For much of mankind’s history on this planet, men and women have had flings, affairs, engaged in infidelity, or (call it what it is) adultery. In spite of all attempts to minimize the very real negative impact that adultery has on the participants, the spouses, children, immediate family, and society itself, adultery continues to infest and infect marriages.
If you are having, or you have had, an affair (A) and you wish to join with your betrayed spouse (BS) to recover what once was, there is a path available.
Gathered here are suggestions provided by multiple sources that can help you end your affair, help you heal, help your spouse heal, and help you both move through the damage of the A so that you might recover your marriage (M). Sources include professionals who have studied marriages and infidelity, and posters here on Marriage Advocates (MA) – those who had an affair and those whose spouse had an affair – who are recovering or who have recovered their Ms after the A.
If you want to attempt recovery, the underlying issue is building trust when trust has been shattered. The information here is meant to help you rebuild trust while also maintaining your dignity and autonomy.
With that in mind, note that what is necessary for rebuilding is different for each person. When considering whether to act on any of the recommendations here, please first consider whether the information offered has a the greater likelihood of of helping your M’s recovery chances, or of hurting your M’s recovery chances.
For example, if you’ve had an affair and you’re considering returning to the M, carefully examine the possibility of your BS forever using the affair as a bludgeon and controlling device. Consider whether your spouse might use your A as the reason not to make changes in themselves. If you believe your infidelity will be used as a weapon against you or against reconciliation, you may want to be very selective in which recommendations you pursue. Or perhaps you will reconsider whether reconciliation is best. Also, if your BS doesn’t want to push through this very tough time, s/he won’t. If s/he doesn’t, it’s up to you to decide what you are willing to live with.
So what things can you do that might rebuild the trust? We have put together a list of suggestions here.
But before you get to those, understand that if you feel forced to do something, it’s likely that you don’t believe in why you are doing it. And if you don’t believe, you probably shouldn’t do it. The insincerity might cause more harm to your BS and to yourself than if you didn’t take the action at all. If you’re not set on doing something, ask yourself why. If you’re comfortable with your answer, then act accordingly. If you’re not comfortable with the answer and you think not doing something might prove more hurtful then helpful, determine whether you can either change your beliefs so the act is acceptable to you, or find another way to accomplish the same ends.
Because all affairs and situations are not created equal, the suggestions in this guide are not numbered or listed in any particular sequence. The order in which things occur or get finished is a personal matter, and has more to do with what happens at each stage of recovery than any specific order. This is not a checklist that dictates that if you don’t do every element in a specific order, you will fail.
There is, however, one thing that will greatly increase your chances of success, should you decide to attempt any of these recommendations. The most critical element of every one of these recommended steps is that you must be willing to do it.
If you want a chance at repairing your M, you have to want to recover your M for yourself. If you don’t want a recovered M and go through the motions only because you think you’re supposed to, or because you feel forced to, you will resent the process, resent your spouse, and resent anyone you think put you up to it. You have to want to do this for you.
The guide includes multiple ideas that might apply, with the operative word being “might.” The actions listed are not absolute in that they do not guarantee results one way or another. Also, to be clear, the list of suggested actions is for the wayward spouse (WS) who wants to do what s/he can to help his/her BS heal, to help him/herself heal, and to help the M recover. The guide is not a litmus test for the BS to judge their WS’s effort in recovery. BSs are, of course, welcome to read this, but if a BS looks at this guide and thinks, “My WS has to do a, b, and c before I will let him/her feel forgiven,” the BS will be headed for disappointment.
Is this for you? If you are a WS and you want to:
- End your A, and
- Begin rebuilding trust, and
- Heal yourself, and
- Help heal your spouse, and
- Recover your M…
this list can be helpful.
We at MA have an interest in the simple fact that the more someone knows, the better they can deal with adversity. And knowledge starts with a mindset to learn, as opposed to having meltdowns and laments about how life has been so horrible because of what someone else has done. But, like all advice and suggestions here at MA, one size does not fit all. We remind you to fit what you know to the person. Don’t expect the person to fit what you know. Stop, look and listen.
Throughout this guide, you will find links for additional resources at the end of each section that can offer additional information and insight on the steps listed.
Also throughout this guide, you will see several acronyms used as they are throughout most of MA:
- M = marriage
- A = affair
- R = relationship
- WS = wayward spouse (the person who had the affair)
- FWS = former wayward spouse (had an affair and is now repentant and working to heal from it)
- BS = betrayed spouse (the spouse of the person who had the affair)
- OP = other person
- OPBS = other person’s betrayed spouse
- AP = another person
- O&H = openness and honesty
- NC = no contact
- EPs = Extraordinary Precautions
- UA = Undivided Attention
- MC = marriage counseling
- MA = Marriage Advocates
Whether you feel you need to implement only a few or several of these suggestions, prepare yourself by knowing that it’s going to take time. Working through all that was involved with the affair (why, what, who), determining if you want to stay married, and working to heal and help your spouse recommit to the M takes time. After that, you’ll need to address any problems that existed in the M that were not related to the A, which is when real marital recovery gets underway. Many use the analogy that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and there will be many low and high points along the way.
Only you can determine if it’s worth the time and effort. But if you want to repair your M and restore it to a better condition, someone has to take the lead. As Al Turtle once wrote on MA:
Seems to me, someone has to take the “lead.” That position can be handed back and forth, but I think someone has to be “going first.”
Both cannot be waiting for the other to do something. That surely never works, I fear. Perhaps a better way to say that is that I think progress just sleeps until someone starts to lead.
I don’t think it matters who is the “leader.”
Ideally, both you and your spouse will work toward repairing the M. But you are the one who is here looking for help, so this is written for you, the WS. Couples who have worked through the infidelity and who are ready to work on rebuilding and improving their relationship might consider looking into the many other resources here on MA for renewing their M.
“Getting to Work” by Al Turtle (unfinished)
“What Is An Affair?” by Mark1952
“Some Facts About Infidelity” by Mark1952
“Seven Myths About Infidelity” by Mark1952
“Drugs and The Addiction of An Affair” by Mark1952
“Keith Drury’s Fifteen Steps to Infidelity” by Mark1952
“Emily Brown’s Five Types of Affairs” by Mark1952
“Healing vs. Curing” by Looking4
“It Takes Time to Process” by LadyGrey
The Way Station forum on MA (for registered MA members only) is a safe place for WSs to get support for ending affairs, developing boundaries, and turning their lives around.