Often there are problems in a marriage before an affair begins; however, in order for trust to rebuild, it is important to address the infidelity before spending a great deal of time on the marital problems. There are several reasons for this, the most important being that the “hurting” partner will not be in any shape to hear about their mistakes until they can believe that their spouse has heard them and understands how painful this “solution” was to them and to the relationship. This is sort of like the idea that, if you injure your body, you have to stop the bleeding before you can treat the wound.
The affair, and contact with the other person, has to also end. This may be easier said than done as many affairs involve emotional connection and ending the affair brings about a process of grieving. When the affair has come from a work situation … or somewhere that contact cannot be completely cut off, it is best to find ways to make the break as clean as possible and immediately inform the spouse if contact does occur.
The spouse who has had the affair must also find ways to apologize sincerely for the affair without linking it to the problems in the marriage. An affair is not a good solution for marital problems so the apology has to be clean and simple.
It is best for the cheating spouse to find ways to allow his or her partner to check up and verify that he is where he said he will be … or she is not having contact with her lover. This may include things like giving out the password to an email account, handing over your cell phone every night so that he can scroll through the numbers, engaging someone to be a “lookout buddy”. This would be a co-worker or friend who has regular contact with the spouse and may know the affaire’. Any time that the hurt spouse worries about on-going contact, she can talk with this trusted friend to assure that her spouse is being faithful. After the cheating spouse takes charge of ”verifying” her fidelity, it can change the inquisitor/prisoner pattern so that the hurt spouse can let go of some of the checking.
Conversations about the affair should be held to a minimum amount of time during a couple’s week and the cheating spouse should try to answer the questions openly and honestly. It is also good if the person who had the affair can check in with their partner on occasion to find out if there remain any other questions.
As trust begins to develop and within the first few weeks after disclosure, work on the marriage can proceed and each person will have the chance to speak and be heard about their needs, desires, complaints, hopes and wishes for the marriage. Full recovery cannot be expected for a period of one to two years. It is only then that both will be able to say … “We are okay” … so settle in and know that this process takes time.