Last week we talked about what you can do if you’ve been cheated on to help you in the healing process. I’m sure the four tips that we provided are only the tip of the iceberg. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, you can do that here. If you have any other ideas on ways that you or someone you know have made it through infidelity please share in the comments.
Today I want to talk about the other side of the coin. What does the healing process need to look like if you are the cheater? What are the things that you need to do for yourself? What are the things that you need to do for your spouse in order to restore your marriage?
1) Completely end the affair relationship. Some of the suggestions that we’ve made in the past seem overkill to some people but there is a reason why we suggest what we do. And we aren’t alone. Many marriage experts and counselors will also encourage something called “No Contact.” When you confess to your spouse, if you want any chance of healing, if you want any chance of your marriage healing you cannot have any more contact with the person you had an affair with. You cannot be Facebook friends. You should not have each other’s phone numbers. You should not work together. We were counseled and know many others as well who were counseled to find another job at all costs. Your marriage matters more. It might suck, it might not be the best economy for it, you might really like the current job you had but the truth is that there are consequences to choices. Always. You chose what you want more: a healed marriage with a secure spouse or keep your current job and be around your affair partner every day. Not only does that not improve trust with your spouse but it puts you in a precarious place daily in having to refight emotional and sexual and mental battles over and over.
2) Take full responsibility. Your spouse might have been giving you icy stares for years. You might not have been intimate in months. Your spouse might be cold and mean and nagging. You could be under extreme financial or work stress and don’t feel heard or supported by your spouse. You might be fighting all the time. You might be frazzled from the addition of young children to your world. NO EXCUSES. What you did was a choice. We always say, Clint had so many choices along the way and each time he could have told himself or his AP no but he chose to keep going. There were a number of reasons for that but the point is that if he had been willing to face the music at any point, he could have been honest with himself about what he was doing and put a stop to it. Yes, your spouse will end up needing to take responsibility for themselves and their part in the state of your marriage. Not every time, but often, one or both spouse cheats because the atmosphere of the marriage is ripe for an affair. But make sure that you are taking responsibility for your part.
3) Become an open book. If your spouse has questions, answer them honestly. If your spouse needs to ask a question 100 times, do your best to answer it consistently every time. Many betrayed spouses end up asking and re-asking questions because they are trying to wrap their heads around the secret you were holding. They’re trying to put all the pieces together. They’re trying to test the “trust” waters. When you answer consistently and honestly you are building trust. Let your spouse see your phone and media sites. Make sure that your schedule makes sense with where you are and when you can be reached. Clint was fantastic at this part of our healing process. He kept in regular contact throughout the day and if he was going somewhere with friends he was available on his phone. He even became an open book with his friends – who he also broke trust with by his choices – and would leave his cell phone out when he’d go to the rest room or whatever. He had nothing to hide. No matter where he was or who he was with.
4) Accept and require boundaries for yourself and your marriage. Not because you cheated but because they should have been there all along. Boundaries that keep you both accountable and safe and secure. Boundaries that increase trust and fidelity. You need to be careful who you are creating connections with. You don’t have private personal conversations with people of the opposite sex. You don’t talk about your marriage or disparagingly about your spouse with someone of the opposite sex. You need to be conscious about things like meetings and luncheons and car pools. Some people will say that it is taking it too far and that it is impossible to do that in today’s workplace. It’s definitely challenging and there may be times when you do have working relationships with the opposite sex… but you keep them “working.” You don’t cross over. You don’t let your eyes linger. You don’t create emotional bonds. One of the reasons why so many couples create the boundary of never being alone with someone of the opposite sex is because it eliminates the temptation. Yes, some people can take that too far but ultimately what it comes down to is that the choices we make and the relationships we have should never be at the expense of our marriage.
5) Let go of the fantasy. One of the reasons why affairs happen, especially in the workplace, is because people perceive their co-workers inaccurately. They see them in the tiny bubble that is the office and use what little they think they know about that person and compare it to their spouse. Your co-worker understands all your work stress. They listen attentively to your problems and have solutions that make sense. They make you laugh and take your mind off your troubles. They never nag you. They always look so put together. They easily compliment you. Meanwhile, your spouse is mad that you came home late again. And when you walk through the door they are there ready to nag you, stains running down their sweatshirt. They would love to hear about your work but they’ve got a baby who wants to be fed and a toddler climbing up their leg who needs to get in the bath. But they still have to do the dishes. Comparison kills. You could leave your spouse, go be with your affair partner and live happily ever…oh wait. That almost never happens. There’s a reason for that. In a few years, your relationship would more than likely be in the same place your current one is. Stress from kids and jobs and to top it all off a ticked off ex-spouse, kids being shuffled around who are mad at you, a reputation to rebuild and alimony and child support to figure out. Pop the bubble. Get rid of the fantasy. Learn to find ways to enjoy reality. Because, reality exists in every relationship at some point.
Again, this is probably just the tip of the iceberg. Unless I want to create a Part 2, I’ll stop at 5 points…
If you’re marriage experienced infidelity what are some things that the cheating spouse did to restore trust in the relationship and heal what was broken?
As usual, we are linking up with some of these great sites this week. Please check them out!