Although John felt and understood Maryanne’s pain, internally he still had plenty of excuses for the affair. He still wanted to justify his actions to her in some way, but every time he did he undermined his attempts to rebuild trust.
Instead, I coached John to take on a new role, as protector of the relationship.
He prepared himself, like a martial arts expert might. He knew that he would have to be able to absorb Maryanne’s anger and yet still hold his ground. Just like in Aikido. He worked on calming his reactive tendencies with breathing exercises, used music to calm himself, and learned to sit in a grounded position when he talked with Maryanne.
Creating new mental images was another important step. In addition to seeing the pain he had caused, he also recalled positive times in their years together, and all the things that led him to fall in love with Maryanne. All of these actions helped John’s romantic, creative side come alive, and he began to court Maryanne much like he had when they first met.
Naturally, Maryanne responded by beginning to feel more trusting and secure.
Step 5: When it’s time – explore and repair
Up until now, we’ve really only talked about John examining himself. But it takes two to make a relationship. For complete healing, John and Maryanne became a team to understand how their histories and their present day dynamics may have made them vulnerable to an affair.
But it’s important to complete steps 1 to 4 first. That’s because Maryanne can’t feel safe to explore until she truly feels John’s remorse.
This is very tender territory and can be aided tremendously by the coaching of an Imago therapist. Just like steel rods are broken and re-soldered many times to make them stronger, a relationship can emerge from a betrayal stronger than before when the couple are willing to climb the above steps.