As a marriage therapist, I often work with couples at my marriage retreats that have dealt with the painful reality of an affair. Despite what most people believe, a great deal of couples choose to work through the hurtful betrayal and restore their marriage.
If this is you or someone you know, these are a few helpful tips to help your hurting spouse move forward, forgive and work towards restoring trust in your disconnected relationship.
#1 Terminate the Affair
If you are the partner that had the affair but want to save your marriage, the first major step you need to take is to END THE AFFAIR IMMEDIATELY! Yes that’s right, immediately.
I meet people all the time that say they want to save their marriage, but they think that they can slowly distance themselves from their affair partner. My advice to them is to cut off all contact after making a grand gesture to do so.
A grand gesture may be writing a letter to end the affair with their spouse present. Make it clear that you are working on your marriage and will no longer be available for any type of contact with them again. Make sure your spouse is present while writing the letter or email and send it while they are present. Block the number of the person and all avenues of contact.
This can be difficult if it is someone you work with. However, if you are serious about reassuring your spouse that you are avoiding all contact with this person you may consider other avenues such as transferring departments or even jobs.
Second, your spouse will most likely request some form of transparency. This tends to be one of the most controversial issues for couples when an affair has taken place. Passwords and phone accessibility tend to make people very nervous and argue about privacy, individuality and the fear that your partner is parenting you.
It’s not ideal for anyone to feel as if they have to look at their partners phone or emails, however when trust is broken reassurance that one is committed to no contact is part of the process. Be open with your spouse about the how, where and when you connected with your affair partner.
Answer questions that are vital for closure and let your spouse know that once they have the information they want, you would like to erase the messages from the past and start fresh. Let them know you want to do this in order to rid them of triggers and not to cover up. Then they can see from this day forward there will not be any new messages to or from the other person.
#3 No More Secrets: Become An Open Book
Third, be sure to inform your spouse if the other person attempts to contact you. This is extremely important for rebuilding trust. Affair partners often have deep connection and grieve the loss of the inappropriate relationship.
Although these feelings may be difficult, you need to know that your spouse will not find comfort or desire to comfort you as you go through the process. Be aware of this and resist the temptation to continue communicating with the affair partner.
Let your spouse know that you received an email or phone call. Be honest about how you handled the contact and discuss ways to safeguard against any future attempts that could sabotage your marriage. If you are open, honest and reassure your spouse that you are committed to your marriage it can assist with reestablishing trust. The process will be slow but in some cases helpful.
Remember to be patient with your partners emotions. Take responsibility for what you have done. Even if your marriage was unhappy and lonely, recognize that an affair was still a conscious choice that you made.
Look back and learn from your mistake and identify positive ways to communicate your needs. Consider seeking help from a professional counselor or skilled, experienced clergy member. If you truly want to fight for the survival of your marriage end the relationship, offer transparency and create and honest and safe environment.
Continue reading part 2 of this infidelity recovery series.