Healing Marriages: Affair Repair
Five Ways to Repair Your Marriage – If You Are the Spouse Who Was Hurt:
Infidelity launches a series of complex and conflicting emotions. A world that was once thought of as safe and secure now has been ripped apart and is filled with panic and helplessness for the hurt spouse.
These five actions can assist in the healing of your marriage.
1. Expect a Variety of Emotions
An affair shatters a spouse’s familiar and safe world. The assurance of a secure and loving marriage is gone, and in its place, are fear, disbelief, and devastation. The hurt spouse can alternate from being filled with anxiety, to being filled with rage, to sobbing, to feeling frozen and numb. Obsessing can result in reviewing over and over the time when the affair was taking place to make some sense of this double life that has been discovered. It is normal to want reassurance that the unfaithful spouse will not leave and, at the same time, to want to immediately kick him or her out the front door. When a person is traumatized with the discovery of an affair, anger and irritability can be magnified. Shifting emotions are very common and can be difficult to understand.
2. Seek Help
With the discovery of an affair, you may feel like there is only shifting sand under your feet. Nothing is as it was nor as you believed it to be. You may feel bewildered and may not know what to do. Seek a professional therapist with experience in marital therapy such as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist or a Licensed Clinical Therapist with additional training in Marital/Couples therapy. Examine their compassion and knowledge about repairing couples experiencing infidelity. Evaluate if there is a chemistry with this therapist. You should have the feeling that he or she “gets it.” Therapy can assist you in confronting your pain, deciding what to do next, and moving you forward to a sense of hope in your future.
Bring loving family and friends around you for support. Preferably those who are “for” marriage and those who can hold confidences. Feeling overwhelmed and feeling danger is around every corner is normal. You have just discovered something shocking and need someone to sit with you while you process this information. Do not make any big or rash decisions at this time. Allow others to guide and care for you.
3. Protect Yourself
If you decide to repair your marriage, your spouse has to totally end all communications with the third party for this effort to be successful. Explore your spouse for sincerity, honesty, and true brokenness. Affairs and deceitfulness go hand in hand so if he or she is truly wiling to be genuine and transparent, the rebuilding of safety can begin. You have the right to know the answer to every question asked, no more and no less. Only when both parties feel they have shared all the secrets can you begin to rebuild trust. Be cautious when asking the specifics about love-making, for these details may interfere with your eventual renewed intimacy. I suggest you protect yourself in this area.
Your job is to allow the partner who strayed to prove he or she is the person of character they say they want to be. There are many ways to restore trust. You can ask the spouse who strayed to communicate an accurate itinerary, where they will be and when they will be home. Ask your spouse to share with you when and if they run into their lover. It is acceptable to ask them to increase the times they call, email, or text you during the day. Providing this structure and connection helps establish safety and a less stressed wounded partner.
4. Give Yourself Time
Rebuilding a marriage is not easy, but neither is ending one. According to Lawyers.com, the average cost of a divorce in Illinois in 2017 is $13,800. In the beginning it is normal to feel ambivalent, so take the time needed to explore your doubts and confront your fears. If you decide to rebuild your marriage, you must be open to inviting your spouse back into relationship with you. Give yourself time to examine if he or she keeps their word. Do they use gentle non-sexual touch and a soft tone of voice to help create a relaxed space, where you can begin to let go of the fear of being taken advantage again? It is normal for the wounded spouse to have the fear of a new infidelity that would threaten the success of the recovery. Both spouses should be totally honest with their emotions and should not be presented with any surprises.
Rebuilding this new relationship of trust will take time and patience.
5. Understand Forgiveness and Move Toward It
To forgive does not mean “you forgive and forget.” It does allow you to move forward with your life without being stuck in the past. Forgiveness does not mean the behavior should continue; it does not necessarily mean reconciliation with your spouse, nor does it mean you are condoning or giving permission for the behavior to continue.
Forgiveness is a choice and a process. It is built on the sincere repentance of the unfaithful partner and involves both of you. It can free you from the agony and heartache of the past. It is letting go of pain, bitterness, and resentment. You will advance forward without the need for revenge or the need to punish. The Stanford Forgiveness Study demonstrated the benefits of being able to forgive. Forgiving reduced the risk factors of heart disease, stress, anger, and depression. It lowered blood pressure and improved immune systems. People who forgave had fewer headaches, muscle aches, stomach distress, and heart palpitations. They reported an increased ability to feel connection, trust, and affection.
Infidelity is traumatic, yet I have clients that have found their way to forgiveness and have shown great resiliency and courage. It allowed them to be the wonderful creators of their own lives.
Essentially, they have advanced into their future with hope and wholeness.