Many people believe that when one or both partners have been unfaithful to each other, the marriage is over.
What do you believe?
I’m raising the question because I know that expectations are everything in determining the future of a marriage.
You probably wouldn’t be reading this post if you hadn’t been hurt by infidelity. If you’re absolutely convinced that your life together has come to an end, then maybe nothing I say will change your mind. But if you’d like to hear about couples who have found a way to rebuild their relationships, I’m happy to share.
THE VERY FIRST STEP IN RECOVERY
I’ve worked with hundreds of couples over the years, and infidelity is one of the most prevalent issues. Partners want to know what caused the affair. Was it a lack of caring and attention between them? The habit of taking each other for granted? The allure of someone new and exciting who would make them feel alive again?
Finding the answers means opening an honest dialogue so that both partners feel heard and understood. This sounds so obvious, but it’s a lot more challenging than you might imagine.
We often equate an affair with a crime. There’s a perpetrator and a victim. But in reality, both partners feel enraged and hurt after the cheating comes to light. Both have a lot to say to each other – and a lot to learn.
The betrayed partner may have turned into a detective, searching out evidence that revealed the infidelity. The one who cheated feels defensive and guilty, wondering whether anything s/he says will actually be heard.
CREATING A SAFE SPACE FOR BOTH PARTNERS
The discovery of an affair touches off a crisis in the relationship. For days, even weeks, even the most basic communication feels fraught. As the crisis subsides, a skilled therapist can help the couple begin to address what happened.
For the betrayed partner, this means shifting away from the role of detective so that s/he can listen and learn. This begins with questions that encourage a much deeper conversation, supported by basic ground rules that make it safe for both partners to say what they need to say – knowing the other partner will work to listen with an open mind.
Blame and anger can block the way, but with a therapist’s help, this dialogue can lay the groundwork for healing.
QUESTIONS THAT MARRIAGE EXPERTS OFTEN ASK
I’m fortunate to have studied with some of the world’s most respected marriage experts, including the amazing Esther Perel. Here are questions that Esther and others recommend that couples explore in the wake of an affair.
From the partner who did not cheat:
- Why did the affair happen?
- How important was the sexual aspect of the relationship?
- What do you want me to know about the affair?
- What if I’d never found out?
- What was it like for you when you would come home after being with him / her?
- Can you understand my hurt and anger?
- What would it be like for you if I had an affair?
From the partner who had an affair:
- Can you forgive me?
- Why are you staying?
IS THERE HOPE FOR YOUR MARRIAGE?
Recovering from an affair takes energy and effort. However, I want you to know that it is far from impossible. I have seen remarkable things happen when two people open their hearts to each other – and I am ready to help you walk the path together.
Recovery means learning how to manage the waves of grief, anger, hope, and forgiveness that you will experience as your rebuild your relationship. The good news is that there are specific skills you can learn that will help you succeed.
If you’re not willing to give up just yet, there is hope. I can help you move past the painful emotions and restore the love and trust you both need.
One technique that has brought incredible positive results for many couples: a marriage counseling intensive. Learn more about what a custom 1-day or 2-day intensive can do for your relationship at this crucial stage of your lives.
If you’re like many of the couples I’ve worked with in recent years, you may discover that the best really is yet to be.