Infidelity. You never thought it would happen in your marriage, but here it is. The big question is, how did this happen? How did your marriage fall so far that one of you would stray to another? Infidelity can take on many forms, from emotional to intimate in nature. But the important thing that has happened is a breach of trust. When infidelity happens, it means one of the spouses has broken the marriage vow to only have eyes for their spouse. You two built up a life together—but now it feels like it is crumbling.
Once you reach acceptance that this has infidelity has actually happened, your next question will be this: Can we make it? Can our marriage last after this ultimate act of betrayal? We recover? That will depend on many factors, but it is possible to get past this and perhaps even become a stronger couple than ever before.
Here are some tips to how to recover from infidelity:
Reach the Point of Full Disclosure
After the infidelity, the spouse who was betrayed will feel completely helpless; they have no information and will continually wonder what happened. In fact, they may become obsessed over the turn of events. The imagination tends to go wild when it is just depending on speculation.
So after the initial shock of the news is over, agree to meet and talk about how things happened. Be sure you are both ready, because this will be an intense conversation. But it has to be done. It’s time to reach the point of full disclosure. The betrayed spouse deserves to know what happened from the person who did it, and the guilty parties need to have an opportunity to set the record straight.
The important thing is for both of you to be completely honest; it’s also important for everyone to gauge their readiness and ask for an additional meeting later so you can digest the information over time. Keep the lines of communication open and calmly listen. This is just an exchange of information, not a time to accuse.
Offer Empathy for Each Other
Each party is going to feel bad for a while. Obviously the spouse who was cheated on will feel betrayed and even belittled; but the spouse who cheated will likely have a whirlwind of feelings too, including guilt and sorrow for the wrong committed. And both spouses will be mourning what their relationship used to be.
Recovering from this infidelity requires both spouses to offer empathy for the other. It also requires each of them to not wallow in their own self pity. Yes, they both feel terrible for what has happened to them. But consider the feelings of the other person. The more you both can focus on how the other person is feeling, the easier it will be to recover from your own troubled feelings.
Apologize and Take Responsibility
As hard as the words are to say, each person involved needs to hear that the other is sorry. Obviously the person who cheated should apologize for cheating in such a way that the other spouse knows of a surety that they truly are sorry. But both spouses also need to talk about and say they are sorry for what led to the marriage ending up in this situation. Then, they each must accept the other’s apologies—even if it takes some time to get to that point—so they can move on. And then both spouses need to take responsibility for any misdeeds that relate to the infidelity.
Decide Whether to Stay Together
Do you still love each other? This question is really at the heart of where things will go from here. Even if there is just an ounce of love, it’s enough. You can decide together to move forward. Of course, you can’t force the other spouse to stay—you can only control your own decisions. So talk about it. If you stayed together, what would your lives be like? If you stayed together, you could build an even stronger bond. Just make sure to have the conversation so you both know where things will go from here.
Once you are back to square one, it’s time to start rebuilding. If you want to recover from infidelity, unfortunately you have to start from the beginning again. But don’t look at it as a chore—look at it as an opportunity. Number one, it’s time to get in with a marriage therapist. You need a third party to help mediate emotions and also talk about the important issues that will come up. Rebuilding trust is not for the faint of heart—it will force you to face the most vulnerable parts of yourself. Commit to see each other through it, hand in hand, and you can recover from this together.