Many couples get married simply hoping for the best with no potential plan for how to handle the “worst” situations that sometimes come with marriage. At the top of the list of the worst things that can happen in a marriage and shake its very foundation is infidelity. Couples need to be equipped to handle the devastation and fall out that are associated with infidelity in their relationship.
Recently, social media has been agog with the news of allegations of infidelity in the marriage of a high profile couple, but the reality is that there are many unknown, everyday people dealing with the pain that inadvertently follows infidelity. Cheating is not the exclusive preserve of men; however, in our society a man who has “strayed” rarely bears consequences for his actions. His livelihood, position in society and business relationships still thrive, after all, “men will be men.”
The wife who decides she can’t put up with the cheating and wants to leave is held back by her fears, “What will my life become?” Even if she is financially able to fend for herself (and kids), society still makes her feel like a failure for leaving her marriage. She will face a barrage of questions, “Why are you leaving your home just because your husband cheated on you? Do you want another woman to reap where you have sown? Who will marry you if you leave? Do you know you will be single forever?” In essence, “this is a fact of life, sorry that it happened to you but you better stay put.” So she stays in a loveless marriage. She may look happy to the outside world, but inside she is nursing such hurt. And woe betide her if she is a public personality, as her news will be trending and she will not have the space to grieve privately.
In this article, I want to address those couples who, for various reasons, have decided to stay together despite infidelity. As a marriage coach, I truly believe that it is possible to go from just existing in a marriage that was hit hard by infidelity to a point where you enjoy your marriage again.
While infidelity destroys trust, there is always hope, if BOTH parties are willing to work on restoring their love for each other.
Let me state at this point that the purpose of this article is not to tell you whether or not to stay with a spouse who’s cheated. Honestly, that’s a decision no one – not even a marriage coach – can make for you. While a good marriage coach or counselor can help you process your thoughts, you are the one who is going to live with your choices so it’s best you make that decision yourself. If however, you have decided to forgive your spouse’s indiscretion and work on rebuilding your relationship, this article gives you a few guidelines that could help you through that process.
For a relationship to have any hope of overcoming the devastation of an affair, there are some key commitments a spouse who was cheated on must get from their partner. Here are five I always recommend to couples I coach.
Commitment 1: I need you to admit it!
If your spouse cheated on you, they must be willing to admit it if your relationship is to have any hope of overcoming the affair. While an admission does not dull the pain, it is a key first step towards rebuilding your trust in your spouse. If you attempt to move on from the affair without your spouse ever admitting it, you might never be able to fully trust them in the future. Please bear in mind, however, that getting your partner to admit to the affair doesn’t mean you should use their admission against them – especially if you are both working to rebuild your relationship.
Commitment 2: No more secrecy so I do not have to snoop around!
Rebuilding trust is not something that happens overnight. It is actually a journey. If your spouse cheated on you, it is understandable if it takes you a while to trust them again, even after you have accepted their apology. You might want the liberty to check their phone anytime you wish. You might want the liberty to know their whereabouts every second of the day. If your spouse is truly willing to rebuild the relationship with you, they must grant you the latitude to monitor their movements and actions as part of the process of rebuilding trust.
Commitment 3: Get tested!
Part of the commitment to rebuild trust in the relationship will include a plan to fix your sex life and regain intimacy. While you might be ready to forgive your spouse and get in between the sheets for great make-up sex, you need to insist that the both of you (yes, you too) get tested first, so that you can be sure that you are really starting on a clean slate, so to speak. Better safe than sorry! This is one demand that you surely shouldn’t overlook, even if your spouse insists that “it” happened just once and they used protection. Forgiving infidelity doesn’t mean you have to ignore reality.
Commitment 4: You can never see or talk to that person again!
A lot of affairs happen with someone within the same social circle as you and your partner, or someone your partner works with. When people cheat, it is often because they believe they are no longer getting the attention they desire from their partners. Rather than working with their partners through the issues that led to the emotional and physical distance, they seek out that attention elsewhere, typically from people of the opposite sex within their social or work circles. If the marriage is truly to stand a chance of overcoming such an affair, the erring partner must commit to completely ending the relationship with the other person, even if it means developing a new social circle that doesn’t include that individual, or finding a new job that doesn’t require them working together.
Commitment 5: You have to be committed to creating new memories for us!
The only reason couples that are able to overcome affairs succeed is because they were able to restore their love for one another. This process can only be successful if you are willing to create new positive memories with each other that cause the old memories related to the affair to fade away. When you are the aggrieved party trying to get over an affair, it is natural for you to harbor a lot of resentment, as a result of these memories. One effective method of dealing with this resentment is to avoid expressing the resentful words to your spouse by channeling that energy towards activities, like spending time together doing positive things that’ll eventually form new memories that replace the old ones.
Nothing ever truly prepares you for the negative effects of infidelity. However, if through prayer, reflection and soul searching you make the commitment to forgive your partner and restore your marriage, these five commitments can help move you along the journey towards healing and true restoration.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Jason Stitt