If you’re like most people, you probably told yourself after you got married (or maybe even before), “If my spouse ever cheats on me, it’ll be over!” It’s normal to think that if your spouse has an affair, you’ll head straight to a divorce attorney’s office. After all, affairs are unforgivable aren’t they? You’re probably perplexed about how couples survive infidelity without getting a divorce.
Here’s the thing. If you’ve lived through that moment of discovering that your spouse has been unfaithful, you know that reality suddenly spins on its head. Kaboom! Things are not at all as you had imagined. And you quickly realize that you don’t actually feel like marching down to the attorney’s office and filing for divorce.
Of course you’re shocked, hurt, confused, terrified, grief-stricken, and maybe full of rage. Even in that tsunami of extreme emotions, it hits you like a ton of bricks…the stakes of divorce are much greater than you had ever considered.
Every cell in your body might even be screaming “I don’t want a divorce!”
In her new book: Healing from Infidelity, Dr. Michelle Weiner-Davis states that most people decide to stay in their marriages after infidelity. She says it’s not that overcoming the devastation of infidelity is easy, because it isn’t. But it can be done.
Surviving infidelity is a real thing! In fact, your marriage can end up being better than it was before. The thing is, both of you have to be willing to work hard. And you must remember that it takes time for the deep wounds of betrayal to heal.
The critical thing is to figure out and fix the issues that lead to the infidelity in the first place. And also repair the shattered trust. This usually requires getting expert help.
If you’re living through the devastation of an affair, you’re in the right place. Read on to discover the first 10 steps to surviving infidelity and rebuilding your marriage after an affair.
10 Steps To Help Couples Survive Infidelity:
1. Make the decision to save your marriage.
This may sound simplistic, but it’s a must. The first step is that you both have to firmly decide that you want to stay in your marriage. You simply won’t be able to begin the process of repair if one of you has decided that you want to stay married and the other of you is on the fence.
2. Promptly end the affair.
The time to have your cake and eat it, too, is over. Done. Finished. If you want to fix your marriage, you must say goodbye to your affair partner. You’re going to need all of your energy, effort, focus, and time to put into healing your marriage. And you’re spouse cannot possibly start rebuilding trust while suffering from ongoing threats of betrayal.
3. Accept that you’re going to be on an emotional roller-coaster for a while.
It’s completely normal to experience every emotion known to humankind. And healing from infidelity takes time. Sometimes a lot of time. This is just a natural consequence of an affair. If you’re the betrayed partner, you now have something like post traumatic stress. And it could take a year or more to recover from that.
4. Have open conversations about the affair.
In order to rebuild trust, the your betrayed partner needs to hear the details of the affair (probably more than once). And believe me, it’s much better to get the whole story right away. Finding out later about more parts to the story will negate any forward movement, and take you back to square one. Spare yourself this tragedy.
5. Show genuine remorse and empathy, if you’re the betrayer.
Look, your spouse is crushed. Devastated. Shattered. Destroyed. In order for that pain to heal, you have to understand and feel the pain you caused. You have to walk in your partner’s shoes, and then convince them that you get it. And, if you don’t have remorse…well, chances are high that you’ll repeat this behavior of betrayal. Ouch!
6. Work toward forgiveness or acceptance, if you’re the betrayed.
Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to happen right away. But for your marriage to heal from an affair and grow into a thriving relationship, you’ll eventually have to forgive your spouse for betraying you. This doesn’t mean condoning or forgetting, by the way. And if you can’t wrap your head around forgiveness, then move into acceptance.
7. Spend more time together.
Your relationship is in dire need of attention. So is your partner. Make an agreement to start spending more time together. You can:
go on dates
put away your cell phones and computers when you’re at home
get together for lunch
go for walks
try to get to bed a little early and cuddle
(remember to take breaks from talking about the affair)
8. Amp up on the reassurance that you want to be in this relationship.
With the ripping effects that the affair has had on the security of your relationship, it’s important to do whatever it takes to reassure your partner that you want to remain in your marriage. And that you still love and like them. This goes for both of you. Also, ask for that reassurance if you need it, but be mindful to ask without making accusations.
9. Tell each other everything from now on.
Make an agreement with your spouse that you’re both going to tell each other everything. No exceptions! Complete honesty and radical transparency needs to become your couple mantra. And that includes even telling your spouse when you feel attracted to another person. By the way, it’s far more protective of your marriage to tell your spouse and not the person you’re feeling attracted to.
10. Get help from a marriage therapist who has experience with affair recovery.
Healing from infidelity is a difficult process. You’ll have much greater odds of success if you’ll get help from a skilled marriage counselor who has lots of experience helping couples recover from affairs. Don’t be afraid to ask if the therapist you contact has this experience, and if they’ve had success in helping couples recover from infidelity.
If you’ve been wondering how couples survive infidelity without getting a divorce, I hope you’ve gotten a clear picture of the initial steps to take. To me, the most exciting thing about dealing with infidelity is knowing that with persistent work and new agreements, you can end up with a far better relationship than you ever thought possible.
I know that surviving infidelity can seem impossible in the beginning. Go ahead and borrow my hope, for now, if you need to.