Many marriages survive infidelity, but to do so successfully takes commitment and hard work on the part of both partners. While unfaithfulness has many causes and the roots of the problem can be complex, for purposes of this article we’ll talk about the Faithful Spouse and the Unfaithful Spouse. Both have significant work to do to repair the damage to their marriage.
The Unfaithful Spouse
1) Stop Immediately. There can be no equivocation. You must end your affair immediately and decisively. No phone calls, no texts, no contact of any kind. If you work with this person you may consider changing jobs if you value your marriage. If that’s not possible, keep your contact to the absolute minimum and be relentlessly businesslike. If your former lover tries to contact you, report it to your spouse and tell him how you responded. You are trying to build trust and you don’t want your spouse to discover anything unless you tell him.
2) Be Unfailingly Open. Answer every question thoroughly and completely. You may think telling the details of your affair will unnecessarily hurt your spouse—and it will hurt. But if you are willing to tell your partner everything he wants to know, you will begin to build trust because you are no longer harboring secrets. And if you leave out any details with the hope of shielding your partner (or perhaps saving you the pain of revealing your betrayal) your spouse with suffer double betrayal if the left-out details emerge later.
3) Own Your Behavior. You may have many great reasons for being unfaithful. Some may even be your spouse’s fault. But never forget your spouse is the injured party and you must take responsibility for your actions. You must prove to your partner that you will never commit this breach of trust again. That will take time. Meanwhile, apologize, profusely and sincerely. Demonstrate as much empathy as you can toward your spouse when he expresses the pain he is suffering.
4) Be Patient and Persistent. The road to recovery is often not linear. You may take three steps forward and two steps back. But keep being open. Keep communicating with your spouse, answering all his questions and listening to him with empathy. There is no speeding up this process. And there’s no predicting how long it will take for your spouse to heal. It may be a very long time before the shock and hurt and anger subside long enough for your spouse to forgive you.
The Faithful Spouse
- Rein in the Rage. It’s okay to be angry. To cry and scream and carry on. And you should show as much emotion as you need to. But don’t wallow. Don’t use your rage to punish if you want to heal. You may not even feel like saving your marriage at this point, but keep that option open in case you feel differently later. If you are so busy lashing out that you can’t even talk about what happened, then you will never understand it. Try to get all the facts, and if your partner is truthful with you, you may find your anger subsiding. So ask a lot of questions and get all the details you need to discover the reasons for the affair. It might help you understand your own marriage better.
2) Take Your Time. Your spouse may have done all the right things to help repair the damage to your relationship, but you can only heal as fast as your heart tells you. Take time to feel your pain, to express your anger, to mourn the betrayal. Talk to your partner about how you feel about the affair and how it has affected you. This will help build some intimacy between you. Talk with trusted friends and family, too, to help you regain your equilibrium. Spend some time with your partner reconnecting without talking about the affair. And forgive only when you’re ready. If you try to forgive too quickly, you will only have more problems down the road.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact