Infidelity in a marriage or relationship can be a devastatingly traumatic experience. It can leave you angry, grief-stricken, feeling used, abandoned or confused.

If you have suffered an act of infidelity, you may be trying to figure out how your relationship can survive the aftermath of complex emotions and fractured trust. The following are six ways to improve your chances of repairing your relationship after an affair.

Be Sure Both Of You Are Willing To Move Forward

The first step is to be certain that you and your partner are on the same page. Are you both fully committed to renewing your bond, working together and being accountable for the health of your relationship? It’s of immeasurable importance to make sure that both people want to recover. Otherwise, one of you will likely be doing all the work and enjoying none of the benefits. It may be an uncomfortable conversation to have, but talking with your partner about each other’s level of commitment after an affair can save a lot of time, effort, and potentially additional heartbreak.

Stop The Infidelity

It seems obvious but requires mentioning. If you are truly invested in rebuilding your relationship, you have to stop the infidelity. Unless you suffer a psychological obsession or addiction to sex that makes exclusivity a challenge, persistent cheating is a stark indicator that you don’t wish to make this journey with your partner.

In the case of the latter, counseling for sex addiction can offer a tremendous amount of support and guidance. It can help you identify the origins of your behavior and provide a starting point for your relationship’s recovery. In either case, however, more infidelity will wreck your chances of moving forward and will be tragically overwhelming for the victims.

Be Painfully Open And Honest With Each Other

Being open and honest with your partner means being able to lay bare the facts and put to rest fictional narratives that can haunt the victim. It means taking the pains to bear the story even if it hurts. It means laying everything out in the open despite anger, pain, guilt or fear of judgment. In fact, one of infidelity’s greatest pains is not knowing everything—having the narrative pieced together incrementally.

No one likes being left in the dark. That kind of wondering about “what part of the truth will I face next” only breeds more doubt, mistrust, and suspicion. By facing the truth of the infidelity, you demystify it. In doing so, you mitigate its power to dominate and control your imagination and emotions.

Address The Elephant In The Room: “Why Did It Happen?”

As much as it may hurt, it’s imperative to understand why this happened in the first place. Was it a change in your sexual relationship or a lack of intimacy? Was it a matter of opportunity or was it intentional? Did an experience in a past relationship influence the behavior or was it a reflection of family history?

Knowing why the act of infidelity occurred helps inform how you should go about repairing the relationship. Like most situations that require a remedy, it helps to identify the problem before trying to fix it.

Be Patient, Empathetic, and Accountable

Remember that an act of infidelity can be as traumatic as any other experience of personal loss or injury. As a result, healing will take time—there is no easy fix. The expectation is that both of you will have to commit to working diligently over time.

This means having the patience to let the other person work through their emotions. It means being accountable for your role in the experience and knowing when to own your actions and their impact. And it means learning how to share your partner’s perspective and embrace the validity of their emotions. Healing a relationship after an affair is an incremental process that can require as much patience as it does effort.

Seek Guidance From A Professional

One of the best things you can do for your relationship after an affair is to seek professional assistance. Marriage counseling, couples counseling, and family therapy can be an invaluable resource for recovery. Navigating the extreme emotions and trauma of infidelity can be a painful and confusing challenge. Just knowing where and how to start can seem impossible.

However, with a compassionate and skilled counselor, you and your spouse can explore your situation honestly and productively. Whether it’s understanding the reasons for infidelity, validating complex emotions or starting on the road to recovery, counseling can only help. In this place of healing, free of judgment, you can find the guidance and support crucial to repairing your relationship.