How to Help Your Spouse Heal from Your Affair

Four Parts:End the AffairInitiate the Healing ProcessWork on YourselfRebuild Your Marriage

Affairs are one of the most damaging things that can happen to a marriage. If you had an affair, both you and your spouse will struggle to heal from it. As the one who actually did the cheating, however, it's up to you to help your spouse begin the healing process.

Part 1
End the Affair

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    Admit to the affair. The lying needs to stop before any healing can begin. If you've been denying the affair so far, you need to honestly confess to it and acknowledge it as a betrayal against your spouse.
    • Problems that aren't acknowledged cannot be remedied. For both your own sake and the sake of your spouse, you need to honestly admit to the affair and to the problems it causes.
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    Cut all ties with the partner of your affair. Stopping the affair itself isn't enough; you'll need to completely halt all communication and contact you have with the partner of your affair.
    • Cutting ties will give your spouse less reason to be suspicious of you in the future, but it will help you, as well. Even if the affair was a "one time" mistake, the temptation to cheat again will always exist as long as the partner of your affair remains in your life.
    • If the affair resulted in the birth of a child, however, you'll still need to be in contact with the partner of your affair for the sake of the child. Make sure that your spouse is present each time you're in contact with the other party to avoid temptation and suspicion.[1]
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    Accept responsibility. It may genuinely feel as though the affair “just happened” or “couldn't be helped,” but ultimately, the choice was yours to make. You need to accept that the affair was your choice, and you also need to admit that responsibility to your spouse.[2]
    • By refusing to take responsibility, you're telling your spouse that you didn't do anything wrong by having the affair. If you don't acknowledge your wrongdoing, your spouse has no reason to believe you won't do it again.
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    Apologize genuinely and frequently. Express your regret, and do so as often as possible without becoming insincere. Your spouse must be able to understand just how remorseful you truly are.
    • Start apologizing from the moment you confess, and be prepared to continue apologizing throughout the entire healing process. Your initial expressions of remorse probably won't get through to your spouse, but if you're consistent with your apologies, they're more likely to eventually sink in.
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    Rely on your intellect over your heart. Start doing what you know to be the right thing instead of doing what merely feels right or pleasant. Your feelings were what led you to cheat. For the time being, you need to make rational decisions instead of emotional ones.
    • The affair may seem exciting, but that excitement is an emotional response. Comparing the way you feel during a fling to the way you feel about a long-term relationship loaded with responsibility isn't sensible. The "right thing" is about far more than doing what feels good to you.

Part 2
Initiate the Healing Process

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    Answer all questions about the affair. Your spouse will eventually start asking questions about your affair. As uncomfortable as it might be, you need to be transparent and honest as you answer each question your spouse throws at you.[3]
    • You might think that you're protecting your spouse by hiding bits and pieces of the truth, but before your spouse can trust you again, he or she needs to know that you're willing to be honest about everything.
    • Also understand that all people process trauma in different ways. Your spouse may want to know everything about the affair down to the smallest detail; alternatively, he or she may not want to hear about the details at all. Wait until your spouse asks for further information before providing it to ensure that he or she will be ready to hear it.
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    Reiterate your intentions. As you and your spouse work through things, continually restate your desire to mend your marriage and your renewed sense of commitment to your spouse. Don't let your spouse wonder about the hopes you have for your marriage.
    • You might think that your intentions are obvious if you're working hard to repair your marriage, but they may not be. You'll need to explicitly state that you are committed to being faithful for the message to get through to your spouse.
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    Minimize your own defensive responses. Your spouse likely feels a range of negative emotions right now—hurt, angry, bitter, grief-stricken, depressed—and you should expect him or her to make remarks that reflect those emotions. Instead of replying in a defensive manner, accept your spouse's pain and acknowledge your responsibility in causing it.
    • When your spouse reveals hurt feelings to you, he or she needs to see that doing so is safe. It will be painful for both of you, but the sooner these negative feelings emerge, the sooner you both can heal from them.
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    Listen to your spouse's requests. It will take time before your spouse trusts you again. Until that happens, you'll need to do what you can to minimize any potential cause for concern over where you are and who you're with.
    • Ask your spouse what he or she needs from you, then commit to doing it for as long as necessary. Even if this means checking in throughout the day, you need to do it.
    • You'll also need to be where you're supposed to be at all times. Notify your spouse of any changes to your schedule or routine as soon as they happen.
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    Give your spouse time to heal. Don't rush the process. If you put pressure on your spouse to heal faster, he or she will be unable to heal thoroughly and may grow to resent you more.
    • There is no set timeline for recovery after an affair. Even if you do everything right on your end, it might take a long time for your spouse to process everything and react accordingly. You need to be patient while this happens.

Part 3
Work on Yourself

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    Prepare yourself for the road ahead. The road to recovery will be difficult for both you and your spouse. You need to be mentally and emotionally prepared for the challenge if you have any hope of getting through it.
    • No one can ever be fully prepared for what lies ahead, especially when dealing with a difficult issue like this, but you should familiarize yourself with things that usually happen while spouses heal and internally commit to seeing the process through. Taking those essential steps will usually help.
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    Maintain a basic level of self-respect. Accepting responsibility for your affair doesn't mean you should allow your spouse to abuse you, verbally or physically. Degrading yourself too much won't be healthy for you, your spouse, or your marriage.
    • The affair was wrong, and you were wrong for committing it. That does not, however, mean that you are worthless, hopeless, or less important as a human being. You need to understand that, and you also need to make sure your spouse understands it.
    • Don't be afraid to set boundaries to avoid opportunities for abuse if the need arises.
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    Care for your own needs. Get enough food, sleep, and exercise to maintain your physical condition. Practice all essential hygiene habits and mind your overall health. You'll need physical strength and energy to work through the ongoing emotional struggle.
    • Moreover, if you allow your appearance and physical condition to grow obviously withered, you may guilt your spouse into accepting you before he or she has sincerely healed. You may think that you're speeding the process along, but in actuality, you're just setting things up for another crash later on by forcing a false resolution.
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    Examine your own motives. Ask yourself what led you to cheat. Honestly examine your own character to determine what traits and desires encouraged you to have the affair.
    • There might be multiple reasons involved, and these reasons can vary from person to person. You may have acted on an unmet need to feel attractive. Old habits could be involved, or you may have been influenced by family or friends. It's also possible that you have some type of sexual addiction.
    • Try to pick out an exact turning point. It may have been the moment you agreed to meet your affair partner in a private setting, or it could have started the moment you began disclosing personal issues to that individual. Sometimes, it could be as simple as having one too many drinks. Identify the specific behavior that triggered the affair so you'll know to avoid it in the future.
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    Examine your marriage. Oftentimes, spouses who cheat do so when there are unaddressed problems in the marriage itself. Analyze what problems in the marriage may have contributed to your dissatisfaction and, by extension, to the affair itself.[4]
    • When people feel significantly unhappy or unloved by their spouse, they become more likely to seek physical and emotional intimacy with someone else. You need to honestly assess your marriage and determine why you felt so unhappy with it.

Part 4
Rebuild Your Marriage

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    Temporarily put your own issues on hold. Even though you'll eventually need to address the issues both you and your spouse have, during the initial stages of recovery, you'll need to set aside the dissatisfaction you personally feel toward your marriage.
    • This doesn't mean that you should ignore your own feelings, of course. Spend time analyzing them yourself or attend counseling sessions on your own (with your spouse's knowledge). Avoid emphasizing your own issues to your spouse, though, since it may seem like you're blaming him or her or making excuses.
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    Discuss problems and possible solutions. Once your spouse starts trusting you again, both of you need to sit down together and open up about the underlying problems in your marriage. The two of you need to find solutions together.
    • If you have difficulty working through your marital issues together, consider seeking help from a marriage counselor. You could also take a communication skill-building class to help improve the openness with which you speak.
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    Spend neutral time together. Even though you can't ignore your problems, you also shouldn't dwell on them too much. You and your spouse need to spend time together and talk about things that are completely unrelated to your affair.
    • Part of this means doing enjoyable things together, but another part means doing everyday, emotionally neutral things together. Maintain healthy staples of your routine as much as possible. Your lives have already been turned upside-down, and disrupting them further could aggravate the problem.
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    Nurture your friendship. Most successful marriages are built on sturdy, trusting friendships. Fixing your marriage requires you to fix that foundational friendship.
    • Intentionally look for ways to re-establish the bond between you and your spouse. Spend time doing enjoyable activities, like watching movies or trying new hobbies.
    • Think about the interests that originally connected you and your spouse. By returning to the foundation of your friendship, it'll be easier to rebuild the relationship from its foundation.
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    Recall happier times in your marriage. Spend time reminiscing about the happier moments of your relationship. Try to remember how you both felt about each other back then, and work on implementing changes that can allow you to experience similar feelings of affection in the present and future.
    • One exercise might involve looking through your wedding album together. You may also reenact your first date by going to the same places and doing the same activities, or revisit other areas that meant a lot to you while you were still in the "honeymoon" phase of your marriage.[5]

Article Info

Categories: Commitment Issues