Originally posted at: http://www.affairrecovery.com/newsletter/founder/how-to-survive-infidelity
Founder & President Affair Recovery
The discovery of infidelity not only severely disrupts your life, but is a violation unlike any other event. Most experts who deal with infidelity say that the betrayed spouse deals with anywhere from 50 to 100 different reminders and triggers about their spouse’s infidelity daily. At the same time we have a God who is far bigger than our circumstances. As those of us who have traveled this road and have experienced true restoration can attest, the marriage we now experience is far better than what we once had or even thought we could have. What I heard Rick Reynolds say some time ago is absolutely true: you can never tell the end of the story by the beginning. I encourage you to stay the course and see what is possible with the right kind of help and support to survive infidelity.
Over the years I have found that hearing a similar story to your own to be not only reassuring but instrumental for healing and perspective. When Rick asked me to share my story, I wondered what I could offer in terms of providing hope for those who will one day have to live through this nightmare. As I began to go deeper into my personal experience, I felt the need to share some very practical, yet life changing suggestions which I hope and pray help you as much as they helped me.
6 Tips for the Unfaithful Spouse
- You must stop the affair. You will need help to stop it. Find an experienced professional, spiritual leader, or someone who has lived through this type of situation. Getting the right kind of help from those who have gone through it before is critical to finding momentum in your recovery. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably realized your own efforts were not sufficient to prevent the affair and doing more of the same won’t be sufficient as you move forward to survive infidelity.
- Commit to creating an atmosphere of safety. Commit to openness and honesty on a daily basis. Be available by cell phone. Be willing to call from a land line (to show where you are). Hand over all passwords, e-mail addresses, bills, and give access to your mate in order to give him/her assurance. Make a decision to have no unaccounted for time in your day. If you’re going to give this marriage a shot at being restored, be willing to do whatever it takes to restore trust. The way to reestablish trust is to first trust your mate with what’s going on in your life.
- Take responsibility. As bad as your marriage may have been, and as rejected as you may have felt, it still doesn’t justify breaking a vow. Have the courage to say “I messed up.” Take responsibility for your own recovery.
- Develop empathy for your spouse. Daily express to your mate that you’re sorry for the pain that you have caused and/or appreciation that your mate is still there. Being able to express grief over what your actions have cost your mate is one of the first and most important steps to moving beyond the betrayal.
- Be patient and ask your mate how he/she is doing. If you see your mate is down, simply ask how he/she is feeling. Our first tendency when we see those storm clouds brewing over our mate is to run for the shelter, but in recovery, it’s best to be a tornado chaser by creating space to share about the pain.
- Don’t be defensive. Usually defensiveness sounds like, “well if you hadn’t…” We often times blame our mate and try to justify why we messed up. This defensiveness and attempts at justifying our infidelity only adds to the frustration, hurt and anger.
5 Tips for the Betrayed Spouse
- Express your feelings and thoughts without the destructiveness of rage. This one can be tricky, and is especially difficult if you are very early on into discovery. It will be somewhat easier if you are able to maintain the perspective that anger (even the rage you may currently be experiencing) is a secondary emotion. Instead of expressing your anger, talk more about the underlying feelings that evoked the anger. The underlying emotions might be hurt or fear.
- Avoid rapid-fire questioning. Ask questions slowly, always asking yourself if the answer will be information you want to live with the rest of your life, and possibly have a reminder and/or trigger attached to it. I would encourage you to avoid questions that paint a picture in your head. These comparison questions create the intrusive thoughts you’ll later have to deal with. Ask yourself if the questions you’re asking are helping you move forward or if it is for some other reason.
- Commit to forgiveness. This doesn’t have to happen fast, but for your sake you want it to occur. Don’t fall into the trap of believing you can control your mate’s behavior by not forgiving. Remember, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Forgiving isn’t necessarily the same as reconciliation, but if your mate is safe enough it paves the way for the possibility of reconciliation. Forgiveness is also not a one time act. There will be layers to your pain which will necessitate a commitment, in advance, to forgive as you move forward.
- Allow yourself time and space to grieve and process what has happened. To attempt to heal the marriage too quickly can be devastating and is one of the leading factors of relapse for the unfaithful spouse. As Leslie Hardie says, “it’s not about the amount of time you give it, rather it’s about how you utilize the time you give it.”
- Recognize your vulnerabilities. Don’t let your hurt, pain, and anger drive you to behaviors and choices you will later regret. Avoid putting yourself in vulnerable situations.
5 Tasks for the Couple
- Find support. Try to find at least two or three people you can both agree would be safe individuals to share with. Having a safe place to process feelings, apart from the marriage, can be beneficial. It’s helpful for you to have someone of the same sex you can vent to and grieve with who is safe and has your best interests at heart. Your mate absolutely needs a trusted friend where they can do the same. If you don’t have this outlet outside the marriage, chances are painful emotions will build up and come out in destructive ways.
- Separate the marriage from the train wreck of the infidelity. Remember, there is more to your relationship than the infidelity. The infidelity does not rewrite your whole history, although sometimes it may feel like it does. While you can never go back to what you had, you do have the opportunity for something better.
- Make time to talk about the marriage and the effects of the infidelity. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to stop the dialogue about what has happened. If you cannot process through the effects of the infidelity, it will most assuredly stall your efforts to heal as a couple and create underlying dissention in your heart towards your spouse. Allow time for both of you to process what you are learning about yourselves and each other along the way.
- Arrange a problem-free time during which you have fun and enjoy each other. This is a must, otherwise you will begin to feel like your identity and your relationship are just byproducts of the infidelity. Remember, there is more to life. So try to find times where you don’t discuss the infidelity.
- Remind yourself and each other that your relationship can be better. You are building honesty and empathy that were probably not there before the infidelity. Your relationship will emerge from this so much better, if you let it. It will never be the same, but who wants to go back to the lie you were living? This is an opportunity to build a new foundation, with new patterns of behavior.
Affair Proofing Your Marriage
While you cannot affair proof your marriage, you can and must, affair proof your own life. This goes for the betrayed spouse too, who in many ways is ripe for an affair if healing does not take place for the trauma after the affair. This must be a vital step the unfaithful spouse takes charge of if they are going to prevent relapse and eventually reestablish trust with their mate.
- Assume that an affair could happen again and take precautions, rather than assuming it will never happen again. Actively avoid putting yourself in harm’s way. Together with your mate, design “our rules” for keeping your relationship safe.
- Both parties need to understand that temptations don’t define us and behavior does not equal motive. We have to be willing to be honest about dangerous situations around us. Understand that if your mate is willing to share something that he/she is struggling with, then your mate is choosing to keep the marriage safe rather than to endanger it by hiding struggles or weaknesses.
- Commit to work hard at your marriage. Marriages take work. Be willing to put as much time into the marriage as you do into other activities which you love. The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the hill, it’s greener where you water it.
- Be willing as a couple to talk about this issue. Be willing to honestly discuss any areas where the relationship is at risk, rather than just going through the emotions of it all. Auto pilot seldom works in recovery.
- Give back. If you’ve already recovered from a betrayal, be willing to give back to others who are still dealing with infidelity. There is no better preventive medicine than working with others who are coming along behind you. Their journey will be a constant reminder of the cost you incurred and experienced in your own journey.
There is truly nothing that the nearness of God cannot heal. The tasks on this list are just a few suggestions that will help you find and protect hope and safety in your marriage.
For more practical advice on how to survive infidelity listen to:
and receive a free copy of a two hour webinar featuring leading experts in the field of infidelity recovery. During the webinar the panel answered multiple questions posted by individuals struggling to move beyond betrayal.
Rick Reynolds is the founder of AffairRecovery If you’d like more information on how to deal with infidelity please visit their web site.