Plan on the fact that working on your marriage will challenge you beyond any expectations that you have now. Couples need to set aside significant time to address the issues and be willing to face enormous mood swings in your work together.
First, the offending spouse needs to cut off all relationships with the affair partner. Nothing can be rebuilt when there’s someone in the wings who seems to beckon with a more exciting life. The spouse who has initiated the affair must make it clear to the affair partner that the relationship is over and that he or she is fully turning to the spouse to rebuild the relationship.
Naturally, trust building becomes the initial focus. Yet, trust can only happen over time. Consistent clarity about where the offending spouse is and calls to check in can be part of the regaining of a sense of security. As the partner who has had the affair, you may feel so guilty and ashamed you can hardly talk about the issue. You may feel clueless about your actions and feel you were almost under a spell. You hope that your partner will see that you are trying hard. You may yearn that the whole thing could be put behind the two of you so that you could move on. Only it very seldom works that way.
As an injured party, you may feel at first that you need to stretch to show your partner that you can be just as exciting and yet you may resent the idea that you have to. At other times you may feel angry and want to scream, “How could you?” Yet, as you do so, you will fear that this would only drive your partner out of the marriage.
Sometimes if you are the partner who has discovered the affair, you will want to know all of the details. This completely unknown piece of reality has destroyed your trust. It’s impossible to integrate the reality and come to trust your partner when you feel much of what happened is still hidden. It may seem that only by finding out every detail will you be able to come to grips with what happened. Naturally, your partner will fear that each new disclosure will be just enough to make you leave for sure. It helps if you are ready to handle the details before you go to the next level of revelation. For some there is the danger that the more details revealed, the more you will be subject to flashbacks later on. Discerning how much detail to ask for is very challenging.
For the person who has had the affair, there is another hurdle to meet. Expect the following phenomena: just as your partner begins to feel trust and you feel like you have done your part to commit fully, something very upsetting will happen. Your injured spouse may start at this point fully to vent the anger and rage that felt unsafe to express before. The onslaught may be so strong that you may want to throw up your hands and walk out the door. Surely, this must mean that the marriage is irretrievable. Yet, this is the time where you are called upon to reach down for a new level of inner strength. When your partner begins to trust that you want to be there even as the anger is expressed, he or she may finally feel safe enough to tell you how deep the anger feelings really are.
Click for More Articles on Extramarital Affair Recovery by Dr. Walkup
Other Resources on the Web
“The Impact of an Extramarital Affair on the Children:” From the New York Times
“Infidelity:” Statement from the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists