It’s possible to reconcile after adultery, and even make your marriage better than before, but it takes hard work and humility. Serious about repairing your relationship? Here are 7 things you must do to make amends and move forward.
- Personal Accountability. You must take complete accountability for your actions. Your partner may have contributed to the breakdown of intimacy in your marriage, but she (or he) did not make you cheat. That was your choice alone. If you’re offsetting blame on to your spouse, you’re not being accountable, and your marriage is doomed.
- Empathy. Cheaters lack empathy, at least while they’re cheating. They justify their behavior because they’re stressed out at work, or their partner is too demanding, or they just turned 40. This allows them to quash guilt and keep doing what they’re doing. Recovering from an affair means that you get really honest about the ways your hurt your spouse. Yes, it can be really unpleasant to listen to your spouse list the ways you devastated your spouse, but it’s imperative that you do. No whining, no trying to get them to see your side of things — until you have listened to your spouse without defensiveness.
- Be Patient. You’ve ended the affair, gone to therapy, begged forgiveness, and given your partner flowers everyday. You wonder: Why don’t they trust me? Why are they still so angry? It’s been three months, when will they get over it? Newsflash: Your partner is not on your timetable! If you become exasperated and pressure them to “get over it,” you need to focus on accountability. Your spouse is hurt because you did something to hurt them. If you don’t want to deal with the consequences of your behavior, it’s better to leave the marriage. But if you want to stay, stop guilting your spouse into “getting over it” just so you can stop feeling bad.
- Follow through. Your spouse is watching to see if your actions line up with your words. If you say you’re going to clean the kitchen, clean the kitchen. The same goes with putting the kids to bed, paying the electric bill on time, or arranging next week’s date night. Following through on little things may seem trivial, and they may seem like they have nothing to do with infidelity. But the issue is not really about sex; it’s about trust. If you want to be trusted, do what you say you’ll do. Again and again.
- Be vulnerable. People who are unfaithful often have trouble being vulnerable with their spouse. They don’t know how to ask for what they want or express doubt and fear. You may have felt that it was easier to” open up” to your affair partner than your spouse, but this was probably because you had much less to risk with the other woman or man. After all, if your affair partner cut things off, you still had a home and a family waiting for you. Genuine intimacy starts with allowing yourself to take emotional risks. The more your partner sees you being transparent, the more likely it will be for you to regain her trust.
- Set limits. You need to listen to your spouse’s feelings of hurt and betrayal, but you don’t need to be available 24/7. You also don’t have to tolerate verbal abuse. Betrayed partners often have emotional outbursts because they’re traumatized. It’s important to realize that this is a normal part of their experience. Don’t blame them for it – remember, you’re the reason they’re hurt! – but you can and should request a time-out if the temperature gets too hot. Assure your spouse that you will be happy to revisit the subject after both of you have had a chance to cool down. If part of the reason you had the affair was because you couldn’t ask your partner for what you needed, now is the time to start doing that.
- Detach from the outcome. You could be the most remorseful, accountable person in the world and your spouse could still leave you. Or you could be less than remorseful and your spouse might stay because she’s afraid to leave you. Either way, you cannot control your spouse’s decision. You can only control what you do. So set your intention: do the next right thing and let go of the outcome. If the relationship is meant to last, it will.
Do you have questions about legal options that can help your marriage? To learn more about reconciliation agreementsand temporary child support and custody orders during a trial separation, we can help. To schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys, please call us at 888-888-0919 to set up your appointment or use our email form.