Following the previous article on this topic, Love, Marriage, and Adultery: Can Your Relationship Survive? — syndicated to MSN, Fox, and HuffPost the week it was published here on Your Tango —I'd like to further expand on how to save a marriage after an affair.
No one said this is going to be easy. There will be many critics and cynics out there who will reject the idea that reconciliation is wise or even possible. But what if the cheater regrets having the affair, and the betrayed partner believes forgiveness is possible? If you both want to repair the relationship, your marriage is salvageable.
Here are top ways to save a marriage after an affair.
1. Establish That Both Partners Want In
If one of the partners is not committed to begin the relationship anew, saving the marriage will likely fail. One partner cannot do this work without the other. The good news is that when both partners are in for the long haul, renewal can happen.
2. Rest Assured: The Betrayed Partner Can Regain Trust
This might sound unbelievable, but it's not. For marriages where the cheater wants to end the affair and return to the spouse fully, it's because the cheater wants to be in the relationship with the spouse, not with anyone else. They likely cheated because they were lonely. If you are the betrayed one, you can feel hopeful because this partner wants YOU back. They missed YOU. Start to reconnect by touching each other, holding hands, sleeping close together. Touch builds oxytocin, the neurochemical associated with attachment. Through honest conversations about your relationship, the circumstances of the affair, and what you'd both like from your marriage moving forward, you'll be able to feel and trust your partner's love for you. Over time, trust is reestablished and earned back.
3. Talk Honestly About The Affair
The only way out is through. The betrayed partner will need the real questions addressed: (What did they have that I didn't? Are they better looking? Were they better in bed? Did you miss me?) Answering these questions honestly provides the necessary backbone of truthfulness for moving forward in saving the marriage. The betrayed partner can only move forward in rebuilding trust after knowing their partner is fully honest.
4. Make An Initial Plan For Getting Back Together
It's okay to take it slow since you are building a new relationship after a hard break. The process will take time — likely over weeks and months. If one or the other feels it's moving too fast, take it slower. It's normal to have a "two steps forward, one step back" scenario. Recognize the process of rebuilding, and stay focused on your progress.
5. Reset Your Marriage As the #1 Priority In Your Lives
The goal is continually to be involved in each other's lives on a routine basis.
When you're not together, text or call a couple of times during the day to say "I'm thinking about you." "I like ___ about you." "I'm looking forward to ____ together."
Take a couple of hours every day where you unwind together or at least do things together.
Share in preparing a meal (spice it up with new recipes), read out loud to each other (news features, novels, even encyclopedia entries), download a favorite rerun or find a new favorite together.
Establish date night once/week and do something new. Novelty has been shown to increase bonding. And yes, once you're at the intimacy reuniting point, schedule sex and stick to it. These means of connecting are crucial to keeping a marriage fulfilling and fun.
Saving a marriage after infidelity is a process, and knowing both parties are committed is the key to getting started. It will be hard work, and will involve both parties taking risks and stretching. But with commitment and honesty, rebuilding can absolutely happen. There is hope for any marriage in this situaion.
To learn more about Dr. Clark, and the work that she does, please visit www.AliciaClarkPsyD.com, follow her on Twitter @DrAliciaClark, or like her on Facebook at AliciaHClarkPsyD.