If you have discovered that your partner has had an affair, you are probably in shock and feel as if the floor has opened up under you. This guide is here to help you through these troubled and painful times. Before reading this third part of the article series, we recommend that you read A Betrayed Spouse’s Guide to Responding to Marital Infidelity – Part I, which covers initial self-care and protection steps you can take, and A Betrayed Spouse’s Guide to Responding to Marital Infidelity – Part II, which covers steps to reclaim your balance, confidence, calm, and life.
Now, it’s time to talk about strategies to save your marriage, should that be your goal.
Can I Save My Marriage?
While success varies from couple to couple, it is possible to save your marriage. Many couples do recover their marriage from infidelity. First, make sure that you want to try. The path to saving and recovering your marriage from infidelity is a difficult one fraught with highs, lows, and no guarantee of success. Successfully navigating the road ahead requires strong commitment and determination.
Below you will find advice for Betrayed Spouses who want to make an honest attempt to restore their marriage, even if only to be able to walk away with a clear conscience.
How Can I Save My Marriage?
Various programmes exist to help you save your marriage from infidelity. Please keep in mind that as not every marriage is the same, neither is every affair or infidelity situation. Because of this, not every approach will work for each situation. Should you want to save your marriage, choose your approach to best fit your situation.
What are Plan A and B, 5LL, 180, ENs, LB’s, etc?
These are commonly accepted names for concepts used by many websites focused on infidelity. Letter designation does not mean it is a better or worse tool for the Betrayed Spouse than any other, just that the originator chose that label when developing the programme. These methods are not magic bullets, nor will they will bring the affair to a screaming halt, blow away all of the fog, or cause the wayward spouse to fall at your feet and beg for forgiveness.
Emotional Needs and Love Busters
Emotional Needs (ENs) are part of a larger concept, common to most marriage programmes, i.e. that love can be considered a tangible product, contained in a tank, bucket or bank. Here we’ll use the bank idea.
When we meet someone, we open a bank account with their name on it. Every time that person does something we like, and consider to be a positive experience, we add money to their balance (deposit). If they do something we consider negative, we take away from the balance (withdrawal). When the balance is very high, it triggers a feeling of being in love. When it gets very low, and goes into overdraft, it triggers negative feelings in us, right up to hate.
Right now as a Betrayed Spouse, your balance in your wayward spouse’s account is more than likely overdrawn. You may be doing some small things that add deposits and keeps your wayward spouse from closing the account, but the wayward spouse’s guilt over the affair, your inadvertent Love Busters, and plain old affair hormones mean that you are making some serious withdrawals, making closure of your account a big risk.
Typically, the affair partner is able to fill the top 1 or 2 Emotional Needs that the Betrayed Spouse used to meet, which was the reason the wayward spouse fell in love with them in the first place, but for whatever reason the Betrayed Spouse is not meeting now. This is why an element of ‘cake eating’ often exists in infidelity, particularly by wayward husbands. The wayward spouse needs both affair partner and Betrayed Spouse to fill his/her top Emotional Needs. Unfortunately, wayward wives have often disengaged from the marriage before starting an affair. This requires a somewhat different way to implement Plan A. Along with plugging the Love Buster leakage, we also need to start making some deposits in the bank as well, which is where the Emotional Needs come in.
We term the deposits “Filling Emotional Needs,” and the withdrawals “Love Busters” – from the Marriage Builders Programme developed by Dr. W. Harley.
The Emotional Needs are: Admiration, Sexual Fulfillment, Recreational Companionship, Attractive Spouse/Physical Attractiveness, Openness and Honesty, Domestic Support, Family Support, Financial Support, Affection, and Conversation, with the first 5 being primarily desired by men and the last 5 by women.
The Love Busters are: Selfish Demands, Angry Outbursts Dishonesty, Disrespectful Judgements, Annoying Habits, and Independent Behaviour.
Plan A and Plan B
Plan A is a method where you make an all out effort to maximize your ability to do the things that make your spouse want to be with you, while avoiding doing the things that make them want to stay away from you. These are really the things you did that caused your spouse to fall in love with you and decide to marry you, so these are the things you will need to learn to do again. You begin identifying your spouse’s top Emotional Needs and coming up with a plan to meet those needs as much as is within your power. You do not discuss this strategy with your wayward spouse, nor do you request his/her consent to do this. You also identify those things that you do that affect your spouse negatively – the “Love Busters,” in Marriage Builders parlance.
During this period, the Betrayed Spouse works on enforcing boundaries, letting go of attempts to control the wayward spouse, foregoing expectations, always stating the truth in a loving yet firm manner, making no apologies for that which they have not done, and working toward creating a fulfilling life for themselves and their children – regardless of whether or not the wayward spouse is a part of it.
- Plan A is not a guaranteed way to end an affair.
- Plan A is not avoiding all conflict and keeping the peace.
- Plan A is not becoming a doormat.
- Plan A is not allowing the affair to continue while you try to be nice and remain friendly in the face of what seems likely to become divorce proceedings.
Plan B is where the Betrayed Spouse cuts off all contact with the wayward spouse in order to protect their mental health, to let the Betrayed Spouse have a life with some sense of normalcy built into it, to heal the raw emotions of having been cheated on, and to allow time for the affair to come to an end before deciding to go ahead and divorce. It protects them from the wayward spouse and the pain he or she is causing. It is something you do, and not something that happens to you. It is an action, not a reaction. It is not designed to bring them back to you, broken, repentant and begging forgiveness. It is not designed to make them pay for the transgressions they have committed, and it is not designed to make them have an epiphany and call the affair off.
Plan B takes advantage of the fact that almost all affairs end, and that almost all wayward spouses will make some attempt to contact the Betrayed Spouse with a view to reconciling. By not exposing him/herself to the daily horror that is the affair, there is a chance that some residual good feelings for the wayward spouse will remain in the Betrayed Spouse, making reconciliation possible.
The 5 Love Languages
Dr. Gary Chapman’s programme, “The Five Love Languages” (5LL) is very similar to Dr. Harley’s program, with a love tank rather than a love bank. However, The Five Love Languages has 5 primary needs, and each can have different “dialects.”
The 5 Love Languages are: Time, Gifts, Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch.
The basic concept of the five love languages as defined by Dr. Gary Chapman is that people communicate and feel love in different ways. In other words, the language in which you communicate and feel loved may be different from the language in which your spouse communicates and feels loved. The 5 love languages are:
- Physical Touch – this person feels love when others touch them lovingly.
- Acts of Service – this person feels love when others help them out or serve them.
- Words of Affirmation – this person feels love when others verbally approve or affirm them.
- Quality Time – this person feels love when others spend time with them.
- Gifts – this person feels love when others give them thoughtful things.
Humans all need each of these different things, but individuals need them in different amounts. Typically, one really speaks to an individual. Everyone has a primary way of expressing and interpreting love, and for whatever reason, people are usually drawn to those who speak a different love language than their own.
Developed by Michele Weiner-Davis of Divorcebusting, The 180 is as simple as it sounds – whatever you are doing that isn’t working needs to be turned around 180 degrees. The goal of the 180 is to become the type of person that you want to be. To do things that benefit you, not because it is something you believe your spouse wants. The 180 is not about manipulating your spouse. It helps you become strong enough to detach and begin building a life without the wayward spouse. It may have the effect of making them sit up and take notice, but what they are noticing is a self-determined choice to get on with your life, and a belief in yourself. By yourself, for yourself. When you truly let go of your wayward and move on, they sometimes begin to appreciate what they’ve lost. If you make empty threats, set boundaries you have no intention of defending, and only pretend to move on, your wayward spouse will continue to assume you aren’t going anywhere. Generally, they’ll be right.
This approach takes advantage of the fact that the wayward spouse feels the betrayed spouse is a “given” in their life and that the wayward spouse is the arbiter of whether the marriage survives – after all, it is all about them. Yes, the wayward spouse takes the betrayed spouse for granted. Pulling back, getting on with your own life and disengaging from the wayward spouse occasionally tempts them to follow. It’s somewhat like twitching a piece of string in front of a kitten and getting them to follow it across the room.
The primary benefit for the betrayed spouse, even if the marriage does not survive, is that using these techniques helps rebuild self-esteem and self-reliance, which will stand the Betrayed Spouse in good stead in the future, regardless and independent of the wayward spouse.
Any life trauma is an excellent opportunity to grow and change. It frees you from the role you’ve cast yourself in — as spouse, as half of a particular whole — and lets you resurrect dreams of what your life could be or could have been if you’d made different choices. That’s what should be embraced. Not what will make you more attractive to a wayward spouse, but what dreams you thought you had sacrificed for the sake of family, stability and obligation that might be revived.
The side benefit might be that your spouse returns to you because they see the spark of the person you once were, but it’s just as likely that another potential spouse arrives who is mature and insightful enough to appreciate you for who you are, rather than who they would have you be.