So you just found out that your beloved has been having an affair …
It's normal for you to be experiencing a broad range of emotions in this difficult time, almost none of which are positive. This is especially true if you were completely blindsided by the news like many husbands and wives are. (According to one scientific study, 56% of men and 34% of women involved in infidelity rated their marriages as 'happy' or even 'very happy'!)
Shock, betrayal, anger, and even a bit of frustration are all reasonable responses to such a situation. Although your spouse's affair is not your fault, your self-esteem is likely to take a hard hit, as well. None-the-less, you may long to look past your husband or wife's indiscretions and continue on with your marriage.
If you've decided that you are looking to 'forgive and forget' the infidelity that has occurred, it can be helpful to know that you are not alone.
According to research conducted by the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy and the Associated Press back in January:
- Infidelity (emotional, physical, or both) occurs in about 41% of all marriages.
- Although men and women tend to report straying in their past relationships at a fairly equal rate, 22% men have strayed at least once during their marriages, while only 14% of women have done the same.
- This final statistic may sound either rather bright or gruesomely grim to you, depending on your particular frame of mind, but 31% of marriages last even after an affair has been discovered.
The trick to finding yourself in that 31% is managing your negative emotions and renegotiating the relationship effectively. For a bit of guidance on how to do that, read through these five tips for fixing your marriage after infidelity:
1. Make sure you're both on the same page.
No matter how many anti-infidelity and marriage overhaul articles you read on the net—the unfortunate truth is that there is no chance that your marriage will ever overcome its current situation if both partners aren't on the same page.
Under no circumstances should you make any major decisions while the wound is still fresh, but after you've had a chance for everything to 'sink in' it will be time to decide whether or not you both agree the marriage is worth saving.
In most cases—you'll be talking about YEARS worth of commitment, effort, and (hopefully) good memories—so stay true to yourself, but don't come to any rash conclusions you may regret later on.
2. Realize that the marriage cannot, in fact, be 'fixed'.
In almost all cases, husbands and wives do not cheat merely for sex. While you cannot be held directly responsible for your spouse's actions, the underlying causes or triggers of those actions cannot be ignored! For this reason, you must acknowledge that something about the marriage, as is, is not working.
In other words, 'something's got to give'! Through open and honest (not angry and hostile) communication, the two of you need to come up with a new 'marriage contract'—a clear agreement on your needs and expectations for the future.
Even though your marriage cannot be 'fixed', it is possible for you to step forward with a stronger, fairer, reinvented vision of your marriage so that it will be ready to take on the challenges of the future!
3. Ask questions, but do your best to ask the right ones.
Morbid curiosity may lead you to wonder where the affair took place and all the dirty details that occurred there, and you have every right know those things if you so desire. After you are privy to the very basics, however, it's probably best to focus on asking questions that evaluate not just what happened, but why it happened too.
4. Move on.
If you've made the decision to forgive your partner for what he or she did, then you need to make a real commitment for doing so. A simple way to do this in the wake of the affair is to make time to do things you enjoy together without discussing it. You should also limit amount of time you spend on discussing it at once. 15-30 minutes is more than enough. More is likely too much to handle without an impending breakdown.
It may be difficult to trust your partner for months or even years after an affair, but that is something you must work on constantly if you truly want to make things worse. Saying you've fully forgiven your spouse and then constantly accusing them of cheating again—even if it's only in your own head—will ultimately alienate you from your partner all over again.
You shouldn't throw the event in your partner's face over and over again, either. Whether you do it boldly or passive aggressively, doing this might make your partner rethink his or her decision to carry on your relationship—especially if they truly are regretful of what they've done! Nobody wants to be reminded of their guilt day after day, especially when they are doing all that they can to make up for it.
5. Continue to reevaluate your relationship.
You might think that this could make tip number four harder, but this couldn't be further from the truth.
Checking in with your partner from time to time—the precise interval necessary may vary from couple to couple-to ensure that you are both getting what you need out of the marriage can prevent future infidelity and show that both partners' feelings and opinions are valued. It can also leave you feeling more secure—leading you to find it easier to place your trust back in your spouse. Best of all, it can bring you closer and inspire you to add a bit of spice to your relationship when necessary. This could lead you to building new memories together, making it easier not to dwell on older, more hurtful ones.
While these tips are intended to be of use to individuals who desire to move past their spouse's infidelity, they are in no means a fool-proof method to do so. Moving a marriage past an affair on back on to the pathway to happiness and health requires intense openness and commitment from BOTH partners, and you should never seek to carry on a marriage in which emotional or physical abuse is evident.