After an Affair: 5 Musts for Marriage Repair
When an affair rocks the security of your marriage, it can be a disaster.
Emotions like anger, denial, confusion, betrayal and bitterness can, in an instant, replace what you may have thought to be a loving relationship.
The damage is undeniable.
Much like a couple facing the external ravages of a tornado or flood on their home, you and your partner must take stock of the life you built and determine whether to release it and let it go or rebuild and repair. Facing the cracks in your marital foundation is necessary and the only way to honestly decide your next move.
What will you do? Try marriage counseling? Separation? Divorce?
If you do decide to repair the damage to your relationship, the job won’t’ be easy. But your comeback can happen.
Commitment to each other and dedication to the hard work it will take are the first on the list of musts that make lasting repair happen after an affair. If you’re ready, consider the following:
5 Steps You Must Take for Marriage Repair After an Affair
1. Call in Reinforcements
Rebuilding always works best if the work is communal and cooperative. You need help. Standing in the middle of all the hurt and harm you’ve committed and experienced, you likely don’t know where to begin the healing.
An experienced, objective and compassionate professional has the right tools and blueprints that save you time and frustration. You needn’t waste time or effort with unproductive short-term attempts to reconcile. Marriage counseling can spare you the type of do-it-yourself fixes that miss deeper structural repairs needed to mend the trust between you.
2. Complete the Tear-down
If you were unfaithful, be as honest and transparent as possible. You must not continue hiding anything. Full disconnect from the unfaithful partner is non-negotiable. Deception or resistance to facing the hurt you caused, in any form, will compromise the marital work to come.
If you are the hurt partner, you must require truth from your partner and from yourself. Denial or an unwillingness to deal with your own emotional fallout won’t secure the solid recovery you hope for.
Tell each other the truth. Willingly provide answers if you cheated.
If you are the hurt partner, you need to hear those answers but may not be able to accept them. Explanations are sometimes inconceivable and unbelievable to the hurt partner and the unfaithful partner needs to dig deep to make himself understood.
At first it will be very hard to deal with the insecurity that the break in trust has caused. Try to create the space for acknowledgment and accountability.
3. Don’t rush the rebuild
Affair repair should never involve shoddy or incomplete workmanship. Many couples just want to get back to a comfortable, painless place in their relationship. However, before restoration occurs, post-affair work requires vulnerability, transparency and a certain measure of sitting with your brokenness. It doesn’t feel good. But perseverance eventually pays off.
Resist the urge to pressure each other and look to pay attention to each other’s needs instead. The solidity and security of your marriage depend on your ability to patiently work towards regaining trust.
4. Reconstruct from the ground up
By the time an affair tears through a relationship, there were likely already strong winds of dissatisfaction, resentment and disconnect blowing.
How did you handle them before the infidelity? Did you ignore the issues? Did you avoid each other, yell and scream, or bury them?
To make your way back to each other, you must start at the beginning. Inspect everything, not just the circumstances of the infidelity. Work where you find weaknesses. Connection starts with communication and improving the way you interact overall. Work with your therapist to uncover the cracks in the way you talk to each other, manage conflict, and deal with change.
This is the heart of the repair work. You’ll need to remain present and mindful to uncover the problems. You’ll need to stay engaged and willingly acknowledge each other’s efforts toward progress. In the process, you’ll be able to discover what is positive and possible between you. In time, you can shore up a stronger, more loving relationship structure brick by brick.
5. Forgive and move forward
Eventually, life after infidelity can go on. It must. Otherwise, it defines your relationship rather than acts as ground zero for developing something safer and more supportive.
Remember that the goal is to grow beyond the pain and turmoil; not perpetually punish each other.
Instead, actively rediscover what’s good. Reward each other for remaining open and vulnerable. Prioritize and develop your friendship. Let trust build slowly and openly appreciate how much you’ve grown.
Essentially, you must refuse to simply be survivors of an affair. Rather, learn the tough lessons, grow in kindness and compassion, and embrace the fruits of your hard work: a love that has weathered the storm and is worth protecting far into the future.
About the Author
Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He works with couples struggling with powerful issues such as infidelity, careers, and intimacy. He also specializes in treating addictions, anger, anxiety, stress, depression and work-life balance.