One of the most painful experiences in life is finding out that the person you have pledged your life and your love to has been unfaithful to you. Extramarital affairs leave the other spouse feeling hurt, betrayed, angry and confused.
One of the most painful experiences in life is finding out that the person you have pledged your life and your love to has been unfaithful to you. Extramarital affairs leave the other spouse feeling hurt, betrayed, angry and confused. Recovering from such a devastating event can seem impossible. However, there are ways to repair your marriage and recover from the pain that it has caused. The following suggestions will help you and your spouse work out the problems in your relationship and rebuild the trust that has been lost.
1. Focus on the future
There is nothing that you or your spouse can do to change what has happened. You do have control, however, on the present and the future. Commit to doing what it takes to fix the problems in your marriage and meet each other’s needs so that your spouse won’t feel tempted to go elsewhere for fulfillment.
2. Allow your emotions to heal
When a relationship has been through something as traumatic as infidelity, the couple must go through a healing process that requires patience and understanding. This process begins with open, honest communication. It is vital that the offending mate apologize sincerely for the pain that he or she has caused and be willing to do whatever possible to repair the damage. This can’t be a perfunctory “I’m sorry,” but rather a humble acknowledgement of sorrow and regret.
3. Make the choice to forgive
People sometimes think that forgiveness is a feeling, but in actuality it is a decision. You may feel justified in withholding forgiveness from your spouse, but deciding to forgive is an important step in your own healing. The necessary energy required to hold on to anger takes a huge toll on your mental, spiritual and physical health. It keeps you from experiencing joy and happiness because you are too wrapped up in remembering your pain. Forgive your spouse. Decide right now that you will start with a clean slate and will begin working to repair and improve your marriage. Choose to ignore negative thoughts about your spouse and instead replace them with positive ones. Though this is an extremely difficult process, realize that the alternative is worse.
4. Change your behavior
Talk to your spouse about the ways that you can make your marriage better. Listen with an open mind to your partner’s needs. Spouses generally cheat because their needs are not being met in some way and so they turn to someone else. Brainstorm about some specific things that you can do for each other that will improve your marriage. Make a commitment that you will both work harder to put each other first and make these actions into a regular habit by doing them daily.
Expect temporary setbacks from time to time. You might find out new details about the affair that will bring back feelings of pain and betrayal or your spouse might continue to struggle with temptations. Don’t let this prevent you from moving forward and rebuilding your trust. Be honest with each other about how you are feeling. Approach each setback as a team, working together to help each other move past it. Be patient; rebuilding trust takes time.
A. Lynn Scoresby, founder and president of My Family Track , First Answers , and Achievement Synchrony , and has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years. He has published more than 20 books and training programs.