Should a Betrayed Spouse take a chance, or kick ‘em to the curb?
There seems to be two schools of thought on infidelity support forums about how a Betrayed Spouse should handle an affair. One says the Betrayed Spouse must confront the Wayward Spouse directly and demand an end to the affair–and throw them out if they do not comply, or risk looking like a wimp. The other says that a Betrayed Spouse should follow a Marriage Builders style of attempting Plan A, follow it up with Plan B, and only after some time has passed jump to Plan D (Divorce).
Only you can decide which road to take, whether to attempt to take a chance on the marriage, or go directly to divorce. Either way, you do have the rest of your life to divorce, and only now to make an attempt to recover your marriage. There are a few factors that may influence your decision either way.
Stay or Go? Which is the right answer? Do I take my cheating spouse back, put my faith in him/her again and hope they won’t do this again? Or do I cut my losses and risk always wondering if I should have tried harder? It’s not an easy decision, and if you’re grappling with it now, you most certainly shouldn’t decide it overnight. You need time to weigh the pros and cons.
Should the Betrayed Spouse Take A Chance?
Some Reasons To Consider Rebuilding:
- You love your spouse. You want a life with them. You’re willing to work through this so you can have it.
- Your spouse is remorseful, and you believe they do not want to repeat their ‘mistake’. Either they want that life or they don’t. If they don’t, and they’re willing to work with you on it, you may decide to stay.
- You want your kids to have a two-parent family (a.k.a. ‘staying for the kids’). If your spouse is willing to work on your marriage, and you want your children’s worlds to be preserved intact, you might decide it’s worth fighting for. Children and family can be a powerful pull, and the simple desire to do what’s best for your children outweighs all the wounded pride in the world.
- It’s a bad time to leave. Maybe you’re drowning in debt. Maybe your children are too young, or old enough to know the real story. Maybe you have health issues. Whatever the reason, divorcing right now would make the problem a thousand times worse, in your eyes.
- You made a vow. You promised through better and worse, and you meant it. You made a vow before friends and family and God. Your spouse decided to break it, but you didn’t.
- You don’t want to “quit.” Maybe you consider divorce a “failure,” and being perceived as “failing” at your marriage is humiliating. Maybe you just don’t want that Other Woman/Man to “win” in their efforts to break up your marriage. Whatever the reason, you just don’t want to throw in the towel without a fight.
Or Is It Time for the Betrayed Spouse to Leave?
Some Reasons To Consider Divorcing
- Because you no longer feel what you felt on your wedding day. For some people, the affair is the final straw in a long and painful disintegration process. For others, it tore apart the fabric of the marriage so badly, it can never be repaired. You may decide this marriage can never fulfill you, so it’s time to end it.
- For Your Children. If the fallout from the affair and the current state of your marriage are making your children miserable, then you may want to end the chaos permanently. Yes, divorce is hard on children. But so is staying and watching one parent behave irresponsibly and another live as a doormat. What lessons do they take from that?
- Separate Identity. You will be answerable only to you. Free to do what you want, when you want, the way you want, within reason. Financially, legally and emotionally responsible only for you and your children, if you have them.
- No more lies, no more doubts. You don’t have to weigh what your spouse says to you anymore because whether they lie to you or not doesn’t matter. Your life belongs to you and they have no say in it, and the only power they have over it is the power you chose to give them.
- No more risk of STD’s. Many of those involved in affairs do not use condoms, leaving you at risk for a sexually transmitted disease. If you haven’t been tested yet, do so. Be safe. Remember, it’s not just your spouse you’re sleeping with, but every partner their Other Woman/Man slept with, as well.
- You’ve lost all respect for your spouse, and you don’t believe you can ever regain it. There comes a point in time where you have to decide whether or not you will be able to contribute to their quality of life. Can you get over this? Can you move on and re-establish intimacy, some trust and respect for them? If the answer is “no,” what kind of marriage would you be rebuilding?
No one can make this decision but you, and if they’re interested, your spouse. If they say they want to work it out, then you have a bigger decision to make. Don’t take it lightly, don’t burn your bridges, and don’t act quickly or rashly. Most of all, don’t compromise yourself.
Betrayed Spouse 101
What road to take? Signposts to look for, conditions to consider, hazards to avoid.
Early recovery is a very trying time for both the Betrayed Spouse and the Wayward Spouse. For many Wayward Spouses it is a time that they feel pulled between their emotions and their minds. This can lead to a phenomenon called “withdrawal.” Withdrawal is a very painful stage for the Wayward Spouse. It is made up of a combination of thoughts and feelings including anxiety, restlessness, guilt, confusion, depression and occasionally actual physical pain. They feel a sense of loss, not necessarily over the Affair Partner, but over the relationship and how it filled certain needs. In a remorseful person with a conscience, withdrawal creates a terrible conflict.
Unfortunately, rather like an addict thinks one more fix will stop the craving, the symptoms of withdrawal can lead the Wayward Spouse to think contact with the Affair Partner will take away the misery. It is very hard to want to sympathise with the Wayward Spouse in withdrawal, especially when you are in your own pain and unhappiness. Do your best to show your care for the Wayward Spouse as a person. As long as the wayward spouse maintains no contact with the other person, those feelings will gradually fade. For most people, they fade in a few weeks.
One thing that can help the Betrayed Spouse determine how recovery is going, is “trust, but verify.” A truly remorseful Wayward Spouse should be being entirely honest and transparent, even if at first it seems unnatural to you both. This is not to punish the Wayward Spouse, but to help the Betrayed Spouse feel safe again. While the actual methods used will vary from couple to couple, some tools/methods include: activating GPS tracking on the Wayward Spouse’s cell phone, swapping cell phones on random days, making frequent contact during the day (phone calls, text, pxts), informing the Betrayed Spouse if there will be any change in the daily schedule, writing a no contact letter for the Affair Partner and giving it to the Betrayed Spouse, changing cell and/or home phone numbers, sharing all e-mail passwords, deactivating social networking sites, removing any of the things that helped make the affair possible, and organising an accountability partner. These things may not be necessary forever. Often as trust returns couples renegotiate the requirements.
Remember, the reason the affair happened, was because the participants failed to take even the most ordinary of precautions. Extraordinary Precautions are a tangible list of boundaries the Wayward Spouse writes and lives by. They are an acknowledgement of not being able to rely on natural ability, but needing to go beyond the norm. It’s not so much a list of restrictions imposed by the Betrayed Spouse, but an acknowledgement of areas the Wayward Spouse needs to focus on in order to protect the marriage, and help make the Betrayed Spouse feel safe from future infidelity. The best Extraordinary Precautions are written in partnership. While both spouses are whirling from d-day for months and months, attempts and actions by a repentant and remorseful Wayward Spouse will be apparent.
Other things to consider:
- Is the Wayward Spouse truly remorseful and at least trying to make amends?
- Is the Wayward Spouse being transparent and honest?
- Is the Wayward Spouse willing to go to marriage counseling?
- Do you actually want to stay in the marriage?
A refusal by the Wayward Spouse to end the affair and return to the marriage doesn’t mean that recovery is not possible, but it is a tougher road for the Betrayed Spouse. Assuming the Wayward Spouse has chosen recovery, consider their commitment to doing what ever you require to feel safe in the marriage. Transparency and eliminating independent behaviour are crucial to a Betrayed Spouse who feels vulnerable to further deceit. This requirement doesn’t only protect you, it protects the marriage from further destruction. It’s in the best interest of both spouses and the marriage if the Betrayed Spouse feels safe about their choice to attempt recovery and rebuild after an affair.