Linda: These are the specific steps that Davey and Simon took to heal their damaged marriage. Simon recovered his trust in Davey rapidly because it had been a single one-night stand. There had been no lies to cover up her indiscretion and he quickly grasped that it was revenge to get him back for how much she was hurting upon discovering evidence of his string of affairs. Davey’s recovery was more prolonged. Here are the methods they used with great success.
- They started by making an agreement that they would do their best to heal their marriage, even though they did not yet know all of what that would entail.
- Davey had to know first and foremost that the affairs were completely over. Simon told her that he would not see, speak to by phone, email, text, or in any way communicate with any of those women. They clearly defined what constituted unfaithfulness, and there would be no more of it going forward. Simon assured her that the affairs were all completely over, that he had absolutely no contact with any of the prior affair partners, and did not intend to continue with any affairs in the future.
- Simon saw that Davey was so deeply wounded by his actions that she wasn’t sure that she could commit to repairing their damaged marriage. His appreciation of how fragile marriages are, and how precious his connection to Davey was, enabled him to deepen his resolve. He was determined to show her that he was worth staying in the marriage for, and that she could count on him to do a lot of work to rebuild it.
- They agreed that they needed the help of a professional and chose couple’s counseling rather than individual counseling so that they could do their work together.
- They sought out an experienced counselor to guide their healing. The counselor took a strong stand that their marriage could be even better following a comprehensive healing following the affairs, which was reassuring to them both.
- Simon and Davey made an agreement about full disclosure, and pledged that there would be no more secrets or lies. Davey felt that the secrets and lies were even more destructive than Simon having sex with other women.
- With the therapist’s support, Simon agreed to answer any questions Davey had, including women’s names, what cities they lived in, how long the escapades went on, and which had an emotional component joined with the sexual.
- As they got into the details of the activities that Simon had participated in with the other women, he discovered that there were other affairs that he hadn’t counted. With the other two, he had not had intercourse. But the fact that his activities involved kissing and making out mattered a great deal to Davey, and she had no confusion what-so-ever that they were affairs too.
- Davey thanked Simon for being bold and courageous to confess. She said that his volunteering the information rather than finding evidence in the form of hotel bills, phone bills, or emails that exposed the infidelity was making it somewhat easier for her to restore her trust in him.
- She thanked Simon for telling the whole truth early in the process, rather than having to pull information out of him bit at a time. She told him that being forthcoming made a hardest challenge she had even been through less hell than it might have been, but that it was still hell.
- Simon assured Davey that he loved her and had continuously loved her while he was experiencing loving feelings for another. It had surprised him that he could feel love for both women.
- Simon assured Davey that he was sexually attracted to her and that the lure of a different and new woman’s body did not lessen his sexual desire and satisfaction with her.
- Simon confessed to being weak in not standing up to the culture of the workplace where several of the men participated regularly in affairs, seeing them as normal. Some of the men he worked with even subtly boasted of their prowess. He expressed serious regret about being influenced by “so called” men friends who did not hold fidelity in a marriage as sacred. He was ready to separate himself from the value system of these so-called friends.
- Simon pledged to keep firm boundaries up to protect the safety of their marriage by not being alone with women when he traveled away from home for work.
- Simon realized that the flirting that he had former regarded as harmless was dangerous, and he declared that it had completely stopped and would not resume.
- As the shock of the trauma calmed down, they were able to see that they could repair the damage. They made a new commitment to “do whatever it takes for as long as it takes.”
- They decided together that instead of meaningless suffering that they would make meaning out of their suffering. They pledged to learn everything they could about the conditions that gave rise to the affairs so they could build a wholesome environment as a foundation of trust.
- As they explored in their many hours of conversation all the factors that contributed to the string of affairs, Simon admitted to having insecurities about his attractiveness and how flattering it was to his ego to have women desire him.
- They realized that their marriage had been unbalanced before the string of affairs, with Davey doing too much of the giving and Simon doing too much of the taking. They made adjustments to more equitably balance giving and receiving. It was a time of rapid growth for Simon to convert from “meish” to “weish.” And it was a time for Davey to learn more compassionate self-care to give to herself as much as she gave to her husband.
- Simon took full responsibility for his unskillful choices and did not blame Davey for being an inadequate wife. He mentioned with specific details how much she had actually given, but how he had brainwashed himself into believing that he deserved to have even more attention than she was offering.
- Simon admitted how lonely and neglected he felt because of Davey’s devotion to their young children. The giant justification that he gave himself to go elsewhere for loving attention was that Davey being so involved with their son and daughter and giving so much time and attention to her growing day-care business. He admitted that he was ashamed of being jealous of his own children, and that shame had silenced him from telling her the truth about how hurt and lonely he was. He was now learning about a deeper level of vulnerability.
- Simon admitted that before the children came, Davey had spoiled him by lavishing attention on him and he hadn’t really wanted to grow up and learn how to give more himself. He was now learning about a deeper level of generosity.
- Together the made their marriage the top priority above the children and their professions. Davey admitted that she had been inattentive to her husband and that her lack of attention to him had been a contributing factor to the affairs. It was music to Simon’s ears to hear his wife take some responsibility for the context that gave rise to the infidelity.
- Simon agreed to never speak of dissatisfaction about his marriage to anyone that he would not say directly to Davey.
- They agreed early in the process that a solution orientation rather than a blame orientation would serve them best. Even knowing this, and being committed to being responsible in their communication, still there were relapses and they had to begin again.
- Simon acknowledged the pain he had brought to his wife and expressed remorse about being the cause of her suffering. Out of his guilt and shame, he vowed to make amends and to become the best husband he could be.
- Simon asked Davey to tell him about her pain, so that he could hold her while she grieved. He asked her to awaken him in the night if she was sleepless, obsessing over her confusion of his disclosures or anything else that was upsetting her.
- They both acknowledged that they had been living parallel lives, and they had depleted their good will account. They had to replenish it.
- They decided to spend more time together and to dream up pleasurable activities to balance the pain they were moving through. They looked for ways to show their love as an important contribution to their abundant and growing account of their marriage. They called it making deposits in their Karma Savings and Loan account. Here are some examples of their deposits to their love account:
- The re-institution of a date night once a week
- Agreement to go away for a romantic weekend without the children each quarter.
- Agreement to hold hands in the movies, and while taking walks.
- They practiced the new techniques they learned in the couples massage course they took.
- The enjoyed cuddling more in bed.
- There were daily calls when Simon was out of town for business.
- Both began intentionally to build their fondness and affection for each other, deliberately and frequently saying ”I love you” when they genuinely felt it.
- They took plenty of time to enhance their sexual relationship.Together, they decided to “give chaos a chance.” They knew that life as they had known it was shattered and lying around in pieces on the floor. There was a big opportunity to reassemble the pieces in a way that suited their temperaments, styles, values, and needs. They reassembled the broken pieces of their life in a whole new way that fit them so much better.
- Davey came to understand that his lies and cover-up came out of his terrible fear that she would leave him if she knew the truth, and how he desperately wanted to keep the family together. That realization softened her heart to him.
- Simon took responsibility for how unhappy he had been in his work and how the affairs had been a powerful distraction from his fear of making a career change. He began speaking openly with Davey about his dissatisfaction on the job and absorbed her support to make his career change.
- Davey decided that she would hold up her end both by asking for reassurance when she needed it, and opening to his care. She also made up her mind that she would express her disappointment, fear and anger in a responsible way rather than indulging herself in blasting him with indictments and judgments about his character.
- When Simon apologized, he did so not only for violating their monogamy vows, but also for the lies to cover up the times spent with the other women, which he understood added to the original violation.
- They made a thorough exploration of what it really means to forgive. Davey realized that to forgive him did not mean that she was excusing his bad behavior, but that it was a gift to herself of letting go of the heaviness she had carried for so long. She realized that she had a choice, and that the choice would need to be repeated over time. Only then could she move from the position of being a victim to the empowered position of being a survivor.
- Simon was wise enough to see that at first, his wife was still too hurt and furious to accept his apology. She was not ready to forgive him. He practiced patience and eventually his apology was received.
- Gradually these two moved from being adversarial in their discussions to more empathy and understanding.
- Simon made the long awaited career change, one that suited him so much better than where he had worked previously.
- They congratulated themselves that they had indeed co-created a partnership that was quite different from the one that had been fertile ground for affairs two years ago.
- Finally after feeling the sense of security that had been missing for so long, they decided to celebrate their hard won committed partnership with a ritual. They designed a private ceremony (just the two of them) where they took new vows. They vowed to fidelity, full disclosure, and to do everything in their power to keep their relationship protected from all harm. And they vowed to continue to build trust and safety balanced with challenge and adventure, and to delight in their creation of a co-creative partnership.
Some of these agreements are unique to Simon and Davey because of heir unique circumstances. And some of them can be universally beneficial to all couples recovering from trauma and breakdown. Every couple has the right and the responsibility to come up with the agreements that work best for them.
It was two long challenging years, but this couple went on to create a marriage that far exceeded the pre-breach partnership. They were so much stronger, resilient, and wise from their ordeal and recovery. They went on to live a life richer and fuller as a result of taking on this life challenge. Over time, Simon did win back Davey’s trust. All the disclosure, fierce honesty, changing the balance of giving and receiving, his acts of kindness and devotion, coming home from work earlier to take over with the kids so she could go to yoga, run, or have a bit of time for herself, being more attentive to give her sincere appreciation for being a sexy attractive lover and at terrific wife, all added up to a strong partnership. When I saw them last, they told me how happy they were that they didn’t quit, and did the repair work required because they are so enjoying the benefits now.
Linda and Charlie Bloom are excited to announce the release of their third book, Happily Ever After . . . and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams.
Praise for Happily Ever After:
“Love experts Linda and Charlie shine a bright light, busting the most common myths about relationships. Using real-life examples, they skillfully, provide effective strategies and tools to create and grow a deeply loving and fulfilling long-term connection.” – Arielle Ford, author of Turn You Mate into Your Soulmate