I've been asked to finish this up. There was discussion above last fall and I applied some of those comments. You have two weeks to comment and recommend edits before I submit the final version. Your feedback is much appreciated.
Oh... And I want a title other then "looking to earn your f" because newbies don't know the terminology we use here. It needs to be clear what this information is and who it's intended for. I'd love to hear your ideas.
If you've had an affair and you want to end it and attempt to recover your marriage (M), there are certain things that many spouses who were betrayed and many who did the betraying agree need to happen in order for a couple to consider reconciliation. We call this process for an adulterer (or wayward spouse, aka WS) the process of earning your "F" as in "former"; becoming a former wayward spouse (FWS) or former adulterer. Please note that ideas and actions can work differently for different couples. The steps given here are not absolutely right or wrong. They are steps based on experts' recommendations, much discussion on this and other marriage forums, and opinions based on trial and error. How you, your spouse, and your M respond to these recommendations may vary. Every situation has its nuances.
These are basic steps that many at Marriage Advocates
(MA) agree a wayward spouse (WS) should take to show their betrayed spouse (BS) they are sincere in their desire to end the affair (A) and save and improve the M. CONFESSING TO AND ENDING THE AFFAIR
Accept 100% responsibility for and own your choice to have the A. Only you control your actions and your choice to be with someone else is solely yours. Your marriage may have been a bad marriage, but even if you believe your spouse treated you poorly, your choice to not be monogamous was made by you, not your spouse or anyone else. You can deal with marriage problems in ways other then having an A. Do not ever blame your BS for your decision to commit adultery.
If your spouse does not yet know about your A, confess. If you think your BS will be violent or do harm of any kind during your confession, have someone your BS trusts with you, such as a pastor, therapist, or family friend.
Consider the timing and location of your confession as well. Do it as soon as you can but at a time when the two of you will not be interrupted. (Turn off telephones and have someone watch the kids away from where you will be disclosing your infidelity.) Do it in a private place where s/he will be able to ask questions and respond however they feel necessary without physical injury to you, him/herself, or anyone else.
Commit to and practice complete and absolute openness and honesty (O&H). Affairs thrive in secrecy so this initially may be very difficult for you. You may convince yourself that you need withhold the truth in order to protect your BS from further hurt and harm. You may think you are doing what's right by not sharing the details about what you've done. But that could not be farther from the truth.
You do not get to determine what your spouse needs to know about his/her M. Your spouse gets to decide what s/he wants to know about your relationship with someone else -- a relationship that directly impacted your BS's M.
Not being honest only adds fuel to the problem. Every time your spouse discovers another lie, it's like s/he is discovering the affair all over again and this chips away at the chances to recover the M. Many BSs have said the fact that their spouse was with another person (AP) hurt deeply, but the fact that their spouse repeatedly lied to them hurts even more. You need to prove you are no longer that liar. You cannot change your past but you can change who you are today and going forward. Stop the lies.
Write, have your BS approve, and have your BS send (or witness you send) a no contact (NC) letter to the other person (OP). The OP needs to know the NC originated from you, not your BS, so the best way is to hand-write the letter and have it sent certified mail or delivered by a trusted source. If you must send it by email, copy your spouse on the email so the OP sees that your spouse knows about the A as well.
Any contact that's necessary between you and your spouse and the OP and the OP's spouse or significant other should only be conducted between the BSs. You cannot break NC with the OP nor should you ever insert yourself into the OP's BS's life in any way ever again.
Do everything you can to ensure you do not see or have contact with the OP for the rest of your life. This might require changing your cell phone number, closing your email account, or ending mutual friend relationships. It also might require making drastic lifestyle changes.
If you work with the OP and the OP will not resign, you and your spouse will have to get things in order so that you can quit your job as soon as possible. If leaving your company is absolutely not an option (and only if this is agreed to by your BS), seek a job transfer or find another work arrangement in another location (other campus or a home office) to ensure you will never have to meet with, correspond with, or see the OP.
If your BS and you determine staying with your company is the only option for your family, understand that your BS has the right to check up on you during the work day in whatever manner makes him/her most comfortable.
If you live near the OP and the chances of running into him/her are likely, you and your family may need to move to another location.
Putting yourself in financial ruin and/or throwing your kids in total crisis in NOT the way to do it but NC is critical in getting you through your withdrawal from the OP quickly and it's essential for recovering your M. You need to do what you can to establish NC right away.COMMITTING TO RECOVERY
Answer any and every question your BS asks. If you or your BS find this dialogue difficult, find a way to make it as comfortable as possible. You may need to assign certain days/times to talk about it and otherwise it's not discussed. You may need to ask and answer questions in writing, utilizing a shared journal, email, or instant messaging. Some couples find it easier to talk in the dark or even with each other on opposite sides of a door or curtain. Perhaps a third-party will make it easier. The point is the BS needs to know all that s/he feels s/he needs to know and you have to do your part to make this possible.
Turn over all of your passwords and terminate the private access points you shared with the OP: email accounts, IM accounts, secret cell phone numbers, etc. There is a difference between secrecy and privacy and you need to show you are not keeping secrets from your partner. If your spouse can see all that you're doing, it keeps you in check and it gives your spouse transparency.
Determine what precautions you will take to ensure you are not ever again tempted to be with someone else. These actions are referred to here on MA as Extraordinary Precautions (EPs). Write these precautions down and share them with your BS. Read the thread titled "Extraordinary Precautions (EPs)"
for more details on EPs.
If your affair was physical, get checked for STDs right away and share the results with your spouse. Do this even if you had protected sex. Protection is not 100% full-proof. Be responsible and learn now if you need to deal with health issues. Get re-checked 6-months later.
Submit to a lie detector and/or paternity test if requested by the BS. Or consider offering yourself to take one or both of them. To some, taking tests is the only way to prove you're telling the truth. You've been lying throughout your affair and you need to respect that your BS likely will not believe what you say for a long time. Taking a test will show you're willing to prove you're not hiding anything.
Get rid of every item that carries any memory of or relationship to the OP: photos, CDs, emails, jewelry, clothes, notes, stuffed animals, iTunes songs, tchotchkes, etc. Any material item you have that in any way triggers you to think of the OP needs to be disposed.
Avoid situations that remind you of the OP. If a certain restaurant or radio station has associations with the OP, do not patronize the restaurant or tune to the station. Share these things with your BS and you two can work together to address how best to handle those situations.
Discuss with your spouse what actions you will take if you are ever contacted by the OP or if you ever cross paths with the OP. Knowing ahead of time what your spouse's expectations are and what you will do will help you deal with the situation more effectively in the moment and immediately after. It will help both you and your spouse, knowing there is a plan if unexpected contact ever happens because you'll have already thought it through.
Do not try to stop your BS from telling whomever s/he needs to tell in order to feel protected. Provide contact information for OP's BS if you know it and do not inhibit your BS from contacting the OP's spouse or other people in the OP's life who can help keep NC intact. You also should tell whomever you need to in order to keep yourself honest with NC and protective of your M. FOR YOUR BETRAYED SPOUSE
Apologize to your BS. And "buts" are not allowed. Sometimes, "I'm sorry," is all that's needed. But other times you will need to clarify what you're sorry for so the BS knows what you are sorry for, which makes it more sincere. For example, "I'm so sorry for lying to you about taking our son to the park when I was going to see the OP instead. I apologize for deceiving you and for using our child in that deception. It was wrong."
Comfort your BS when they want it from you. There may be times when your spouse does not want to be around you but other times s/he may want you right at his/her side. Be ready whenever your spouse needs you to lean on, talk with, or simply wants you to hold him/her.
Understand and practice sincere humility, patience, and remorse. Your BS needs to see this over and over to believe your re-commitment to the M.
Meet your spouse's emotional needs. It's believed by some professionals that people are tempted to have an affair when they feel their spouse isn't meeting their needs while someone else is. (You may have experienced feelings like this during your own affair, thinking your OP fulfilled needs that your spouse couldn't or wouldn't.)
Right now, it is not about you getting your needs met. You have to show your spouse you want to be their partner and you can fulfill their needs. S/he needs to see you as his/her spouse who will do whatever you can to protect and care for them. You need to show you have learned from your betrayal and you are no longer selfishly caring only about what you want. Your spouse has to see you not only as wanting to help them work through the current crisis but also as the person who want to create a new and recovered M.
Remove all LoveBusters (LBs). LBs are a Marriage Builders term from Dr. Willard Harley, explained here
. LBs are behaviors that make your spouse feel disrespected, angry, and/or annoyed, which makes him/her want to stay away from you. Get rid of the LBs and keep them out of your M forever. You need to do what you can to help your spouse feel comfortable and safe around you.
Allow for an environment that's conducive for your spouse to sort through what has happened. This may mean letting him/her go to a family member's house for a while. You may need to move your bedroom items into another room of the house. (Do not
move out if you want to stay married!) Your BS may feel a need to journal or post on a marriage support website without you reading their words. They may call you three times while you're at the grocery store or call your mother after you've had lunch with her to confirm the meeting. You are trying to earn back trust so allow your spouse to reach out, process, and do what s/he thinks will help make that possible again.
Do not ever tell your BS to "get over it". Neither s/he nor you will ever forget your infidelity. Don't expect him/her to forget or "move on". Your partner will hopefully move through the devastation and learn how to deal with the triggers from your A - including those triggers that may last a lifetime. But they will never forget. Do not ever -- not today or tomorrow -- dismiss how your spouse feels about the affair.
Work through the fall-out of your infidelity with your BS on the BS's time-line. Some BSs may feel they've worked through their spouse's infidelity and have a handle on things in a matter of several months. For others it takes several years. People process differently and your spouse may be similar to or nothing like other BSs.
Take your spouse into account whenever you do anything or go anywhere. If it's not something your spouse would approve of, don't do it. Your actions, much more than your words, will be what your BS goes by in measuring your commitment to recover the M. FOR YOURSELF
Get support. Do not expect or request this from your BS but find it somewhere else, like a close same-gender friend, a family member, pastor, or therapist. Work through why and what you did by reading self-help books, writing in a journal, posting on MA, or utilizing other resources. 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 their own emotional roller-coaster.
Be open to seeking individual counseling and if you find yourself depressed, talk with your doctor about taking anti-depressants.
Take care of yourself as best you can -- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. You may feel like crawling 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 your spouse and 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 what happens during the withdrawal period and make a plan to help get through it. (Withdrawal is that time immediately following the termination of your A.) You may find yourself tempted to renew contact with the OP and questioning your decisions. You may become depressed. One key to getting through withdrawal is to learn how to manage your memories. See Mark1952's "Mark's Managing Memories thread"
to learn 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 A. But there are people who are counting on you. Your spouse, your kids, and/or your parents need you. And the fact that you want to change things is a big first step toward repentance and redemption. Use your desire for change as motivation toward healing and recovering yourself and your M.
Read "The Lighthouse"
board in "The Way Station" forum here on MA (viewable only to registered users) and see how other wayward spouses became former wayward spouses. Learn from their journeys. FOR THE MARRIAGE
While it can be said all of the above recommendations are for the marriage, there are things you and your spouse should both do as you move toward marital recovery.
Make yourself available for undivided attention (UA) time with your spouse. In order to fall in love with or strengthen your feelings for someone, you need to spend time with them without distractions. Where your focus is on each other. This may be time playing a card game or dancing. Perhaps it's reading a book or having dinner together.
Dr. Harley recommends spending a minimum of 15 hours a week together to keep an M healthy. If you're trying to recover from adultery, he recommends you increase that to 25 hours per week. So call the baby-sitter, arrange a camping trip, spend time in the garden, and buy the ingredients for a special dinner so you can make that time happen.
Participate in a marriage-focused recovery plan such as marriage counseling (MC), attending a marriage seminar, and/or enrolling in a married couples program.
If OP is married, you should apologize to the OP's BS. It's recommended this is done in written form because hearing your voice may be too much for the other BS and s/he may not listen to what you say. A letter or email allows the BS to read it if/when they are ready on their terms and not yours. It also allows the BS to re-read it if they want to.
Be clear about for what and why you're apologizing and have your BS send it for you.
You may also consider apologizing to your BS's family, his/her friends, and your own family and friends.
This process is similar to step 9 in a 12-step program: "Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." Addressing what you did to others will allow you to put those issues aside and focus on your M.
Be conscientious of triggers -- both yours and your BS's. Be supportive and non-judgmental of your spouse's and do not discount them. Only share yours with your spouse if s/he asks you to explain what is happening. If you do share, discuss but do not dwell on what you're experiencing. Do what you can to remove triggers from your BS's and your life or do your best to avoid them as much as possible.
If you have children, there is debate about whether or not to tell them. Some say to tell the kids regardless of their ages. Others say telling depends on the length of the A, who the OP was, and/or the children's ages. Still others say do not tell and keep it a matter between the spouses. Whatever is decided needs to be fully and enthusiastically agreed to by your BS.
If recovery is under consideration and it's agreed to tell your children, both of you should be there when the kids are told in order to show them you two are working as a team to get through what has happened.
At around 6 - 8 months after the day your spouse discovers your A (this is called Discovery Day or D-Day), it is common for your BS to become very angry as the reality of what you did becomes clearer. You will need to show your resolve to work through this by remaining committed to O&H, UA, meeting ENs, avoiding LBs, and taking complete responsibility for having the A. You may have to carry most of the load through this extreme time of recovery which can last between a few days to several weeks.
If you and your BS determine to try to recover the M, according to Dr. Harley it can take 2 - 5 years for recovery to take place from the day when the decision is made -- not from the day when the affair was exposed. (ON THIS... Can anyone cite any other sources for time it takes to recover???)
We hope this information helps you do the right things for your family, your spouse, and for you. If you have any questions or if you just want to "talk" through things, consider starting a thread in "The Lighthouse"
and people here will help.
You can do this.
I'm second-guessing adding the info about it taking 2 - 5 years to recover. My thought is if the person is questioning whether or not to do this, that info might be so daunting and seemingly unbearable it might discourage them from doing any of this. Then again, having the proper expectations is, I think, a good thing so you know what will be involved.
Thoughts? On any of this?