This article is about what you must do as the involved partner in an affair to help your partner recover. Couples who come to marriage counseling because of infidelity make the most progress out of all couples who come to marriage counseling. It is not always the quickest but the most gains are made. It is a myth that your marriage is over after an affair. It is only over if you are not willing to make the changes necessary.
1. Discuss the Story of the Affair in a constructive manner , ie how you and your spouse discuss the story of the affair is more important that the details, right now. Most couples struggle with talking about the affair without fighting and struggle to stay calm. Because they can not do this they can not begin to fully heal. Your relationship success will be largely built on how successful you can discuss the events that have transpired. I strongly suggest that 20 minute break be taken if you find yourself arguing or fighting during this time. Stay calm, it is the best interest of both of you. Also, the betrayed spouse needs to avoid "punishing" the involved spouse for the hurtful information that they will hear. Most spouses involved with a 3rd party are "people peasants" or "conflict avoiders" and deeply want acceptance. Punishing them for being honest will not encourage them to be honest in the future. They may hold back information they consider to be hurtful simply because they do not want to hurt you. They need to be made to feel safe to speak honestly about the affair. Also, it is in your best interest as the betrayed spouse to avoid "punishing" them for being honest because you need to know what happened so you can begin to heal and move forward. If you "punish" them for giving you what you need right now, you will not begin to fully heal and trust again.
2. Honesty. The involved spouse needs to be completely honest about the affair. The betrayed spouse's number one questions is, "How do I know this will not happen again?" When you are honest with your spouse you need to discuss what lead up to the affair, what you told yourself to give yourself permission that this okay, and how you kept the affair hidden.
3. Consistency . This is being honest in other areas of life as well, outside of the affair. If your spouse catches you in a white lie about something not related to the affair, they will not be able to trust you.
4. Remorse . You definitely feel guilty for what happened, but your spouse needs to see your remorse. If you act like this is not a big deal they'll doubt your integrity, and will not trust you. This does not mean you should beat yourself up everyday for eternity, but it does mean you should tell your spouse you're sorry, and discuss with them what they need from you in this area.
5. Cut Off Contact . To ensure trust is being built you need to cut off contact with the person you had an affair with. This will mean no more texting, emails, or visits with this person. If it is a coworker or a situation that you can not get out off then you and your spouse need to determine what are appropriate boundaries.
6. Accountability . The involved spouse needs to be accountable and let the betrayed spouse have access to cell phones, passwords, and other means of accounting not listed here. In the beginning of a relationship trust is given, but after trust is broken it must be proved or earned back.
7. Boundaries . What got you into this mess is crossing the line with members of the opposite sex. What you need to do is reconstruct appropriate borders with members of the opposite sex. You know you are crossing a boundary when the person you are involved with knows more about your spouse than your spouse knows about this person. Also, sharing information that should be saved for your spouse with someone of the opposite sex is crossing a boundary. Helping a member of the opposite sex with their marriage issues or when you and someone of the opposite sex both share your marriage difficulties with each other.
8. Expressing wants and needs . (Do this step when your spouse is ready to hear what they may have done to contribute to the affair.) What got us in this situation was your deep need for acceptance. A change that you need to make is expressing your desires and needs to your spouse even if it disappoints them or causes conflict. Healthy couples do pick their arguments, but you must express your deepest needs and wants with your spouse. You need to think differently about conflict. Think of conflict as a form of intimidation. When couples fight they are arguing over their deepest desires and needs. Your spouse can truly know you and love all of you if they do not know who you are what you're really needing. This step will need to come, but it may not be something that can be done immediately. Again, do this step when your spouse is ready to hear how they may have contributed to the affair.
Remember Healing Comes in Waves:
Remember that the process of healing comes in waves. Some days will be better than others, and your betrayed spouse will have intimate moments with you but other times they will feel emotionally explosive. This process is normal. Your spouse is not crazy, even though you may think they are. Again this is just a normal process that almost every couple goes through on the healing journey.
How to Measure Success:
As you and your spouse do the right things you will begin to feel closer, but because healing comes in waves they will feel emotionally explosive and have anger that comes out of now, even in the middle of a peaceful time in your marriage. This is normal, so expect it to occur. Their will be a time when it happens less and less, but you are not out of the woods yet. So do not get too comfortable and feel like you can stop doing the items listed above. If you stop or there is a hiccup with any of these it will only create more emotionally explosive events in your marriage. Measure success, by doing the right things, not on the feelings you or your spouse have at the moment; because if you do what is listed above you will ensure your success in rebuilding trust. Remember if you're not in marriage counseling, you need the help of an experienced professional.