Please note that ideas and actions can work differently for different couples. The steps to end an affair given here are not absolutely right or wrong. They are steps based on experts’ recommendations and much discussion among former wayward spouses (FWSs) and betrayed spouses (BSs) on this and other marriage forums. How you, your spouse, and your marriage respond to these recommendations may vary.
Please be aware that while recovering from an affair is quite feasible, it takes time for you and your spouse to work through the infidelity while wrapped in confusion, pain, shame, anger, and many other emotions that accompany the process. And while the time and effort may be well worth it, it may be a difficult road.
Before implementing anything suggested here, examine all possible outcomes of each action first to determine if the suggestion will be helpful or hurtful to recovering the M.
And remember… You cannot change your past, but you can change who you are today, and going forward.
As is written in Mark1952’s post called “Frank Gunzburg’s Three Phases of Recovery,” if you want to recover the marriage, both partners need to heal. This requires understanding and sorting through the emotional problems before you can focus on healing as a couple and working on a new relationship. And “both” includes you. As Mark1952 wrote:
Phase I is all about YOU, whether the betrayed or the betrayer. While the betrayed spouse most often has the most emotional turmoil to sort though, the betrayer also has a lot of emotional baggage to deal with as the result of the affair.
When a person is affected by infidelity, whether cheater or cheated, the first thing they do is look for reasons why it happened. They want to know the details of the affair. They want to know why their loved one cheated or why they themselves became unfaithful. But this is really externalizing the problem; that is, it seeks to explain our feelings and emotions and even actions in light of something outside ourselves. It is looking outside ourselves for answers and solutions to the turmoil within us.
We need to stop looking outside for answers to what lies within us. We need to stop trying to figure out the other person and start trying to figure out our own emotions. We need to look, not without, but within. We need to be honest about our own emotions and pain and thoughts concerning the affair.
Phase I is all about developing strategies to deal with your own emotions, thoughts and feelings about the affair. All the rest can and must be addressed, but each of us must first deal with our own raging emotions, and learn how to deal with them so we can act rationally without a desire to inflict pain on the other. This is especially true for the betrayed spouse, but applies to the wayward spouse as well.
With this in mind…
Unfortunately, you can’t expect or demand support from your spouse because s/he may not be able to offer it due to lack of trust in you. But you’ll need support, too, through this very difficult time, so find it in a same-gender friend, a family member, pastor, or therapist.
Work Through What You Did and Why.
Reading self-help books, writing in a journal, posting on Marriage Advocates, and utilizing other resources will help you work through what you did, and why you did it. Your spouse may be able to help you with some of your pain and self-analysis, but do not expect it, as s/he will be trying to deal with his/her own emotional roller-coaster.
Find a Professional.
Be open to seeking individual counseling and if you find yourself depressed, talk with your doctor about taking anti-depressants.
Take Care of Yourself.
Care for yourself to the best of your ability – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. You may feel like curling up into a ball and hiding forever. But secluding yourself and wallowing in what has happened will not change what you did and it will not help anyone – especially not you, your spouse, or your family. You need to be fit for the hard work ahead, and your body and mind need exercise, basic grooming, and proper nutrition. Do all you can to practice healthy habits for your own well-being.
Understand Withdrawal and How To Deal with It.
Understand what happens during the withdrawal period and make a plan to help you get through it. (Withdrawal is that time immediately following the termination of your affair.) You may find yourself tempted to renew contact with the affair partner and questioning your decisions. You may become depressed. One key to getting through withdrawal is learning how to manage your memories. See Mark1952‘s “Emotional Memory Management – Dealing with Triggers” for ideas on how to do this.
Be Honest with Yourself and Respect Yourself.
This may be the hardest thing to do because it’s likely you feel you do not deserve anything positive now (or ever) because of your affair, least of all respect. But there are people who are counting on you. Your spouse, your kids, your parents, co-workers, and community need you. You need you. And the fact that you want to change things is a big first step toward repentance, redemption, and gaining back the integrity you may feel you’ve lost.
Use your desire for change as motivation toward healing and recovering yourself and your marriage.
Take Inspiration and Learn from Others.
Read The Lighthouse board in The Way Station forum here on Marriage Advocates (viewable only to registered users) and see how other once-wayward spouses became former wayward spouses. Learn from their journeys.
“Gunzberg’s Three Phases of Recovery” by Mark1952
“Something I wrote a few years ago” by wiser_now
“One Unfaithful Husband’s Story back to his Marriage” by SFB
“Lay Your Burden Down” by Amadahy
“What Has Helped Recover Me So I Can Help Us” by Looking4
“From Faithless to Faithful” by herfuturesbright
“Emotional Memory Management – Dealing with Triggers” by Mark1952
“Boundaries” by Mark1952
“Diet, Fitness and so on” by OurHouse
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.