This is the 3rd and final part of the series on Infidelity, and we will be focusing on Surviving/Recovery from an affair. This article is primarily for couples who desire to recover from an affair rather than the couple choosing to end the marriage.
First, recovery in marriage from infidelity is possible, but it takes the dedication of both parties and understanding that it will be hard. It’s going to take a lot of work, but it is possible to restore a marriage.
Once infidelity is discovered within a marriage there is going to be shock, hurt, anger, fear, guilt, feelings of betrayal and rejection, shame and many others. Each partner may feel these all at once or go back and forth between a myriad of emotions daily. These feelings are to be expected.
Once the initial shock has worn off and it is determined the betrayed partner is open to recovery, several steps need to happen. Step 1-END THE AFFAIR. Completely and finally. There must be a total breaking off of any contact or engagement. If the desire is to save the marriage…full commitment is required.
Then, find a therapist with experience in affair recovery. Run, don’t walk to therapy. Engage fully in the process.
The next step in the process is called Discovery. The betrayed spouse is going to have questions and they are entitled to answers. The unfaithful spouse needs to be ready to answer their questions with transparency and honesty. When you “trickle the truth” and little tidbits come out here and there over several months, it delays trust-building.
I am not saying you need to sit down and have a 12-hour marathon of a ‘tell me everything’ talk. In fact, I would recommend the opposite. This process should take time over several weeks (ideally 6-8 weeks) in which several conversations occur with space in-between to process.
The unfaithful spouse needs to do their part and answer questions honestly. Do not engage in several “I’ve told you everything” talks only to discover that’s not true. The betrayed spouse also needs to do their part and be mindful not to get stuck on wanting to know every detail—you are looking for the overall picture of what occurred.
It is also important to be mindful of not asking questions with the intent to compare or analyze. This is simply information gathering.
As the betrayed spouse, try not to default to a place of rage. Recognize the true underlying emotions of hurt, fear and rejection and speak to those.
Each spouse needs to be aware that this process is just the first step in rebuilding trust. It also serves to help the betrayed spouse make an informed decision as to whether to stay or go based on (hopefully) truthful information rather than scenarios created in their own head.
Additionally, the unfaithful spouse must take steps to re-establish security within the relationship. This may mean handing over passwords, allowing access to a phone, calling or texting during the day to check in, etc. This will look different for every relationship.
During this step, it’s also important for the betrayed spouse to be careful that they do not get stuck on prosecuting their spouse and become so intent on getting every detail that they build unhealthy and intrusive pictures in their head.
The couple then progresses to Accepting Responsibility. Take ownership of your actions and behaviors. Acknowledge the hurt and damage caused.
Think of it like hitting a car in a parking lot. You don’t just damage someone’s car and drive off. You make contact with the owner. You acknowledge what happened and the damage caused and then you take efforts to repair it.
If you have stepped outside the boundaries and engaged in infidelity, but you have the desire to save your relationship, honor and respect your partner enough to be honest with them. Put in the work and accept responsibility.
Several of us at Psychological Services have extensive training and skill in marital therapy. Give us a call at 832-394-1440 today.