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A relationship expert believes couples can be stronger after cheating, but there are 4 important steps to rebuilding trust again

INSIDER logoINSIDER 11/17/2019 Lindsay Dodgson
© Flickr/Sascha Kohlmann

When someone cheats, the reasons are always bad. But according to a relationship expert, the act itself may sometimes lead to something good - a stronger partnership. 

Jenn Mann, the author of "The Relationship Fix," told Insider the main reasons people stray is a lack of connection in the relationship and sexual dissatisfaction.

"Most people do not realize how important creating, maintaining, and nurturing connection in a relationship is," she said. "There will always be temptations, but when a couple is feeling connected the odds of acting on those temptations go down significantly."

But cheating doesn't always mean the end of a relationship, she added. In fact, Mann believes it can even make a bond between a couple stronger. But couples who do survive are the ones who are willing to look at their flaws and the mistakes that led up to the affair.

"This is painful and difficult to do, especially after being betrayed and hurt so deeply," she said. "A well-trained couples therapist can be very helpful here."

But it's not simply a case of forgiving and forgetting. No relationship can move forward unless they have the "four Rs of apology," Mann said.

"In order for the relationship to be able to heal, the couple has to be able to process what happened, why it happened and how to avoid it in the future," she said. "When the cheater stays defensive or unwilling to process the hurt he or she has caused, the relationship is unlikely to achieve a positive outcome."

The four Rs of apology

1. Remorse - The first step is a heartfelt apology, Mann said, which is more than a simple "I'm sorry." She said a meaningful apology means communicating real regret and an understanding of the hurt caused.

2. Taking responsibility - This means showing ownership of your actions and the impact, regardless of your intent, Mann said. This lets the other person know you appreciate the gravity of what you did wrong.

3. Recognition - Everyone's feelings need to be acknowledged and listened to after something as traumatic as cheating, so it's important there's the opportunity for each partner to talk through what happened and explain how it made them feel.

4. Remedy - If you want to make amends, you must take action to avoid another affair, Mann said. This means addressing the underlying issues that led up to the cheating in the first place, like attending therapy or going to rehab.

a person standing in front of a restaurant © Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images

The level of trust in a relationship is "irrevocably changed" after cheating, Mann said, but couples can make it through if they're willing to put in the work it takes to forgive.

Overall, connection is the "greatest vaccination" against infidelity, she said, so it's important couples work towards building that up again.

"There will always be someone who is younger, hotter, thinner, perkier, fitter, or better endowed," she said. 

"But if you are nurturing a sense of connection with your partner - striving to make them feel loved and adored, and providing something unique that no one else can provide overnight, or provide it the way you do - you have the home court advantage." 

Related video: Related video: Is there such a thing as your ‘soul mate?’ TODAY panel weighs in (Provided by TODAY)

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