, you’re condoning the behavior. I know it is tough, and it is very normal and human to feel that way. You may never forget. The memories may never fade entirely. But at some point the partner who was cheated on will have to say, “Enough,” and will have to return to the relationship with an open heart.

Honestly and truly, it is possible to survive the crushing heartache and the struggle, and make it to the other side of an affair with a strengthened bond and a newfound loving partnership. Both my own heart and my experience of working with many couples have shown me this, and working with a professional can help bridge the gaps between attempting to rebuild and truly seeing both sides of the coin in working together.

Helpful Links:
Part 1: Affair of the Heart vs. Sexual Affair: Which Is More Devastating?
On Infedility with video: How Can a Couple Cope with Infidelity? via
Dr. Oz Show with guest Dr. Tara Fields – The Science of Infidelity 
Dr. Tara Fields – About Her Private Practice
Dr. Tara Fields – Media and Television/Radio Content & Appearances

affair of the heart

Affair of the Heart vs Sexual Affair: Part 1 Which is More Devastating?

Part 1 of a Two Part Series on Rebuilding The Relationship After an Affair of the Heart or Sexual Affair

The revelation of an affair of the heart (where a partner fell in love and/or had a deep emotional involvement) or a sexual affair is devastating but it doesn’t have to end a committed relationship. In fact, it can be rebuilt and be stronger than before.

Don’t minimize  the damage an affair of the heart can have because there wasn’t sexual involvement.  Research has shown that when asked which would be more painful, the majority of women overwhelmingly responded that an affair of the heart would be more devastating. Men felt more threatened by sexual infidelity.

In order to get past the infidelity, you need to meet several non-negotiable conditions and take some important steps:

  • Both partners must be committed to saving the relationship. And after an affair, that’s not a given. Be honest with yourself about whether you want to save the relationship. Only if the answer is yes for both of you, move on to evaluating and addressing the other conditions.
  • The partner who cheated must feel authentic, healthy shame. The only way to move forward with the next steps is if the cheating partner feels truly ashamed in his or her heart and soul about the behavior. Authentic shame is a corrective emotion: it alerts us to the “dangers” of our behavior and keeps us from repeating bad behaviors. It is the feeling that comes when we acknowledge having wronged someone or having done wrong, and it is not just normal but also essential and makes us human. It comes with having a conscience.
  • All communication with the “other” man or woman must end. This may seem like a given, but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for the partner who has cheated to end the affair—completely. That means no e-mails, no phone calls, no texting, and no “friendly lunches” (that’s likely how the person who cheated got into this mess).
  • The cheating partner must be willing to practice total transparency. If the partner who has been cheated on wants to listen in on the “breakup” phone call or read the Dear John or Dear Jane letter, he or she should be allowed to do so. And the cheating partner can’t just say that all communication has ended he or she has to prove it. This includes freely offering his or her partner all Internet passwords, outing all those “work” cell phones, and opening up about all travel plans and other plans that don’t involve his or her partner. The partner who cheated can’t ask for trust. Now it’s time to “show, not tell.”
  • The person who did the cheating must allow his or her partner to express anger freely—and not just once. Sure, partners in a garden-variety argument make things worse by dumping anger on each other. But this is different. The one who has been cheated on must get it all out.

These are just the stepping stones to the foundation of rebuilding a successful, trusting, open relationship with your significant other.

The number one reason relationships don’t survive an affair is the loss of trust. Stay tuned for part two, Rebuilding Trust After An Affair of The Heart or Sexual Affair.

Helpful Links:
On Infidelity with video: How Can a Couple Cope with Infidelity? via
Dr. Oz Show with guest Dr. Tara Fields – The Science of Infidelity 
Dr. Tara Fields – About Her Private Practice
Dr. Tara Fields – Media and Television/Radio Content & Appearances


You’re Not Nuts! (You’re Being Gaslighted)

Are you in a relationship that sometimes has you question your sense of self and even your sanity? Do you occasionally think, “Something just isn’t right here…”? Do you feel chronically insecure, but you’re not sure why?

Read more

Dr. Dean Edell reviews THE LOVE FIX

Before he retired, Dr. Dean Edell hosted the nationally-syndicated Dr. Dean Show, for decades the highest-rated program on the radio. But to me, Dean was a role model, teaching me that the media could be used not just for entertainment, but to make the world a better place.


Dr. Dean Edell’s spectacular review of THE LOVE FIX:
When you fall in love you ultimately raise your chances of eventual conflict and pain. If you accept that conflict can be a great teacher then you are ready for the next level. Yes, Dr. Tara Fields has three decades under her belt as a couple’s therapist but unlike most of her brethren, also has had a vast experience in the media. So she knows how to   communicate. And you are the beneficiary. That’s only one reason why this is the best relationship book I have ever read. Modern psychological research has advanced our knowledge beyond the simplistic idea that relationship problems are because men and women are from different planets!  Hang on, because if you are serious about improving fixing and growing your love look no further. First, this is NOT a book full of vague feel-good platitudes and homilies. Yes, it is wise and modern but most important for me, refreshingly objective, down to earth, direct and practical. For instance,  you and your partner can take self assessment tests (HEARTwork) that give you a numerical score for your feelings and relationship status…then armed with such REAL information, you will find simple practical exercises ( 3-minute Fix) that anyone can do . And then there are the stories about real people gleaned from Fields extensive experience as a therapist. These vignettes read like a novel you can’t put down. I believe that this is an important book even if you are not in a stressed relationship. The push in medicine these days is prevention. Why not take that attitude about your relationship which after all can be the most important source of joy or misery in your life. This is a must read for all of us.
Dean Edell M.D.

The 10 Ways You Fight (and How to Really Win)

Here’s a newsflash: even the best couples fight.

It’s not conflict that drives couples apart

– in fact, a little disagreement with your spouse or partner can show commitment to the relationship. Over time, conflict can build trust in the idea that you can handle hard times together. Read more

The Favorite Child

Do you prefer one of your children?
If you think your favoritism is no big deal—think again. The consequences for both the Golden Child and the runner-up can last a lifetime.

The reality is that most parents will identify with one of their offspring more than the others, which is not harmful when all the children are well loved. But favoritism, taken to an extreme, can cause psychological and even physical harm. Read more

The High-Stakes Price Children Pay When a Parent Sneaks Around

Whether or not an adult decides to cheat when married (or in a committed relationship) is basically his or her business.
I am a firm believer that consenting adults should be free to do anything they want, within reason.

After all, as adults, they possess the freedom of choice,  and in choosing to cheat, one presumes that the participants are also cognitively choosing to suffer the consequences. Read more

Reclaim Valentine’s Day!

Forget Cheesy Lingerie — She’ll probably just say, “And what did you get me!?”.
And forget overpriced flowers — flowers just die anyway.

This year, give a real, meaningful gift, one that is personal and one that will last (or at least, a real, meaningful gift and those overpriced flowers). Read more