The consequences of an affair can be devastating. What once seemed stable and safe is now up in the air and there are feelings of hurt and betrayal. The pain is very real and the road to recovery can seem incredibly daunting.
Every relationship is unique. Infidelity means different things to different people, and this is something that will be personal to you. Our work at Care for the Family has taught us that not every marriage can be saved, and we recognise too that not everyone will want to save their marriage. Deciding what to do following an affair is complicated and painful, and a decision that only you and your partner can make.
If you do decide that you want to restore what has been broken, here are some things to consider and to put in place as you work together to heal and strengthen your relationship.
Waiting until you’re ready
In working towards repairing a relationship, there will be many things that are difficult to process. Questions may offer answers that you aren’t yet ready to hear. If you do not want, or are not ready, to hear the answer, then do not ask the question. Wait until you’re ready.
Be honest, open, and willing to talk. If talking is too painful, writing each other letters expressing how you feel and asking any questions could be a positive alternative.
Taking personal responsibility
In taking personal responsibility, we take ownership of what has happened because of our choices and actions. We recognise any wrong that we have done and our role in the breakdown of trust.
Willingness to seek outside help
Seeking help from outside of your relationship, such as a trained counsellor, can support you in rebuilding your relationship after an affair. Counselling can provide the space and time to allow you to communicate honestly and effectively, understand each other’s points or view and to work through difficult issues in a safe environment.
Getting to the root of the issue
As painful and difficult as it will be, working out what led to the affair can be a really helpful place to start in rebuilding a relationship. Seeking outside help can be especially valuable in doing this.
Regret for what has happened needs more than simply saying sorry. Moving forward means that not only are we sorry for what we’ve done but we are committed to changing our behaviour. This is a choice that needs to be made every day.
Both parties wanting to make it work
A marriage is made up of two people and it takes both partners wanting the relationship to work for that to be possible. That does not mean to say that it will be easy, but being on the same page is a helpful place to start.
Commitment to rebuilding trust
Whilst trust can be broken in an instant, it can take a great deal of time and effort to rebuild. In committing to this rebuilding, we recognise that there is no quick fix and there will likely be some difficult days to come, but we are ready and willing to do what we can to repair our relationship.
Forgiveness is unlikely to happen overnight and can’t be rushed. It is something that takes time and is a choice that often needs to be made daily. Forgiveness is a journey that will be harder to walk on some days than others, but a powerful step towards rebuilding.
Putting good boundaries put in place
Boundaries in marriage help to define the expectations of our relationship. These are especially important to have in place when rebuilding after an affair. Examples of helpful boundaries could include: no contact between the person who had the affair and the third party, having open access to each other’s phones, deciding who you will and won’t talk to about the affair, and putting specific time aside to discuss your relationship and sticking to it.
Rebuilding a relationship after an affair can seem like a mountain to climb and knowing where to start can feel very overwhelming. Many people choose to rebuild their marriages after an affair and if you’re both committed to do whatever it takes to repair what’s been broken, know that there is hope.
If you are unsure of where to start, or need some extra support, our CareLine telephone support team can offer a listening ear and signpost you to further help. Contact the team on 029 2081 0800.
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