When a man and woman stand before their family and friends to declare their love for one another, within their wedding vows, it’s pretty common to hear them say that “I will forsake all others and be faithful only unto you for as long as I live.”
Yet unfortunately, even if those words were spoken with the best of intentions, affairs can happen. It may be due to communication problems, intimacy issues or one or both people feeling like they have emotional needs that are simply not being met by their spouse. However, whatever the case may be, if there is one thing that most marriage counselors will agree on, it’s the fact that rarely is the affair about the person the husband or wife got involved with. Almost always, it’s about a breakdown within the marriage itself.
If you’re someone who has recently experienced an affair within your marital union, as heart-wrenching as the experience can be, there is hope. As hard as it may be to believe right now, there are tips for saving your marriage after infidelity happens. Here are five of them:
1. Allow yourself some time to grieve
This actually applies to the person who had the affair and the spouse who is the victim of it. If there’s one thing that any person who’s experienced an affair before will tell you, it’s that your marriage will never be the same. Sometimes, it may end up being better (because working through an affair creates a very unique kind of bond), but not the same. Therefore, you both need time to process what has happened, to feel badly about what has happened and to yes, grieve what once was, in preparation for what your “new normal” is going to be.
2. Be willing to forgive
It’s a very wise individual who once said that marriage consists of two great forgivers. Although infidelity definitely falls into the “for worse” category of the marriage vows, it’s important to remember that everyone is fallible and two people loving one another does not automatically mean that an affair will never happen (if not a physical one, than perhaps an emotional one). Forgiving someone does not mean that you overlook what happens. What it does mean is that you’re willing to work through the matter because your marriage means more to you than the affair does. (For the record, it’s important for the person who was involved in the affair to ask their spouse for forgiveness and to also forgive themselves too.)
3. See a marriage counselor
There are some couples who are able to survive an affair without the assistance of a marriage counselor, but those individuals are the exception and not the rule. The reality is that when it comes to saving your marriage after infidelity, being that an affair is an extreme breach of trust, you need a professional to assist you in how to listen to one another, forgive one another and cultivate a plan for how to move forward.
4. Don’t shut down
If you’re the one who has committed the affair, then you’ve probably felt all kinds of emotions from embarrassment and fear to confusion and anxiety. On the other hand, if you’re the spouse hearing about the affair, you’ve probably felt everything from anger and sadness to worry and insecurity. All of these emotions will make a couple want to shut down, build up a wall and then pull away from one another when actually that’s the last thing that needs to transpire. If there is a “silver lining” that can come from an affair, it’s that two people are now in the position of being 100 percent vulnerable, which makes it possible for them to learn from and about one another in a very different kind of way. And this, in time, can ultimately foster a completely new level of intimacy.
5. Keep threats off the table
When you’re in the process of saving your marriage from infidelity, it’s imperative that threats should not be spoken. This includes threatening to leave, threatening to file for divorce and, if you’re the one who committed the affair, threatening to go to the person that you cheated on your spouse with. Coming back from an affair requires both spouses being willing to put all of their focus and effort into building the marriage back up, not further tearing it down with thoughts of leaving the relationship. Saving your marriage after infidelity is not easy, but with these tips along with some time, it is definitely possible. Stay open. Stay willing. And stay desirous of making your marriage whole—once again.