Healing Marriages: Affair Repair
Five Ways to Repair Your Marriage – If You Are the Unfaithful Spouse:
Infidelity elicits a variety of stress responses for the spouse who has been wounded; their body responds as if danger lurks at every corner.
If you are the unfaithful spouse and you choose to repair the pain and reconstruct your marriage, be prepared in that it will take time and hard work. Many couples who have gone through this experience describe their reconstructed relationships as being stronger afterwards.
There are five actions that are imperative for the repair work to be successful. The first action focuses on the healing process.
- Accept Responsibility and Tell the Truth
For the spouses discovering the infidelity, it’s devastating, whether it is an emotional or physical affair. The hurt spouse’s world has been turned upside down. The person they believed could be trusted has become the one who has wounded them in the worst way possible. The hurt spouse’s reaction can be akin to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Some of the symptoms include reliving the up-setting event, feeling danger is around every corner, and feeling hopeless.
Once the hurt spouse processes the initial shock, all they want is the truth. I tell the unfaithful client, “You can’t hurt your spouse any more than you already have.” Telling the truth is absolutely necessary in allowing your spouse to feel safe. Only when he or she feels safe can they begin to think about re-establishing trust, and this takes time.
The hurt spouse is in need of answers so they can begin to make sense of the situation. Hearing the truth and knowing the story behind the infidelity can help lessen the obsessing, so they can begin the healing. Talking, listening, and empathizing are all components in beginning to rebuild the trust.
- End All Communications with the Affair Partner
Any and all interactions with the affair partner must cease. There is to be no more emails, lunches, phone calls, texts, IM’s, or Facebook interactions. The only way to heal is to end the lies and be completely forthright and honest. What ensues may be pressure from both your spouse and the affair partner; It is never easy. The one may accuse you of leading him or her on and the other may accuse you of deception and lying.
Until you communicate to your spouse that all contact, of any type, has ended with the affair partner, your spouse will be unable to heal, and your marriage will not recover.
Establishing a permanent end to all communication and connections with the affair partner prevents the affair from resurrecting. It sends a clear message to your partner that the affair is over and you are committed, to the marriage. Restoration of the belief in you and your love can begin.
- Volunteer Information and Be Accountable
The hurt spouse needs to be aware of the significant facts surrounding the affair to understand the extent of the deception. This can validate his or her feelings and reaffirms that he or she is not going crazy. For example, she may have suspected the truth that the flowers reportedly sent to the co-worker who lost her husband were really for the affair partner. There is comfort in knowing that the fears were legitimate. Sharing, honesty, and transparency are vital for beginning to heal the marriage.
Here is an example: On-going honesty is telling your spouse that you had a business dinner following work. When they inquire if you saw the affair partner at this dinner, you answer honestly, “no.” Transparency is when you add, “but I did see him when a few of us went for drinks at the bar around the corner afterwards, but I didn’t talk to him.” Offering information, even though it may be hurtful for your spouse, is crucial to healing the marriage.
Be accountable for where you are going, what you are doing, and who you are texting. Share your passwords for your electronic devices and allow your spouse to look at any device at any time. Ending all secrecy will help the marriage to heal. Even if a tracking device is requested in the beginning, it helps establish a feeling of safety. It gives you the opportunity to prove you are the man or woman of integrity that you say you want to be. Your partner will begin to believe your “yes” means “yes” and your “no” means “no.”
- Listen and Connect to Your Spouse’s Pain
Many things you say and do express to your spouse you care; your body language, performing tasks, and expressing understanding and concern are but a few of these things.
Empathic listening is when you listen to understand and connect with your spouse’s underlying emotions. It’s an integral part of the healing process.
Example: If you (Joe, the unfaithful spouse) choose a movie that involves a torrid affair in the story line and your hurt spouse (Jen) is visibly shaken, here are some suggestions:
Do not say, “Oh now Jen, don’t get so upset, I’ve told you multiple times, I’m not doing anything”.
Do say, “When you see something like this, you must hurt because it might remind you of what I did. I’m so sorry”.
When you choose to validate your spouse’s worst fears, you are relieving distress and helping her to heal. When you minimize her feelings, you leave her feeling alone.
If you have been unfaithful, it can be challenging to listen to the negative. You may want to downplay or minimize what has happened.
Do not say, “Just don’t think about it, time heals all wounds. It will be okay.” Dismissing her feelings or giving her empty reassurances does not feel like support.
Do say, “Of course you are upset, anyone would be. I’m sorry I caused you pain”. This is connecting with her emotions and provides comfort to her.
- Be Willing to Wait and Provide Comfort
Healing is a gradual process that requires time. Imagine your loved one has been struck by a car while crossing a busy intersection. They are in intensive care having sustained serious injuries. It takes several months to care for initial injuries and full recovery and healing can take several years. Infidelity is on par with that level of trauma. Give your spouse time and undivided attention.
By being patient and willing to wait, you create safety for your spouse. When your spouse has a flashback, you must fight the urge to run away. Instead, move toward your spouse, reach out to provide comfort.
Identify the most important emotional needs (conversation, recreational companionship, sexual fulfillment, etc…) and work each day to connect emotionally with your spouse.
When a couple creates a lifestyle that they each enjoy and appreciate, they build compatibility into their marriage. This communicates, “You are important to me. I will protect and care for you.” “I am concerned about the problems you face and I will be here for you when you need me.” “I am with you and accept the emotions you are currently feeling.”
Regularly review your progress while talking and interacting in a manner that clearly expresses you are dedicated.
The spouse who strayed must continue to change from the one who did the wounding to the one who nurtures the healing. You must evolve into the partner who soothes the hurt. Then, instead of alienating and pushing your spouse away, you begin to lovingly draw your spouse to you. This renovation of your marriage is the start of a new and exciting journey forward together.
Suzanne W. Keenon MA, LCPC
Suzanne W Keenon is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who sees individuals, couples, and families at Fox Valley Institute. She can be reached at 630-718-0717 ext 212 or at email@example.com. For immediate assistance to schedule an appointment, please connect with one of our Client Care Specialists at 630.718.0717, ext. 240.