Rebuilding After an Affair!
Nothing can demolish a relationship more than finding out your partner is having an affair. It is the ultimate betrayal destroying the innocence and trust of what you thought once was. Though couples can get into ruts and get into a pattern of living parallel lives, it can take something this catastrophic to rebuild a stronger relationship that fits what you need today. A “bad” attempt at recovering is what happens too often where the person who cheats minimizesthe betrayal to spare his partner. Often the partner is forced to ruminate and hound for more information creating a vicious cycle. Due to the mounting hurt and betrayal, communication skills go out of the window and things gets even worse. The following 5 tips will help you restore, build, and move forward together after an affair.
Taking proactive steps to face what is wrong in the marriage and heal from the hurts will make a couple stronger so they can experience a more satisfying and resilient relationship.
Building Block 1: Clean out all of the debris – ALL of it!
“I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” No matter how difficult for them, the unfaithful partner cannot tell little snippets or half-truths. If these engage in this type of recall of the situation, their partner will keep searching for more. They will anxiously be on alert and ruminate over what they are NOT saying and become a private investigator to get you to tell the WHOLE truth. Believe it or not, the images in the partner’s head are often worse than what really happened. Once an affair has been uncovered, there has to be a forthcoming openness. That transparency is needed. The partner needs to know what happened so they can trust there are no more secrets.
Building Block 2: The unfaithful partner has to show Real Empathy that they understand how much they have hurt their partner. Their partner has to listen.
Seeing true remorse gives the partner reassurance and understanding that they understand the pain they have caused. They need to feel important, considered, and that they acknowledge the betrayal (regardless of the partner’s bad behavior that may have contributed to the relationship problems). They need to take responsibility for their betrayal and show that they are truly sorry. The partner will be unable to be open to their part of the marital problems until this occurs. It will be very difficult to gain new reciprocity in the relationship and even consider working on it if they don’t feel understood.
Building Block 3: A time limit has to be put on discussing the affair once all of the information is out
If all we do is talk about the affair, we cannot build our happy experiences and build new memories. We need to honor each other having time where we talk and time where we do not. Otherwise the relationship will be overloaded by the problems and it will be difficult to deepen the sparkle that needs to be ignited with each other. It should not be expected that if a partner needs to follow up on questions that they need to “bite their tongues” and be on egg-shells, but at the same time, it is important to make the partner who engaged in the affair know that you are working on it and it is not all about the “talks.” Striking an balance and being sensitive to what you both need from each other will go a long way here.
Building Block 4: Having fun and Constructing Positive Rituals
Partners often drift away when there is not enough quality time together. This may have contributed to some of the issues for quite some time. “How we spend our time” should be a priority in the relationship remodel. There is a) individual time alone, b) time with family and friends, c) time for work or school, and d) time as a couple. You may both need different amounts of each but negotiating that time and being mindful of the difference will help you grow together and nurture the relationship in the process. The couple should experiment with engaging and being present in each other’s preferred “couple’s activities” – especially if it is something their partner would enjoy more. That shows your commitment and helps you both grow together. This is a way to love your partner as THEY need from you, which gives you more relationship-bang in your time together.
Building Block 5: Showing High Cost and Low Cost Behaviors
The partner who cheated needs to do high cost actions: This means they have to do big gestures to show their commitment to the relationship and to build trust that they are “all in.” For example this could mean, keep an open phone, give all passwords, etc. They can also mean creating a post-nuptial agreement to show their commitment to the relationship and fidelity. NO matter what the high cost behavior is, it has to be done with a positive attitude that they get it and why it is important.
The other partner needs to do low cost behavior. This means increasing the things that are important to their partner that may have dropped off or that they have been afraid to ask for to help them feel connected and loved. This is considered the important things that your partner needs from you to show your love and commitment. For example, these could be things like increasing intimacy within the relationship, validating their opinions, support in how they spend time, or making minor adjustments in their routine. This helps your partner know that you understand you have a part in the process and it reaffirms your commitment to making the relationship work
Conclusion: Accepting the Humaness and the big Picture
There are only a few steps here but they are BIG ones. Couples need to follow these steps to strengthen their positive frames for each other. Missing any of these steps is likely going to contribute to a negative frames and insecurities regarding whether your partner really loves you and is committed. Remember: for every good trait about their partner there is a not-so-good trait. For example, “responsible” can be positive, but “too serious” can seem not-so-good. “Intelligent” can be seen as a “know it all,”etc. If we like certain traits in our partner we have to accept the double-sidedness of that trait because there is NO perfect partners. Taking these steps will help you heal from the infidelity, strengthen the positive frame around each other and ensure you grow stronger with a better ability to communicate and problem-solve future issues together.