Essential Steps to Recover Your Marriage After Infidelity
Infidelity affects nearly 80% of the marriages in the US. Most marriages that are rocked by infidelity do not end due to the affair; if the marriage ends in divorce following an affair, it is usually due to the couple’s inability to create a program for recovery. A full recovery addresses many issues, but the overall focus is to change the conditions under which the affair occurred in the first place.
Steps to Recover Your Marriage
Step 1: End The Affair
The first step to restoring a marriage struggling with the issue of infidelity is to end the affair. Until the unfaithful spouse completely ends the relationship with the lover, there is no hope of restoring the marriage. I cannot express enough how important this is. I get calls and emails every day from desperate men and women wanting to know how they can save their marriage while their spouse is cheating. The sad but simple answer is, they can’t. There is no recovery until the affair ends.
One of the most crucial moments in recovering from infidelity is what happens when the betraying spouse wakes up to the pain and misery he or she is causing, ends (or promises to end the affair) and wants to reconcile with the spouse. Usually by this time the faithful partner has been dragged through more hurt and betrayal than he or she ever thought possible. All they want to do is to have their family intact again and to put the affair behind them. They want to resume their lives…and they make one of the biggest mistakes possible. They allow the wayward spouse to come home without first setting the conditions for recovery.
Affairs rock marriages to their core. They are cruel, destructive, and they wreak havoc on families. Once there has been betrayal of that sort, life within the marriage cannot and will not ever return to its pre-affair state. Nor should it. There need to be conditions for restoring love, trust, and for addressing the things that led to the affair in the first place.
That Means No Contact With The Affair Partner
The first condition for recovery is that the lover is to be out of the picture entirely. The unfaithful partner must promise and be held accountable for never contacting this person in any way again, ever. If that means that the family must relocate or that the one who had the affair must find a new job, then so be it. Without this condition in place there is a strong possibility that the affair will flare up again in the future.
Step 2: Establish Transparent Honesty
Once the affair has ended and No Contact has been established (and can be verified), it is possible to begin to address the other issues in the marriage. My work with couples is founded on the need for complete honesty. Nowhere is honesty more essential than when recovering from infidelity. Couples need to learn to share with each other what they think, how they feel, what they need, what they like, and what is upsetting to them. In addition, they need to be totally honesty about the events of their day, their plans, where they’ve been and what they’ve done, and how they feel. Included in my definition of honesty is accountability for time, whereabouts and money…24/7.
Step 3: Address Underlying Marital Issues
With the lover out of the picture and with couples learning to be honest with each other, we can begin to look at the things that went wrong in the marriage. People have affairs for many reasons, and none of them are justified. But if we are going to restore the love and trust husbands and wives have for each other, we need to look at the issues behind the affair. In no way is this to be construed as blaming the faithful and betrayed spouse. There is no excuse for infidelity. Our goal is to be forward thinking and our goal is to create a marriage that is stronger and happier than the one that existed before the affair.
If either of the partners has a control or abuse problem, that must be addressed before we can go further. If I can’t help them work through this issue and make changes in their behavior in short order, I refer the one with the problem to an anger management program. Anger and control must be eliminated before moving on to the next steps.
Step 4: Begin Building Compatibility
Next, we look at other things that were painful or objectionable to either partner and we find ways to eliminate those things. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of sharing that information with each other (you’d be amazed at the things husbands and wives don’t know about what each other thinks and feels) and sometimes it takes a concerted effort to design a strategy to eliminate ingrained behaviors.
At the same time, we begin to discuss what it is that each of them would like to have in a happy and fulfilling relationship. Little by little, we make progress finding ways to incorporate those things into the marriage. And we do that in a way that works for both the husband and the wife.
Marital Recovery Takes Time
It can take up to two years for recovery to be complete. By “complete” I mean that both spouses would report feeling happy with the state of the marriage and in love with their partner again. If the steps have been followed, especially those of honesty and accountability, trust will most likely have been restored as well.
A lifestyle that is based on honesty and that requires accountability is one we would all do well to practice. These rules would go far to ensure an affair never happens in the first place. Add to that the concept of creating a marriage in which couples avoid things that hurt each other and work at doing the thing that make each other happy, and you have the recipe for a fulfilling and joyous marriage.
Affairs end. Marriages can recover. The road to recovery is narrow, but it does exist.
© Penny R. Tupy 2002