How to regain trust after infidelity, according to a relationship expert

Infidelity is the main focus of 'Conversations with Friends,' and it's not only confusing in fiction

nick and melissa on conversations with friends
(Image credit: Enda Bowe/Hulu)

To outsiders, Nick and Melissa Conway appear perfect: they're successful, attractive, wealthy, but two uni students quickly learn it's nothing more than a facade.

After infidelity from multiple parties in the Conversations with Friends TV show and book, the couples—and outsiders looking in—are left confused. How will these partners move on? Do they even want to move on?

For those who've not read the Sally Rooney bestseller or seen the Conversations with Friends Hulu and BBC adaptation, we'll get you up to speed: Frances and Bobbi are students who were once romantically linked. Though they're no longer in a relationship, they're still best friends who participate in spoken word performances together. 

After dazzling the crowd at a show, the pair comes in contact with esteemed writer Melissa Conway, who's quite taken with their words. Shortly thereafter, a friendship sparks. Then Bobbi gets a crush on Melissa. Subsequently, the girls meet Melissa's husband Nick (Joe Alwyn), who promptly begins an affair with Frances. 

The quartet gets tangled and twisted romantically and professionally, making it incredibly difficult to move on. (Not that the Conversations with Friends ending gave us much closure, but...) 

With streamers tuning in and readers picking up Rooney's novels—all of which focus on matters of the heart—it makes you wonder, how do you move on from betrayal?

How to trust a partner after infidelity

nick and frances in the car in conversations with friends

(Image credit: Enda Bowe/Hulu)

Though no easy feat, Dr. Laura Vowels, couples therapist and principal researcher at Blueheart offers guidance for rebuilding trust after discretions. 

1. Accept

No, she's not suggesting you accept the behavior, Dr. Vowels is suggesting that you accept the fact that recovery won't happen instantaneously—it'll likely be a difficult go for quite some time. 

Though one party might be responsible for the bad behavior, it'll take the work of each person in the relationship to make their way through any difficulties. 

"Both partners should understand that it's a long process, and be fully committed to supporting each other through it," Dr. Vowels says. 

2. Be honest

Working through such a delicate issue will be next to impossible if you cannot communicate candidly with your partner. You should be honest when discussing what happened, but do be mindful that certain facts will serve as trigger points. 

"Often when we search for meaning, we end up asking for details, but the answers can often haunt you," Dr. Vowels says. "If your partner has been unfaithful, you’ll need to know some information for your peace of mind, and to help you understand why things happened, but avoid asking about specifics."

3. Ask for help

There's no shame in seeking guidance from an unbiased third party. In fact, that might allow you to see the situation from a new perspective, and it could help you on the road to recovery. 

"Going to joint therapy is a great way to establish healthy coping mechanisms," Dr. Vowels recommends. 

If the thought of romantic chaos piques your interest—we'll admit, Sally Rooney stories are addictive—check out Conversations with Friends on Hulu and BBC iPlayer, but do be warned: it's popularizing the sad girl trend for a reason.

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.