5 Tips to Rebuild Your Marriage After Your Partner’s Infidelity
By: Lara Lorenzo
Few things in life hurt as much as being cheated on. If you are reading this blog post, it’s probably because your partner cheated and you’re hoping to somehow rebuild your marriage. You are not alone. Couple therapists report that infidelity is one of the most damaging issues that couples can face. Approximately 22-25% of men and 11-15% of women admit to having extramarital sex at least once during their marriage.
You may feel lost, but there are essential steps that can be taken to repair the damage and restore the relationship. They will take great effort not just from your partner but from you too! In this post, we will be walking through five key tips on how to rebuild your marriage after an affair.
Refrain from making hot-headed decisions and seeking revenge.
When we are angry or hurt, we respond with angry feelings to feel less vulnerable and tend to make decisions without thinking them through as much. The desire to get revenge is common but acting on it is not healthy for you and will not bring anything positive to you or your relationship. In fact, it can do more damage – which will make recovering from the affair even more difficult. Sending angry texts to your significant other, contacting the person they cheated with (or that person’s partner), or bad-mouthing your partner to your children will just hurt you and make matters worse. If you are willing to make it work, focus on the steps that can be taken to make things better.
Choose to trust again.
Simply put, if you want to rebuild your relationship, you must relearn to trust your
partner: it is the only way. It is important to let go of whatever is out of your control. You cannot control your significant other or the people around them. Indeed, if you are willing to give them another chance, then you need to accept the fact that there is nothing you can do besides trust them. Think of trust as a conscious choice – one that acts as a solid base to a successful marriage.
You will not magically begin trusting your partner overnight, of course. Dr. Kennon V. Rider, a licensed psychologist who specializes in marriage and family therapy, provides her patients with a clever metaphor to help them understand the process of restoring trust.
Suppose that you must drive on the highway to get to work every morning. She suggests that if you are willing to get into a car and drive on the highway daily, it is because you implicitly trust that the other drivers will stay in their lanes and drive how they are supposed to. However, suppose one day another driver swerves into your lane and smashes into your car. Your car is totaled, and you are injured.
After going to the hospital, you return home to heal. Finally, the day arrives when you must return to work in your new car. It is very hard, but you care a lot about that job and decide you want to keep it. Therefore, you will need to relearn how to trust the other drivers on the highway. On the way to work, you will probably be very cautious and keep a sharp eye on the other lanes, but eventually, you will realize that you cannot control the drivers – all you can control is your own driving.
Once you repeatedly get to work safely, you’ll be grateful and relieved. After some time, trusting the drivers will become easier. Now think of the accident as infidelity; the driver that crashed into you is your partner. You will have to go through the same process of choosing to trust and letting go of what you cannot control. As time passes and your partner focuses on “staying in their lane”, trusting your significant other will become easier.
Reflect on what factors played a role in the occurrence of the affair.
To be clear: No matter the circumstances, having an affair is wrong. Unfortunately, it often happens, and many different factors can lead to it. A common way of treating infidelity in couple therapy is by helping couples understand how factors outside of their relationship – and even things inside of it that they could have contributed to – played a role in the affair.
High stress, neglect, stagnant sex life, constant arguing, and overall low relationship satisfaction can lead individuals to cheat. It is important to remember that these issues don’t justify the affair; it is not your fault that they cheated. However, being honest with yourself and reflecting on how your own actions, as well as certain external factors, could have influenced the affair can allow you to forgive and mend the relationship by working on these issues.
Identifying things that you can change in your own behavior is the only way to have direct control over whether this happens again. If you felt like your sex life was lacking before the affair, for example, it may be a good idea to schedule moments during the week to strengthen your sexual intimacy and recapture some of the spark you had when you first got together.
Have a weekly date night with your partner.
As the two of you try to rebuild your relationship, remind yourself and your partner why the relationship is worth saving! Reserve one day out of the week to dress up and go somewhere nice – just you and your partner. Engage in spontaneous and novel activities with your partner, such as trying new restaurants, going dancing, or taking an art class.
Avoid talking about the affair, therapy, work, and other stressors of everyday life; these topics can be discussed at another time. Try to keep the conversation light, as it is helpful to take a break from constant worry and frustration.6 Although it may feel awkward and forced at first, use this time to explore your new relationship together. Make date night a priority!
Work on your communication.
You’re upset. That’s okay and understandable. Discovering your partner’s betrayal was probably an emotionally traumatic event since it violated your basic relationship assumptions.7 However, in moments of conflict, communication is key. The way you express yourself can change the direction and tone of a conversation. You and your significant other need to establish a “language” to be able to communicate transparently. You should focus on expressing the loss and trauma experienced due to the affair.
It is okay to go into depth about how you feel, but don’t go “on and on”. Use brief statements to not overwhelm your partner with too many thoughts at once. Also, stop periodically after you make a point. Pause to let your partner paraphrase, or summarize, and process what you just told them, and paraphrase when they pause for you.
Additionally, avoid blaming statements with “you”, such as “you are not affectionate”, and instead start them with “I”, such as “I don’t feel desired”. Using “you” statements will make your significant other feel attacked and more likely to become defensive. “I” statements will keep the focus on how you feel and what the main issue is, allowing both of you to brainstorm about what can be done to resolve it. When your partner is speaking, listen. As much as you want to interrupt, don’t. If turns to speak aren’t respected, the conversation will go nowhere.
Moreover, don’t mindread – in other words, don’t tell your significant other what they are thinking, wanting, or feeling. Focus on speaking for yourself. Lastly, avoid rebutting – instead of focusing on your reaction to your partner’s points, focus on listening and understanding what is being said.
So, they cheated but you decided to give your marriage a second chance…
If you follow these 5 tips based on research and expert advice, you will be on the right track to restoring your marriage after infidelity. As explained above, reestablishing a healthy partnership requires openness to give and receive from your partner. Avoiding rash decisions, choosing to trust, accepting responsibility, prioritizing date night, and effective communication are the secret weapons of relationship restoration after an affair. However, these things are easier said than done. They may take time, and it may even be helpful to seek professional help. The light at the end of the tunnel might be dim right now, but this process may bring you and your partner closer than ever. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
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