Before an affair actually occurred in my marriage, I, like most people, assumed that cheating mean an inevitable divorce. But, through personal experience and a lot of research, I've learned this is not always the case – not by a long shot. In fact, matters are quite common in marriages, but so too, are couples being able to salvage a lifetime of memories and connectedness in order to save what's important. I get a lot of emails from wives (and sometimes husbands) asking what are some of the best ways to "work on" their marriage after an affair. So, in the following article, I'll tell you what I find to be some of the best ways to begin the healing and reparation process.
Check The Attitude That You Have Going In: This may sound negative when I say it, but so many people go into their marriage following an affair with the attitude that they are already beaten. Of course it's completely natural and absolutely your right to be angry, hurt, confused, and betrayed. And, you owe it to yourself to take as much time as you need to evaluate if you really want to save this marriage or not. Do not hurry this process because if you do, you may get an answer that you're not entirely comfortable with.
With that said, once you make a conscious decision that you're not going to throw in the towel, do not go into the process thinking that you're just there to clean up the mess and see what happens. Do not look at your marriage as something that is going to be patched together with rusty old nails or sagging old cement. You're not going to patch this thing together. You're going to make it better. You're going to build and construct something that is built on a firm foundation and that, as a result, is much more stronger and resistant to destruction than it ever was before.
Be Willing To Keep Your Eyes Wide Open. You Want To Expose, And Then Fix, Everything That Is Necessary: As I said before, what you need to perform is not patchwork. This is not for the fault at heart. You will need to have the tough conversations and ask the questions for which you may well win or be hurt by the answer. And in turn, your spouse should be given this same opportunity. Both of you will need to put in the effort to listen, talk, get angry, get frustrated – whatever – but no matter where this road might take you – you must keep communicating and keep at it.
I can not tell you how many women tell me that they do not want to tread "there." They would rather ignore the big ugly "look at me" thing sitting right square in the room. They'd rather choke back their feelings and tell them that the lump in their throat is only their imagination, that things are not what they seem. Do not turn away. I know it's hard, but in order to heal and rebuild, you must first be able to evaluate exactly what you are dealing with.
You must be able to define exactly why the affair happened, list every single thing that contributed to it and then methodically, one by one, fix them. You can not allow "it did not mean anything," or "I did not mean for it to happen and it will not happen again" suffice as a decent answer. Because, if you can not completely understand where things went wrong, then you can not possibly make them right. This takes time. And sometimes, cheating husbands or wives can not succinctly articulate where things went wrong, but if you keep talking, and listening, the picture will become clearer little by little.
Keep Your Eye On The Prize (And Make Sure That It Is A Prize Worth Fighting For): Often when I outline how much communication, vulnerability, and openness are needed to save a marriage, people will respond with: "that sounds like a lot of work. " Yes, it does, but most people are willing to work hard if the pay off is attractive enough to make them want to fight for it. If all you have to look forward to is the same marriage that you got you here in the first place then yes, working this hard for that is not an appealing proposition.
But, if you know that at the end of the day, you're going to have a marriage in which you thrive, are understood, respected, and fulfilled, then doing what is necessary becomes a small prize to pay. What you create during this process is really up to you, but do not settle for what is not going to excite you or make you excited about getting up in the morning. Because if the prize at the end of the race is something that you really did not want or envision anyway, then what's the point?
Set your sights high. See this an opportunity to create what you really want, and accept no substitute for it. Only you know what it takes to interact, have fun with, and mesh with your spouse. But, you were once happy. You know it's possible. You've done it before.
Now, you have to dig deep and focus first on what's wrong, but then, once you've slayed the big, ugly scar that's between you, you need to focus on what's right, and those things that drew you together in the first place . Take tiny steps. Focus on just creating positive instead of negative feelings. Then, work on the trust, communication, and intimacy. Finally, place safeguards in place. Sometimes, you'll be left with something that is better and stronger – something that you're glad that you cooked for.