The day that you’ve been dreading has arrived. You put all the pieces together and discover that your husband of ten years betrayed you with a partner at his law firm. The late night meetings and smell of vanilla perfume resonating on his tailored jacket finally make sense. You think back to the moment when you exchanged your vows and wonder how it got this far. Now what? It’s time to make some tough decisions.
Some relationships grow stronger after a partner has an affair and some crumble. It depends on the strength of your marriage, your willingness to forgive, your desire to stay together, and the ability to reestablish the foundations of the relationship. Ask yourself, «Am I prepared to put in the effort it takes to stay in a relationship after an affair?»
If you want your marriage to survive infidelity, you both have to strive to make it work. The cheating spouse must accept responsibility for the betrayal and immediately stop cheating. No more secret phone calls. No more lunch dates. The person who cheated will have to end relationships and possibly leave his/her job. He/she must commit to stay faithful in the future.
There will be good and bad days while you mend the relationship. Plan for the bad ones. Recovering from infidelity can’t be rushed and demanding forgiveness will not improve the relationship. The betrayed spouse should set the time table for recovery.
If the betrayed spouse wants information about the affair, it’s important to discuss it. If the betrayed spouse doesn’t want to talk about it, respect that. Regardless, you do need to discuss why the affair occurred. Did the cheating spouse feel emotionally neglected or sexually deprived? Was the affair a one night stand or a long-term relationship? The answers to these questions will impact the rest of the healing process and assist in avoiding a repeat in the future. Looking at your relationship in detail will help you grow as a couple.
The betrayed spouse will struggle tremendously with trust. The person who cheated must always be willing to account for his/her time in the future. This may seem unreasonable; however, this dedication will build trust in the relationship over time.
Both partners must devote themselves to rebuilding the foundation of the relationship. Together, you must determine what you believe makes a successful relationship and plan how you can attain it. A healthy relationship involves trust, commitment, love, communication, honesty, and respect. When one spouse cheats, many values of a healthy relationship are pulverized. Look at each value and clarify the relationship goals that you want to reach to shape these values back into the relationship.
Look into marriage counseling. If you’re both dedicated to move towards fixing the relationship, then you should both put in the time to meet with a marriage and family therapist once a week for one hour. You’ll be thankful that you have the assistance of an objective person during the rough times.
If there are children involved, things become more complicated. Do you tell the children about the affair? Do they already know? You might be surprised the information that children take in when you don’t think that they’re paying attention. Most kids realize that daddy or mommy stopped making it home for dinner most nights or takes phone calls outside even when it’s snowing. Children also recognize when their parents are fighting even if they don’t do it in front of the children. They notice that their parents don’t kiss each other goodbye in the morning or say «I love you» as often.
How old are the children that are involved? This is a critical factor in whether you talk to them about the affair. A marriage and family therapist can be a helpful part of this discussion and in rebuilding your family. A trusted expert will give you advice on how to handle this sensitive topic.
At some point, you may decide to break up or get divorced. If you can’t stop arguing, have tried therapy, and can’t forgive each other, it might be time to move on. At this point, each person needs to take care of them self. Each person should move on with his/her own therapy. Don’t punish yourself by staying in the relationship if you’re miserable. Forgive or get out!