So, your spouse had an affair. Nothing worse than the feeling that your life has just been turned completely upside down!
You have options of course. You can leave. You can insist they leave. You can get a divorce. You can malign his/her name all over the internet.
OR you can take a deep breath and stay. In many cases the relationship can be mended. And like fine china that has been shattered, it can be stronger after it is glued back together. Your choice.
There are many things to consider: the kids, your hopes and dreams, your common goals, the extended family and community that you are in. The finances. Yikes, the finances. It’s at least worth a try. It is possible to regain your footing after a devastating blow such as an affair.
Counseling is usually the most effective way to help sort things out. Having a third party who is not invested in your decisions emotionally and not offended or triggered by the same things you are triggered by, helps you look at things from different perspectives. A therapist can help see through your blind spots. He/she can help you learn to communicate again, recognize your strengths and weaknesses and those of your spouse and help you love in the way your spouse needs to be loved.
The first thing to keep in mind is to not play this drama out in front of the kids.
Do not expect them to align with one or the other. They love you both and are devastated as well at the threat to the stability of their home and family. With this in mind it’s important to always be respectful of one another, even if you disagree or have been wounded emotionally. Your kids will mirror you. They will likely be more relaxed if you are relaxed. They will feel steadier if you are steady. So it is very important to take care of yourself physically and emotionally throughout this process. It will be difficult.
Here Are Some Main Points That I Tell My Clients:
- The offending party must come completely clean. Little surprises cropping up over the course of weeks or months will severely restrict any healing of the relationship. Don’t wait for things to be exposed. As painful and embarrassing as it is, you must be the one to lay it all out there.
- The offended party must learn to forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t make it OK. It is a choice. It doesn’t excuse bad behavior. It doesn’t mean that all is forgotten and will never be brought up again. It doesn’t even necessarily mean that there won’t be a divorce or a custody battle. But it does mean that you choose to move forward without bitterness and thoughts of revenge or dragging up the past and blaming continually.
- Each can make a list of what you want the marriage to look like so you have something to work toward.
- Each can even make a list of what must happen for the marriage to continue.
- I always recommend learning about each other in ways that you may not have taken the time to do before. Two books I recommend are “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman and “Personality Plus” by Florence Littauer. Each book has a little quiz associated with it that is fun and informative to take; and it helps communication for you both to read the books and talk about the findings.
- Make an effort to be kind. You can always be kind. Yes you can.
- The offended party should have some latitude to ask questions about the affair (I don’t recommend asking sexual details.) The offending party must be patient in answering, and assuring the other of his/her love.
- Resist being defensive. “You are right. I am so sorry I hurt you” goes a long way.
- Resist accusations and condemnation. “If you hadn’t screwed around none of this would be happening” is not only not helpful, but counterproductive.
- Make repairing the relationship a priority.
- Create times to be together having fun.
- You may even want to create a bit of a ritual to confirm your plan to start over: Buy new bedspread and sheets. Renew your vows. Create a Saturday morning out to breakfast time. Establish a regular date night alternating things you each like to do. Start cooking dinner together. Work on mutual fun projects together.
Refrain from expecting the relationship to go back to “the way it was.” It must not go back to the way it was because that’s where the problems festered.