A marriage can come back from infidelity through understanding and healing.
Marriage betrayal comes in many forms, and often we view infidelity as the line. Meaning, when someone is unfaithful, the marriage simply can’t survive.
Over the last 30 years, Dr. Liz Hale has helped countless couples bounce back from infidelity. Her message is one of healing and one of hope.
5 Ways to Bring a Marriage Back from Infidelity
It is highly likely that either you or someone you know has experienced some sort of marital betrayal. While betrayal itself comes in different shapes and sizes, I often work with couples dealing with the shattering betrayal of infidelity.
My colleague Lee Baucom identified five main elements that fuel an affair:
F – Fantasy: Through our imagination, we create a fantasy about the other person that’s not real but is titillating.
A – Adrenaline: Infatuation is fueled by adrenalin. An element of fear. Fear of getting caught or losing one’s values & norms.
L – Lostness: When one feels lost in an unsatisfying aspect of life (career or family life) affairs distract from the mental pain.
S – Secrecy: Secrets further charge fantasies and adrenalin. Secrets are powerful and bonding in affairs. Until the secret is punctured.
E – Ego: “I want what I want.” There is an ego charge of being sought out and desired, especially if there is a disconnect in the marriage.
Can marriages really bounce back and heal from an affair? Absolutely! I’ve worked with countless couples who have decided to divorce their old marriages and begin a new marriage together. Marriage 2.0 can be more honest, loving and compassionate. But couples who get to this point all have one thing in common: They are courageous, hard-working couples who are committed to do whatever it takes.
Unhappy couples don’t cause infidelity. Being unfaithful causes infidelity.
In order to recover, partners must be able to face the T-R-U-T-H.
T – Transparent
Many betrayed partners want to know all the details. Many believe that their healing is based on transparency of the facts. The only warning to this: remember, you can’t unhear what you hear. Be certain that this is a must-know answer before you ask the question.
Pause before you respond to the truth. We want to encourage rather than punish honesty.
Transparency is necessary from both partners. A couple I worked with in the last year came in after her discovery of his multiple affairs. In our work together, he also was able to say to his wife, “What you say to some of the guys on your Instagram hurts me. I feel like you’re asking for compliments. Is that because of our marriage?” She was then able to talk about some of the loneliness SHE had also experienced in their marriage, as well.
R – Remorseful
One of my dear friends (and her husband) have been close friends of mine for nearly 35 years. When he initially came clean with his sexual acting out, he would often make these blanket apologies, “I’m sorry for everything I did.” What she was really wanting to hear? “I’m so sorry for betraying you by going to X,Y,Z places and acting as if I had never made vows and marriage covenants to you. I not only lost my mind but also my virtues. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like for you to process who I really am. I can see that I have utterly crushed your heart.”
That would have been so healing for BOTH of them.
U – Understanding
Although this is one of the roughest times one could ever go through in marriage, many clients shared that had it not been for their partners’ affair, they would have never looked at, discussed, or healed some of the underlying issues that were broken at the foundation of their relationship, their marriage would have remained on auto-pilot. The affair acted as a powerful catalyst to marital change for the better.
T – Teachable
Strayed partners who say their affair “just happened” aren’t necessarily trying to justify their behavior; they often truly believe what they’re saying. But they lack insight and awareness on the ways in which their decisions and actions led them down this destructive path.
Both parties need to remain teachable. In the same way that affairs don’t “just happen,” neither does healing from betrayal. Only when those who have strayed look inward and take personal responsibility for their choices, will the relationship get back on track after it has been derailed.
Betrayed partners must also understand the role they play (NOT in the affair; that was their partners decision) but in the demise of their marriage. What have they learned? What changes do they welcome in being a more loving, warmer partner……or whatever their partner’s request is.
H – Humble
There are intense highs and lows in this journey. Five steps forward, three steps back. Just when a couple is making significant progress, they go out to dinner and the friendly waitress’s name is Charlene… the very name of the husband’s affair partner.
This is the time for the strayed partner to express great humility. They might ask their spouse, “Would you prefer to leave? Or would you like me to request a window table; hopefully in another waiter’s section?” Hold your partners hand and just say, “What are the chances, huh? I’m sorry our waitress has such an unfortunate name and that I did such an inexcusable act.” When a strayed partner is 100% accountable, this partnership can be unstoppable.
In the end, it will all get better. And if it is not better, it is not the end.