After an affair, many couples question if it is possible to save their marriage or committed partnership. It makes sense that the deep sense of betrayal can make it confusing and scary to think about trusting someone who has hurt you in such an intimate way. And yet much of the confusion and ambivalence after a partner cheats comes from the feeling that there is no other choice but to break up. Most couples dont know the pathway out of the tangled mess that cheating creates.
If you knew that there were some simple steps that could lead you from the chaos of infidelity and into a brighter future, together, would you try it? The following six steps are that path. Try these suggestions, and at the end of these steps if you are still not satisfied with your relationship, revisit the choice to end it. First, consider these crucial steps.
Number One – Take good care of yourself. If this happened to a friend, wouldnt you tell them to take it easy, treat them gently, and bring them gifts, make them healthy food, and even nurture them with treats and indulgences? Do the same for yourself. In this early time of crisis, drink water, get rest, and do something wonderful to care for yourself.
Number Two – Feel your feelings. You have just been blindsided, and you need to stop for a moment (or a day or a week or a month or several months) and let yourself experience your emotions. Feelings come over you like a wave – they happen, they crest and then they pass. Let them happen and they will pass through you. If you fight them and tell yourself you “wont feel sad” or its “wrong to be angry,” then the resistance and the stuffing of your emotions will only keep them more alive and more intense. Feel them once, and get on with your life. Journal about them, talk to a friend, find a therapist, yell into your pillow. Cry. Its all normal to feel a range of emotion. What you do with your feelings is under your control, what you feel may not be.
Number Three – have a date night out. Leave the kids home. Dont talk about the infidelity. Keep the conversation light and polite. If talking is exhausting, go to a movie. Feel like a regular couple for a few hours instead of a couple who cheated. Try and have some fun. Laugh. Remember who you are together and what you appreciated about one another before this happened.
Number Four – Create a new monogamy agreement. In my book I give explicit questions that you can use to talk about your new monogamy moving forward. What is important in your relationship this time? What werent you talking about before the affair that is necessary now? Make everything a talk-about-able topic. You dont have to agree on everything, but everything should be up for discussion.
Number five, dont be afraid of beginning your journey toward erotic recovery. You may not trust one another, but you dont have to feel totally safe to start having sex. In fact, most affairs dont happen because people want to feel safe. In fact, just the opposite. People have dangerous, illicit and forbidden sex and it feels hot and erotic. Bring some of that into your marriage. Have sex now, even if you are mad or dont feel totally comfortable. Be selfish. Get your own needs met. And cry if you have to. And talk about it afterwards – a LOT.
Number Six – Sit down and create a new vision of your new relationship going forward. Now is the time to decide what that might look life. You cant go back to the old relationship, that will only get you what you have already gotten. Do something different and get what you really want this time. Write it down, make a plan, create a new marriage. This time, do it the way you want, not the way your parents or your church or your community told you to do it. You are both adults. Create the vision of your ideal marriage.
And if you need help, resources or support, contact a good couples counselor, or buy my book, The New Monogamy, at Amazon.
[kith videourl=http://www.kidsinthehouse.com/all-parents/partnerships-and-marriage/building-strong-partnerships/six-stages-recovering-affair autostart=false morelink=http://www.kidsinthehouse.com/expert/parenting-advice-from-tammy-nelson-phd#page=/video/meet-tammy-nelson-phd]