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with Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

After the Affair: 10 Tips for Rebuilding a Marriage


 

Infidelity can shatter even the strongest relationship, leaving behind feelings of betrayal, sadness, guilt, uncertainty, and anger. For the married couples who experienced infidelity in their relationship it can be extremely difficulty to both forgive as well as overcome. Although, it may be difficult for partners that have been cheated on to forgive or get beyond the affair once it has been discovered or revealed, it is possible. Partners that are able to put the hurt and betrayal of the affair behind them can emerge as a stronger and more cohesive couple.

Unfortunately, for many couples, the weight of an affair can prove too big to overcome. Whatever the reason for the affair, the effect of infidelity can be devastating on a relationship. Partners that are “stuck” in their pain and animus following betrayal in their relationship often experience a breakdown of the relationship. Learning how to appropriately communicate thoughts and feelings is an essential first step in getting beyond the pain of an affair.

Understandably, once an affair is discovered partners struggle with understanding why the affair occurred, the “signs” they missed, what they should have done differently, etc. There are many different reasons why someone might have an affair, reasons that may not be readily available to both the partner that has the affair and the partner that was cheated on. Sometimes it is purely a case of poor judgment — a person may feel satisfied with their marriage, but a late night at the office with a co-worker and a couple of glasses of wine can lead to lack of impulse control. More commonly, it’s a search for an emotional connection — wanting someone to pay attention to you, be attracted to you, or compliment you.

Although, personal examination may seem impossible to do following an affair, both partners must examine the role each played in the affair. Examining personal roles in an affair is a delicate dance as it is often hard for the partner cheated on to see his or her role in the affair. The breakdown of communication and intimacy in a relationship lies with both partners, therefore, it is important to engage in personal examination of individual roles to best understand an affair. However, the spouse that had the affair needs to be willing to discuss what happened openly if the betrayed spouse wants to do that. Understandably, the spouse that has been cheated on may want to talk about the affair in detail, e.g., how his or her partner met the person they cheated with, how long the affair went on, was the individual “better” than his or her spouse, etc. As difficult as it may seem, the cheating spouse must be willing to answer questions about the affair that are both difficult and uncomfortable.

Affairs have the potential to crack the foundation of a marriage, breakdown communication, and destroy trust. Issues with trust can run so deep following an affair that the individual that cheated has to be willing to be accountable for his or her whereabouts, even though he or she thinks that may be unfair. There needs to be a willingness to make promises and commitments about the future, that an affair will not happen again. Too often, the person that cheated wants to quickly put the affair behind him or her, however, he or she needs to honor the timetable of his or her partner. The person who had the affair must examine the personal reasons for straying and what needs to change to avoid the temptation in the future.

As for moving forward, both people in the relationship should take responsibility for rebuilding trust, improving communication, creating barriers around their relationship, and enhancing intimacy.

Cheating Partners can Heal from The Pain of an Affair by Doing the Following:

• Talking about the Affair openly and honestly with your spouse
• Avoid blaming the person you cheated with for the affair
• Take ownership of your role in the affair
• Apologize for the hurt and pain you caused by having an affair
• Answering questions from your spouse about the affair regardless of your personal comfort
• Be willing to accept that you may need to give your spouse time to heal from the affair
• Understand that trust has been broken in the relationship and you may need to account for your whereabouts for a while
• Create a new meaning of intimacy in your marriage
• Work with spouse to create new rules for the marriage
• Agreeing to have no further contact with the person involved in the affair

Partners Cheated on Can Heal from the Pain of an Affair by Doing the Following:

• Avoiding a rush to judgement
• Forgiving their spouse too quickly
• Setting new rules in the relationship
• Ignoring Aphorisms (once a cheater always a cheater)
• Telling friends and family about the affair, especially, if you have not had the opportunity to process it
• Assigning the blame of the affair on the individual your spouse cheated with. Remember your spouse is the one that made the commitment to you, not the person he or she cheated with.
• Avoid comparing yourself to the other person
• Understand your role in the affair
• Redefine Sexual Intimacy
• Refrain from tit for tat behavior (having an affair to get back at your partner for his or her affair)
• Rush to seek a divorce
• Rule out marital counseling
• Work with spouse to create new rules for the marriage

One of the greatest hurdles in the healing process following an affair lies between the sheets. Often, a couple feels like the other person remains in the middle of their relationship, preventing them from trusting each other, engaging in a healthy display of affection, and waiting for the next opportunity to invade the marriage. The phantom interloper can have dire consequences on the marriage. The unfaithful spouse often feels pressured to please in bed, leading to distraction and low performance, which the hurt party, already injured and insecure, interprets as a lack of interest, desire, and physical attraction. The best way to put an affair behind you and come out stronger is to receive marital/relationship counseling. Counseling allows couples to talk about their relationship and the affair in a non-threatening environment. Spouses can learn the skills needed to improve communication, build trust, enhance intimacy, strengthen the foundation of their relationship, and decrease the likelihood of an affair in the future.

After the Affair: 10 Tips for Rebuilding a Marriage


Bates-Duford, Ph.D., LMFT

My name is Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford PhD, LMFT, CRS, CMFSW, BCPC I have a PhD in forensic Psychology specializing in familial dysfunctions and traumatic experience. I work with individuals and families struggling with familial dysfunctions, trauma, rape, and incest. I also have a masters in Marriage, Couples, & Family therapy. I am a certified relationship specialist with American Psychotherapy Association (#15221). I have more than 15 years in the field of mental health, relationships, and behavioral sciences.


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APA Reference
Bates-Duford, T. (2020). After the Affair: 10 Tips for Rebuilding a Marriage. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationship-corner/2020/01/after-the-affair-10-tips-for-rebuilding-a-marriage/

 

Last updated: 12 Jan 2020
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.