Tips that may help you get through the first weeks after the affair.
1. Just as in 911 when the US stopped all air traffic and closed all borders that is what you must do now. Make an effort to close all of your “borders”. No one is allowed in or out of the marriage except for the two of you. Strong boundaries should have been in place but most likely they were not, so this is the time to set them up. This is not the time to tell anyone about what happened. This is the time to sit with your partner and discuss what happened, reasons it may have happened and to come up with options that will help (one of those should be finding a counselor).
2. If there was a mistress or a mister that person must be out of the picture if you are going to rebuild your marriage. No ifs, ands, or buts, I don’t care (nor should you) if the reason your spouse cannot break up with them is because they (the lover) are suicidal, nothing should prevent this break up. If you or your spouse are worried this person may actually attempt suicide call the police, but otherwise don’t use that as an excuse as it is arrogant and we all know it is a lie (and if you are the cheater you cannot afford to be caught in another lie).
3. Get rid of your phone, your phone number, and your text privileges. From now on you must share email address as well as passwords for face book pages, emails, etc…To rebuild a marriage will mean you have to rebuild trust and this takes complete transparency. It also means for a while you will not be trusted. This is as it should be; you have shown your spouse that you are seducible, lie, and cheat. Ask yourself why your partner should trust you?
4. Communicate with your spouse every day. Call them from work. Come home from work and make yourself available. Tell her/him where you are at all times. This may mean you give them your schedule every day even if they act like they don’t want it. Rebuilding trust means you are there whenever your spouse needs you. Be where you say you are at all times.
5. As the spouse of a cheater you have some work to do also. Write down three things that you need immediately from your spouse to begin restoring trust. After writing them down give them to your spouse and talk about them. Does your spouse think they can fulfill these? Your counselor can go over this list with you also and they may have other ideas to add to the list that will help immediately.
6. As the spouse of a cheater reflect on the past six months prior to you finding out your spouse cheated. Did you submerge yourself into your work? Have you gotten closer to the children and excluded your spouse on an emotional level? Have you suffered past resentment that you didn’t deal with and held it against them? Have you withheld sex, emotion, touching? You did not cause your spouse to cheat. It is not your fault that your spouse held and/or had sex with another. But…it is your marriage and your fate is wrapped up with theirs, so it is wise if you face this and try to work through what happened.
7. Very important to mention, but very difficult to think about: do not have sex with your cheating partner again until he/she has had a STD panel. One of the main issues that cause so much pain after infidelity is that the spouse of a cheater will contract an STD 6 months to a year after they have reconciled. This opens up the pain of the affair much like ripping a scab off a cut, and makes trust very difficult.
8. Hurt turns to anger and it doesn’t take very long for this to happen after infidelity. Expect to go up and down with your emotions in the weeks following infidelity. Be patient. Remember feelings are just feelings they are not right or wrong. As much as possible do not act upon your feelings. Focus on breathing, finding space, and remaining calm. This will give you time to think and consider all options, rather than the most immediate one to “throw your spouse out”.
Many of us say that infidelity is a sure precursor to divorce. But in my practice only one third of my couples who suffer from infidelity go on to divorce. They stay together for many reasons, their history, their friendship, their children, and their sadness of living without each other. Any reason is a good reason to stay married if there is a foundation of hope and love. I have seen marriages become stronger after infidelity, although I don’t advise this as a method of growing. I have witnessed few things as painful as going through infidelity appears to be. However….as a psychotherapist I do not believe infidelity, must nor should it automatically lead to divorce. On the other hand as a married woman it may. –Mary Jo Rapini-
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