How does a couple begin to rebuild their marriage after the destruction of an affair?
These 20 steps to healing your marriage after an affair is the beginning.
Infidelity in a marriage is understandably one of the most difficult things a couple can go through. Most marriages won’t survive an affair, unfortunately. In fact, only 1 in 3 marriages affected by an affair will make it.
After both spouses decide they want to make the marriage work and they want to move forward in healing, the greatest question is how?
It’s not easy.
Nothing worth having is ever truly easy.
I told myself that during our hardest days. But these are the steps we took to begin the healing process. Some days were easier than others. But pushing through the hard days was what helped. You can’t do the work for your spouse and your spouse can’t do the work for you. That can be the hard part about healing a marriage after an affair. It takes two that are committed to working on their own part, all while feeling pain that infidelity brings.
There are a lot more steps I could add, but here are the most important 20 steps:
1. The unfaithful spouse must stop ALL contact completely. No phone calls, text, No Contact at all. (You can read more details on how to break off an affair here.)
2. Distance yourselves from anyone who is not for your marriage surviving or who speaks negatively about your spouse.
3. Get a good counselor. One for each spouse personally, and one marriage counselor. Be sure the marriage counselor holds the view of saving the marriage. If you don’t find the right counselor at first, don’t give up. Keep looking until you have a good fit.
4. Find friends or recovery support groups of caring people you can each trust that will hold you both accountable for your part of healing the marriage.
5. The unfaithful spouse must be willing and completely transparent about everything. No secrets. Be accountable for time out. Limit time out alone, if possible. Be willing to give up privacy or control for awhile.
6. Get in a small group with other people who care. Many churches have small groups that would be helpful. Be faithful in attending.
7. The unfaithful spouse must be willing to answer questions the betrayed spouse may ask, even if it’s painful to answer. It may be necessary for their healing to not feel left out of certain truths about the affair.
8. Be patient when your (betrayed) spouse is having a difficult day and needs more reassurance or needs to know more about the affair. Patience will be needed when the same questions may get repeatedly asked.
9. Agree to a set amount of time to talk about the affair (questions, pain, feelings…) and then agree to stop when the time is up. Use a timer if needed. We agreed to 30 min. and sometimes we felt it was best to stop talking about it after 20 min.
10. Pray together. If you are not a Christian, this may not seem relevant. However, I truly believe praying together helped heal our marriage quicker. Each day or night, just hold hands and pray for each other, your marriage and family.
11. Find non-sexual ways of touching. Back rubs, foot massaging.
12. Start slow with sex again. Only when both feel ready. Be prepared that there may be memories or flashbacks. It may be emotional for both, yet keep expectations in check. Be gentle with each other.
13. Develop new routines or habits together. Build a new relationship again. Ours was holding each other at night before sleep.
14. Unfaithful spouse should avoid places you may have gone that trigger old memories. Keep accountable to spouse and trusted friend of no contact with affair partner.
15. Unfaithful spouse needs to write down things about the affair partner that you disliked. All the things that you failed to see initially. Also, write down how the lies and sneaking around made you feel. Look at that list when tempted to call or reestablish contact.
16. If the affair partner works with wayward spouse, change jobs or consider moving, if possible. Consider a move even if they did not work together.
17. Sometimes a new start in a new location away from gossip, places that trigger memories or the chance of bumping into that person again makes moving easier for healing to take place. Changing churches may also be necessary.
18. Find ways to express love and appreciation to your spouse. Think back to why you fell in love to begin with. Do the things you did in the beginning. Talk kindly to one another, be giving and helpful. Find ways to serve each other.
19. Go on a date with your spouse at least once a week. Even simple dates to a coffee shops or sandwich store. Bring playing cards or something different to do together without having to talk about the affair all the time.
20. Guard your heart against anger or comparisons. Really try to listen to the heart of your spouse and their own pain. Practice active listening-feed back what the other person said. Know that your hurt spouse needs reassurance and to be heard. And both of you are hurting in different ways.
This list is not exclusive of the steps a couple needs to take to start rebuilding their marriage, but it’s the beginning steps to start the healing process.
It is possible to have a happy, restored marriage after an affair. It will take work and time, but it is possible.
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