The first steps to rebuilding your marriage after an affair will be challenging, but worthwhile.
So now, it’s day one after deciding to end the affair, and you want to know how to rebuild your marriage after your affair.
The decision to keep the affair broken off and the commitment to rebuild your marriage after an affair, will need to be made over and over again, sometimes multiple times in one day.
Yet, after this important step of breaking off the affair, comes the withdrawal period that results in complete disconnection of any contact with the other person.
I would be remiss if I didn’t reinstate what the unfaithful spouse will be feeling right after breaking off the affair, even when they are highly committed to restoring their marriage.
“Marital recovery cannot begin until withdrawal symptoms from ending the affair has been complete.”
What are withdrawal symptoms? It’s the initial feeling of sorrow, loss, grief and desperation to resume those feelings you had before. It may not make logical sense to anyone who has not experienced it, but it’s a lot like the withdrawal one goes through after stopping an addiction of any kind. Stopping any habit, or addiction, takes perseverance and commitment to get through the difficulties in the beginning days or weeks.
Depression is usually one of the emotions that will come for the unfaithful spouse as the fog of the affair begins to lift.
This can be very hard for the betrayed spouse to understand and, understandably, hard to sympathize with. The betrayed spouse (husband) must understand there is nothing much they can do to fix their spouse (wife) right now. Initially, just allowing her to grieve and get through the worst symptoms of withdrawal by not getting angry and being as patient as possible will be most helpful.
But it does get better. Each day the wayward spouse goes with no contact gets easier, and the withdrawal feelings of depression and grief will be greatly diminished the longer ones maintains ‘sobriety’ from the affair partner,
(We talked about that more in detail in Stage 3/breaking off an affair, click here to read).
After the initial worst symptoms of withdrawal begin to fade, the betrayed spouse will be able to offer small deposits into their spouses Love Bank Account.
The real work of rebuilding the marriage can now start.
“The best way out is always through.” – Robert Frost
An affair offers no painless escape route, there are no easy answers.
We want painless. We want easy.
But the very nature of infidelity is painful and the only way to get out of the pain is feel the pain. Although the following important ways to begin restoration are hard, they are important.
The top areas that need to be addressed to begin restoring a marriage after an affair are:
1. Honesty with your spouse after an affair is vital.
- It’s important the unfaithful spouse is honest about any contact the affair partner has attempted to make or anything that reestablished contact. However difficult, the betrayed spouse needs to know.
- Be committed to total honesty with one another about struggles, feelings and triggers. Value honesty in each other by creating an environment that does not make the other person fearful of the telling the truth.
- Reveal both positive and negative emotional reactions to your spouse’s behavior. Yet, vow to express those feelings without angry outbursts and perhaps only in a counselors office at first. Each had some role in creating an environment for the affair.
- Although the betrayed spouse is not at fault for the affair, taking ownership of what they may have done to contribute helps the marriage heal quicker. (example-working too many late nights, no attention to marriage etc..)
- The unfaithful spouse needs to remain committed to total honesty about the affair and answer questions a betrayed spouse feels important to know.
I heard once that an affair creates a secret window for the affair partner to see into a marriage that the spouse did not know someone was privy to. When the unfaithful spouse is open and honest with their spouse about what went on in the affair, it gives back some needed control and information the betrayed spouse needs to heal. It can be difficult and humbling to answer questions when it seems the answers will only create more pain. That’s not for the unfaithful spouse to control however. It’s always appropriate to ask if they really want to know the answers, but ultimately it may be important to their healing to know.
2. Trust will only follow honesty and takes time to reestablish after an affair.
Trust is the belief that our spouse will be honest with us. Trust is knowing that way they say and do is truly happening. Trusting our spouse means knowing they will protect our feelings from harm.
Remember these truths as you seek to grow trust in your marriage again:
- The road to renewed trust is long and winding. It is usually not a straight road. There will be bumps along the way. There will be days that it feels you’ve come a long way and there will be set backs when you’ll wonder if the trust will ever resume completely.
- It will depend on the foundational steps taken after breaking off the affair. If the unfaithful spouse has been honest about breaking it off and does not resume contact, trust can grow.
- Restoring trust happens when both spouses are willing to do the next right thing. Everyday, all day. As the betrayed spouse finds the unfaithful spouse being honest, and not evasive, trust will grow. However, every lie and defensive or elusive behavior sets trust back again.
You’ll likely find, if you haven’t yet, that reestablishing trust is much harder and longer than losing it. It takes one stupid decision, one act of betrayal to lose trust but it can take years to bring it back. So, don’t rush this step. The unfaithful spouse needs to be so humble and willing to do whatever is necessary to bring back trust.
Personal story: Complete and total transparency will be vital now. In the early days and months, I would often not go out shopping alone. I had to get past feeling like a child and realize I was the one who broke the trust and I was the one that needed to be willing to do whatever he needed to restore his trust in me again. I gave him access to my phone and email. Little by little, I would go out alone to the grocery store. But even when I did, I would check in with him often. It may be frustrating, but it’s important to rebuilding trust in your marriage.
3. Protection of each other and of your marriage.
- Protect each other, and your marriage, as if it were a small child trying to grow up strong again.
- Both spouses are hurting, and emotions are often raw, at this point in the rebuilding process. It’s important to remember to be gentle with each other even when there will be times you’ll want to accuse the other of causing all this damage.
- The betrayed spouse particularly will have a hard time with wanting to forgive and protect their spouse. The list is long of what the wayward spouse has done and it’s evident the damage caused from their behavior. But the unfaithful spouse will need grace and forgiveness now more than ever. Yet, it can be most challenging to give grace right now.
- Protection means not allowing others to speak badly about your spouse, particularly the negative comments the betrayed husband will hear about his unfaithful wife. Protecting your marriage will mean shutting down the gossip and the anger others will also feel toward her.
Personal story: We depended so much on God, especially during the early days of rebuilding our marriage, that I can honestly say I don’t know if we would be as far along in healing and having our marriage restored if we didn’t have God in our lives.
I realize some will read this who are not religious. I’m not talking about religion. Jesus did not like “religious” folks either. I’m talking about talking to him about your frustration and inability to forgive your spouse on your own. It helped us heal to pray together each night.
4. Time only heals the wounds from an affair when both spouses work at healing.
They say time heals all wounds, but in an affair time can’t come quick enough.
- For the unfaithful spouse, it will take time for the memories of the affair to subside. It will take great humility and patience to be consistent in doing the right things. It will take a willingness to be completely transparent about your whereabouts and all social media accounts being open to your spouse.
- For the betrayed spouse, allow time to heal the resentment and memory triggers of your spouse’s affair. It will also be important for you to be humble and not think of yourself as better than your spouse because you weren’t the one in an affair. Remember, we all fail and make huge mistakes we later regret. Although it’s no excuse, we all sin differently and as long as a betrayed spouse is prideful, believing in their heart that they ‘would never have an affair’ the marriage cannot survive that attitude.
- Taking time with your spouse to meet each others most important emotional needs will help your marriage heal. What are your spouses top emotional needs and their love language? I would recommend taking a simple “love language test” to determine what your, and your spouses, love language is. You can take that here: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/
- Date your spouse again. You fell in love with each other before and it is possible again. I can only assume you spent much time together when you first fell in love. Love takes time to grow and develop and rebuilding love in a marriage after an affair also takes time to grow again.
- Avoid dwelling on the past mistakes and yet allow a set amount of time to discuss the affair as needed. It’s a difficult balance to find how much is enough and yet, not having the affair be the only subject you discuss.
5. In conclusion
Knowing how to rebuild your marriage is not a quick and straight road. Be patient with each other in the process. You will both have good days and bad days. If you are both committed to making your marriage strong again after an affair, it will happen.
- Remember to be honest with each other about feelings and triggers, and about any contact that was made with affair partner.
- Make each other a priority and take time for dates and giving your spouse your undivided attention.
- Time spent with each other is the lifeblood of a marriage. Don’t give your most precious time away and let your spouse have the crumbs.
- Put boundaries around your marriage to protect it from any negative outside influence.
The rewards of the hard work you both do now, and the time to rebuild your marriage, will pay off in large ways in the future.
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