A spouse’s infidelity is one of the most painful experiences ever. Unfortunately, more than 50% of all spouses are victims of unfaithfulness, which means that one spouse in most marriages will suffer the greatest pain possible at some time
It will take more than an article – or even a mountain of books – to discuss the task of surviving infidelity, or to cover even a small part of the issues that arise from this painful situation. But we need something to begin with. This article was written both for those who suffered an affair and those who have or had an affair themselves.
Most people cannot imagine having a normal marriage after an affair. After discovering that their spouse was unfaithful, the first reaction of most people is to get a divorce (or kill their spouse, more like).
Should I Get A Divorce?
A divorce is certainly a legitimate way to deal with the situation. The betrayed spouse has every right to decide that this relationship is over. The cheating spouse may choose to live with the lover, and if the reason for infidelity was suffering abuse on the hands of the betrayed spouse, this decision is easy to understand.
But, believe it or not, most affairs do not lead to divorce. In fact, most couples make efforts to reconcile, and often succeed. Your marriage can survive an affair. Healing from infidelity is hard work – both must be committed to reviving the relationship and rebuilding the lost feelings of love and trust.
Avoid Seeing Your Lover
For a start, the cheating wife/husband must promise to stop the affair and sever all contacts with the lover right away. How can you restore the love to your spouse when the lover is still hanging around? All meetings, phone calls and forum chats must stop. If you and your former lover work in the same place, keep your encounters strictly formal.
In addition, the cheating spouse must express a plan to demonstrate his or her commitment to the promise to stop the affair. If your ex- lover contacts you or if you bump into each other on the street, you better tell your spouse about it before they find out about in from someone else. I believe you already know that constant lying is extremely tiresome. This is the time to start being honest with your spouse.
The cheating spouse might find that the first few weeks of separation from the lover can be very painful. It’s like an addiction, and separation has led to a compulsive craving accompanied by anxiety and depression. However, if you stick to your decision not to communicate with your lover, those feelings will gradually subside. It might take a few weeks, but it’s absolutely necessary to stick to your decision if you want to revive your feelings for your spouse and repair your marriage.
Take Responsibility and Apologize
Unfortunately, most affairs do not end with the cheating spouse’s choice to end the relationship with their lover. That’s why the recovery stage usually begins with much bitterness from both sides. Strange as it may seem, it’s very common that the cheating spouse doesn’t feel remorse at all. And it’s also very common for the betrayed spouse to feel that it wasn’t his or her fault. Neither is ready to take responsibility and apologize, preferring to blame the other side.
Of course, an apology is not really necessary. But it can certainly make the process of rebuilding your relationship much easier. The unfaithful spouse should apologize for the infidelity and lying. The betrayed spouse should also apologize for having failed to meet important emotional needs, which might has led to the affair.
Talk About Your Marriage
But in many cases, the blame for not meeting each other’s needs prior to the affair lies with both spouses, so that the relationship is mutually unsatisfying. Many have no idea what their partner expects from them and their relationship and how to meet each other’s emotional needs. Each of the spouses should talk about his or her feelings, and to explain what was missing in the relationship from their point of view. You should know what went wrong before repairing it, right? But try not to make accusative speeches. Speak in a sincere, calm tone. And if you can, try to maintain physical contact. It’s much harder to throw accusations and insults at a person while you’re hugging them. Can’t possibly think of hugging this person right now? That’s understandable. Try to sit as close as possible to each other. Don’t talk in a formal-like environment, like sitting on the opposite sides of the table. Sit cozily together on a couch. These details might sound silly, but believe me, they help to create the atmosphere considerably.
Don’t Dwell on Past Mistakes
After apologizing to each other, both should concentrate on the task of rebuilding their relationship, and not dwell on the mistakes of the past. Once you decided to give the relationship one more chance, both spouses should take responsibility for the task and make every effort to rebuild the marriage. Trying to make the unfaithful spouse feel guilty won’t help your marriage. Guilt will turn to resentment and resentment will turn to anger. The best thing both can do is to ignore the past as much as possible, and focus on what you can do to repair the damage.
So the first and crucial step a couple should take is to lay down the weapons. The second step for both spouses is to “compensate” each other by meeting each other’s unmet emotional or physical needs that may have given the unfaithful spouse an excuse to have an affair. Of course, nothing can really compensate for infidelity. But it’s much more logical to forgive your spouse after he or she makes an effort to rebuild your marriage.
Spend Time With Your Spouse
The couple should spend time together every week (without family or friends), whether going out or doing things together at home, like cooking together. You probably don’t feel like you want to be together right now. However, it is crucial for both to get to know each other from anew and to listen to each other. So when together, both should avoid expressing anger and demands. Try treating each other with gentleness and consideration. Simply be together.
Talking About the Affair
Another important issue is talking about the details of the affair. It is natural for the betrayed spouse to want to know the details. It is also natural to hesitate to ask for those details, because hearing about it might make us feel even worse. So, should the spouses talk about the affair?
Many marriage specialists are of the opinion that they should, claiming that couples that “talk about it” have more chances to successfully rebuild their relationship and the trust between them. There’s much truth in that. But in reality, we are all different. While some might be strong enough to hear the bitter details, others need some more time to heal. Dr. Frank Gunzburg, a well-known marriage specialist, believes that it won’t do any good trying to speed up the process of healing by forcing the details of the affair from your spouse and ignoring your resentment. The unfaithful spouse might find it difficult to speak about it too, by the way, fearing the reaction, and not wanting to give the betrayed spouse another chance to make him/her feel guilty again.
It doesn’t mean that the couple should act as if nothing happened. Both may agree not to talk about it for the moment until both are ready. Take your time, and when you feel you’re ready, try to talk about it and see how it goes. And you don’t have to talk about everything right now. You can discuss a bit now, and a bit more later. It is a big thing to digest.
Reviving Your Sex-Life
Now, let’s say a few words about the intimacy issue. Rekindling the sexual passion between the spouses might take a while. Imagining your spouse with his or her lover is unbearable, and many torment themselves wondering whether their spouse compares their body and sexual performances with those of the former lover. Who can make love feeling like that?!
It might take about half a year after the affair for desire to return. The unfaithful spouse shouldn’t expect much from their partner sexually. Show some consideration and give them a chance to overcome their negative feelings.
Even if you truly and sincerely forgave your spouse and rebuilt your relationship, resentment often lingers on. A blow is that is hard to forget, and many find that the memory of the affair haunts them decades after it happened.
Resentment is a normal reaction. A betrayed spouse has to deal with the unbearable memories of the pain and the lies. However, when there is no longer danger for another affair and the marriage was successfully rebuilt, this reaction might ruin the reconciliation.
We cannot actually forget what happened. But we can overcome the resentment. It fades over time as long as nothing similar happens and both spouses learn to build a physically and emotionally satisfying relationship.
Let’s sum this up. The most crucial factor in successfully rebuilding marriage after an affair is actually the same factor that enables couples to maintain a stable relationship in ordinary circumstances: both should want this to happen and be ready to work for it. Each has a right to decide that he or she is not interested to make this effort, but once both decide they want to give themselves once more chance despite all that had happened, it is a mutual responsibility to do whatever they can to help each other heal, and to create a warm, satisfying relationship that will make both of you think twice before endangering it in any way in the future.
As I mentioned in the beginning of the article, it will take more than a few books to cover this issue. If you feel like you need a step-by-step guidance, Dr. Gunzburg’s 3-phase system is a good place to start.