Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Healing Steps for the Hurt Spouse
– Cooperative Unfaithful Spouse

This is a chapter excerpt from our book, Healing Infidelity: How to Build a Vibrant Marriage After an Affair. You'll find not only other helpful articles in that book, but our story of how my wife entered the affairs, how I found out, and how we successfully rebuilt.


The previous chapter looked at the general steps a hurt spouse needs to take for healing to occur. In this chapter, we want to take a closer look at the specific steps a hurt spouse can take toward healing with an unfaithful spouse who is cooperative.

First, what do I mean by cooperative? Does that mean he does everything he should do, right off the bat, perfectly? No, since few will ever do it perfectly, and the healing process is more a series of steps. By cooperative, I mean an unfaithful spouse who is actively working toward healing by consciously taking the steps to heal. Those steps are listed in the "Healing Steps for the UnfaithfulSpouse". His attitude should be one of humility and repentance, rather than sweeping it under the rug and blame shifting. If he is willing to face the consequences of his actions and stick with it for however long it may take to help the hurt spouse heal, up to at least two years or more, and he takes the steps in progressive manner, he is cooperating.

An unfaithful spouse may start out cooperative but grow weary of the struggle and pain. It isn't easy. He may give up and withdraw at some point and become uncooperative. Likewise, an unfaithful spouse can start out uncooperative, but become cooperative as the affair loses its hold on him. Sometimes an otherwise cooperative unfaithful spouse on some issues will become uncooperative on others.

A warning is appropriate here. An unfaithful spouse can sometimes appear cooperative, but is doing it as a front to please you, to get you to settle down, but he is still either planning on getting back with the affair partner or is still secretly seeing the affair partner. All you have to go on is what you can see until you discover evidence to suggest he is putting on a front and being manipulative. You'll have to judge his attitude and decide which path to take. When he gets caught still headed down the wrong road, and you realize he hasn't been honest in his cooperation, then shift over to the uncooperative unfaithful spouse's path.

When it comes down to it, trust your gut. Maybe he appears cooperative on the outside, but the sixth-sense in your gut tells you something is not right. Get evidence before acting on it, but if your gut is sounding a warning, pay attention to it. Start investigating the warning. It will generally give you a good clue whether your spouse is being cooperative or not.

Also, an explanation about this path. It may seem to some that by doing some of these things, you are giving the unfaithful spouse a "free pass" and letting him off easy. But that is not the case. If your unfaithful spouse is responsive to rebuilding, the goal of these steps is to give the unfaithful spouse the best chance at succeeding. The rebuilding process for the unfaithful spouse is painful enough if he does it like he should. But if he doesn't respect the opportunity you are giving him and he violates it, then you move to the next list. But as long as he is doing what he needs to, the goal is to entice him to continue to do the right things, to work on rebuilding, and to stay honest with you about what is going on with him.

As mentioned in the previous article, the better he does, the more freedom he gets. If they blow it, then the restrictions get a little tighter to motivate him to straighten up, that this is serious, and you will not allow him to walk over you or your feelings. So keep in mind that these are steps with an unfaithful spouse who is cooperative. The steps change when they are no longer cooperative.

Also, this is assuming that you have already laid out expectations and consequences as mentioned in the previous article. Here are the steps.

1) Think in terms of stages in healing. There are things you expect to happen pretty quick after discovery day. Most will list that the unfaithful spouse must become "transparent," which means he gives the hurt spouse the passwords and user names for all his accounts that are allowed to stay open, their email, social networking sites, and any cell phones and cell phone bills. Also, he is willing to discuss all aspects of the affair as needed. The unfaithful spouse has lost trust, and this is the only way to earn it back.

Also, the unfaithful spouse is expected to break all ties and contact with the affair partner pretty quickly. He is usually given a chance to tell the affair partner that the affair has been discovered and is cutting off all contact with her. But after that goodbye, nada. That is usually hard for the unfaithful spouse. From the hurt spouse's point of view, it is an illegitimate relationship that should have never happened in the first place, so the hurt spouse tends to not have much sympathy for the unfaithful spouse's struggles. But you can have empathy here as we discussed in the previous article, and know that because it isn't easy, most unfaithful spouses will have a period of time in coming to terms with this. Yet it is expected to happen fairly quickly after discovery day. The unfaithful spouse needs to understand that for the hurt spouse, until no contact is established, the affair is not over and no healing can happen.

But there are other things that the unfaithful spouse may hold onto at first, but need to change at some point. Whether the hurt spouse is willing to wait for those to happen would be spelled out in the expectations you've discussed with him. To avoid a lot of words to describe what I mean, I'll give an example from my experience.

Lenita had some pictures of both Clyde and Bubba. I told her early on that she needed to get rid of them, but she was reluctant. At that point, she still felt like she wanted to keep something to remember them by. I could have demanded she delete them and forced her to comply. But I also knew that doing so might push her to save some in a hidden place because she wasn't ready. Also, I had an ulterior motive for not pushing her. I wanted some things left to her decision so I could gauge whether she was making progress or not. I knew if she came to the place where she was ready to get rid of them, not only would she actually get rid of them all, but I would know she had arrived at a milestone. That didn't happen until around three months after discovery day.

As time went by, she dug deeper and made other changes that served to cut off remembrance of the affair partners that I couldn't have possibly known about or demanded so easily. She started guarding her thoughts, so when her thoughts turned to thinking about the affair partners, she took steps to distract herself and not focus on them.

It will mean more if your unfaithful spouse comes to some things on his own volition. Doesn't mean you don't express your desires on a point, as I did with Lenita, but I didn't press her to do it right then. If he is moving in the right directions, assume he'll get there, and it will confirm he is on the right course when he does it.

It is also important because you can only focus on so much at one time and implement it. Throw too many changes at someone too fast, and it can backfire. The more you can change together, cooperatively, the better.

As you evaluate things, decide what needs should be implemented immediately, and what types of changes you want the unfaithful spouse to make later when they are ready. If he is cooperative, then you are working together, so you want the minimum number of ultimatums possible. Only those things that have to happen to solve the immediate crisis of the affair trauma and to start the required healing should be required within the first weeks of discovering the affair. But if a certain item is causing you additional trauma, then communicate that a trigger is preventing you from healing. Be open and honest with the unfaithful spouse. You need to be transparent with him, just as he needs to be with you.

2) Praise successes. Make note of them. Highlight them. They will encourage you both to acknowledge progress. It is easy for the hurt spouse to allow negative emotions to overpower any and all positive movements forward. The hurt spouse will have a tendency to avoid praise for fear of seeming to act like the affair wasn't that bad. However, if an unfaithful spouse never receives acknowledgment for what he's done right, he can become disheartened over time and give up. Don't hand out false praise, but acknowledging his successes in rebuilding not only encourage him to keep moving forward, but encourage you as well.

3) Focus on healing the marriage as well as the affair. This one is critical. Sometimes, due to an uncooperative unfaithful spouse, healing the marriage gets put on the back burner. But with a cooperative unfaithful spouse, while not accepting that the affair was caused by marital problems, you will want to take this opportunity to deal with those issues. You have more motivation now to make major changes in the way you relate to each other in marriage than ever before.

Aside from the obvious benefit to the relationship itself, there is an affair related reason to focus on this when you have a cooperative unfaithful spouse. It significantly increases the chances of rebuilding succeeding. Willard F. Harley reports in his book, His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage, that in his practice of working with couples who have experienced infidelity, using the traditional methods of therapy, he had about a 40% success rate of them staying together, which is average. Some of those not happily staying together. But when he started focusing on helping them to rekindle the romantic fires in their relationships and working on the marriage itself, his success rate rose above 60%.

When you think about it logically, it makes sense. The stronger your marital bonds emotionally, spiritually, and physically are going into an affair, the more stability you have to weather the storms that an affair brings to the marriage. Marital problems may not be the cause of an affair, but focusing on them is part of the solution.

One of the key events that needs to happen for successful rebuilding is for the couple to "fall in love" again. Renew the fires of romance. Because there is no better healing for the hurt spouse than to feel his spouse is excited about him once again and wants him exclusively, and no better antidote to the unfaithful spouse yearning for the excitement of the affair partner and missing them than a burning love for his spouse. Several of the following suggestions will be toward that goal.

4) Spend around 15 hours a week together, minimum. Think about it. When you both first started your relationship, when you dated and became engaged, what did you do, primarily? One, you spent every bit of free time together, and two, you thought about each other all the time.

For the unfaithful spouse, this should be obvious, because that is exactly what he was doing with his affair partner. The reason that seemed so new and exciting was because he probably spent minimal time with his spouse, and when he did, it was often dealing with unpleasant things. "Honey, take out the trash. Honey, pay the bills. Honey, when is dinner going to be ready? Honey, do you have the money for Johnny's band trip?" Often the time is not spent gazing into each other's eyes over a romantic dinner, but dealing with the day to day stuff, and otherwise focused in your own worlds.

When you and he first met, naturally you focused on each other. You wanted to talk about your issues, thought the world of him and he of you, and he became the focus of your world. That was exciting. So what did you do? You spent as much time as possible with him. On the phone. Texting. In person. Emails. Facebook. Wherever you could fit it in. I can bet that you didn't talk about bills, trash, kids, or other such responsibilities for any length of time, if any.

"What are we going to do?" You'll need to figure that out, but in reality, it doesn't matter. If you can find an activity you both like, great. If not, let her pick one that the man will do with her, and the man pick one that she'll do. The point being, begin treating him as important, worth spending your time with. He should be the most important person in your life. How you spend your free time should reflect that priority. Then when the other person picks up that they are important to you, it will translate into the same excitement, and return that importance back to you.

What you'll find, whether it is just sitting at a Sonic sipping a coke, or working out together at the gym, or shopping together, or participating in a sport together, or having sex, is that it will engender those same romantic fires that originally got things rolling when you started dating. And please, don't focus mostly on the day to day stuff or once past the first month or two, on the affairs. Focus on your relationship, your future together, what you want to do, what your goals are, share your dreams.

At first, the affair will likely dominate your discussions, but at some point, you'll want to move beyond that. Bring up issues when needed, but remember, the goal is to rekindle romantic fires here and draw you both closer together, not always focusing on the hard and painful things. But if you spend that kind of time together, you'll find it easier to talk about the things that need talking about, and reestablishing the emotional bonds of marriage that will be a reward, making stronger bond to deal with the more painful parts of the rebuilding process.

5) Go to marriage counseling. If you want to discover from a more objective view where your marriage is weak, a great place to start is a marriage counselor in addition to seeing a counselor for individual help. They can help you spot weaknesses, and offer ways to improve them. The affair will likely play into it at first as far as issues to deal with, and the vulnerabilities in the marriage can highlight why the unfaithful spouse was tempted to allow an affair to happen. But it should move onto focusing on the marriage itself. The marriage counselor can also give you good books to read and other helps.

Going to a marriage counselor can also give opportunity to discuss some of the harder things in a more controlled environment. If communication often turns into fights and storming off, leaving the issues unresolved, a counselor can help to establish helpful patterns of conflict resolution that will enable you to talk to each other constructively rather than destructively.

A good idea is to commit to go to at least a month or two of weekly meetings. Too often, because one partner didn't like the initial visit or two, he doesn't want to keep going, especially if he is having trouble facing his responsibility for the affair. If a particular marriage counselor isn't really doing the job for you, find a different one. Don't use that as an excuse to not do it. But commit to giving it time to work.

6) Read some good books together. In addition to the book listed in the last chapter, here is an additional reading list you'll find helpful.

Not "Just Friends": Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity by Shirley P. Glass. This book has a lot of good info on how to deal with the aftermath of an affair, but the strength of this classic treatment is assessing the motivations and experiences both hurt and unfaithful spouses go through. An excellent book for a couple to read together in evaluating each other's strengths and weaknesses in dealing with an affair, and what to do about them.

His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage by Willard F. Jr. Harley. You may not be ready for this book immediately after discovery day. You will probably need to wait until you have more emotional stability, until you're out of the emotional ICU. But the earlier you can read and process what is in this book, the quicker and smoother rebuilding will happen.

This book doesn't focus so much on dealing directly with the affair, but on expressing a passionate love to one's spouse in a way they can "hear" it, in order to heal the marriage. As mentioned earlier, this book had a profound impact on how Lenita and I interacted with one another. I learned what I had done that failed to tell her she was important to me, and how she failed to do the same to me. We both made some major adjustments, not just to fill the needs she unconsciously sought out during the affair because I wasn't doing so, but because I did love her but wasn't communicating that truth effectively for years. Instead, I'd often told her by my actions and decisions, "You're not that important to me." She did the same to me. This is no longer the case.

Without that sense of "he loves me and I'm important to him" communicated through actions, rebuilding is much less likely to succeed. It is the oil that provides the motivation to struggle through the painful process of rebuilding and offers hope that there is the reward of a happy future at the end. Ideally you'll want to read and discuss this book together.

How to Help Your Spouse Heal from Your Affair: A Compact Manual for the Unfaithful by Linda MacDonald. This book is the first book recommended for the unfaithful spouse to read because it will give him a fuller understanding of what the hurt spouse is dealing with, establish empathy, and the needed steps to help her heal, not to mention himself. I'm listing it here for the hurt spouse, however, because it is good to have a clear picture of what the unfaithful spouse should be doing. Not only to evaluate when your spouse is being cooperative or not, but also in evaluating what you are responsible for to make their efforts productive.

I would suggest if at all possible, you read these together. One reads while the other listens. It opens up times of discussion and is one way you can spend some of that together-time profitably. But if that is not at all possible, an alternate way is for one spouse to read the first chapter, and the other to then read the same chapter. Alternate each chapter that way. Then when you are together, have a discussion time over what you've read. What helped you, perhaps what you didn't agree with and why, etc. In other words, make this as interactive as you possibly can. Don't one of you read it through, then the other and not really dig into the book or interact with each other over what insights and questions the book revealed.

7) Be willing to give "trust on loan" to the unfaithful spouse. This is a concept I came up with shortly after discovery day. Here's what it is, what it isn't, and why I think it is important.

Trust on loan simply means that I am granting a certain level of trust to the unfaithful spouse. It doesn't mean I trust the unfaithful spouse. It only means if rebuilding is going to succeed, I'll have to trust him to some degree or another. Because no matter how much checking I do, spying, or other activities the hurt spouses tend to do to verify that his unfaithful spouse is staying true, if the unfaithful spouse wants to, he can get back with the affair partner and learn to hide it that much better. If you caught him by using a key logger on his computer, he'll stop using his computer for any type of contact. If you spotted problems in the phone bill, he may get a secret second phone. If you caught him in a certain location, he'll make sure they only are together in a more secluded area. In most cases, the hurt spouse will not be able to eliminate all opportunities and monitor the unfaithful spouse day in and day out enough to ensure he has absolutely no chance to cheat. One spouse reported her husband cheated on her by having lunch-break fun with a co-worker at his job in the parking lot. How would you know about that short of hiring a private detective to follow him around all day?

But what it doesn't mean is you're giving the unfaithful spouse trust like he had prior to the affair. The key is it is "on loan," which means it has to be repaid. He repays it by doing the things that rebuild trust. But he will default on that loan if he violates that trust again. So the trust is not blind trust. It doesn't mean the hurt spouse isn't going to verify. Rather, it is like President Ronald Reagan said, "Trust but verify." If the verification shows a default on that loan, then the borrower is in deep, hot water, and is certainly not shown to be cooperative.

But giving them this loan is also a level of hope for the unfaithful spouse. It means there's an end to this somewhere down the road. A point at which the hurt spouse will feel the loan is paid back. Don't think that will mean you'll feel the same type of trust you had prior to the affair. That trust level is forever lost. You cannot and should never return to that type of trust. Rather, it will be a cautious trust. A trust born out of respect for the temptations and human weaknesses we all bear. When red flags pop up, they will be given stronger attention and concern than they ever did prior to the affair.

For the hurt spouse, it really is what you'll have to do anyway simply by matter of necessity. However, stating it up front with the unfaithful spouse like this will do two things. One, it will make it clear with the unfaithful spouse that while you're giving them room, if they are not diligent, it could end up being room enough to hang themselves. They are rebuilding on borrowed trust. Not free trust. They blew that with the affairs, and now they have to earn it back, loan or no loan.

Two, it will provide some sense of the hurt spouse letting go by handing them some level of trust. You'll check on them, but maybe you won't obsess over it as much. If they are truly being a cooperative unfaithful spouse, they will take this opportunity to pay back that loan because they want that trust back.

When my unfaithful spouse was given this loan, she stated earning it back. One of the primary ways she earned it back was twofold. One, she's been totally transparent. Two, she's told me things she could have easily hidden from me and I'd never known. Mostly about times her affair partner has tried to contact her. Even yesterday in writing this, she reported to me an incident when the affair partner pulled up beside her and waved at her. She could have said nothing to me and I'd never known the difference. If they were getting back together, she would have never told me this information. But she told me as soon as she returned home. By doing this, she pays off the loan each time it happens, because it is evidence she's being honest.

8) Pray together. If you are spiritually oriented, participate together in your religion's spiritual disciplines. For a long time, I would go to Saturday night services by myself. It is a 45 minute trip there and another 45 back. She always felt it more important to not miss TV shows, or just too much to get dinner ready and go to church. But after discovery day, she goes to church with me nearly every time I go. Not just Sunday mornings like it used to be. Not only does she get the spiritual time with me, we can also talk and read our books on the way there and back.

If you've been lax in your faith, but you do have faith, now is a good time to refocus on that together. It can not only help develop closer spiritual bonds with each other, but provide more time together and can be a social outlet with other people as well. Don't forget, a good marriage has a strong bond spiritually as well as emotionally and physically. For the same reasons focusing on strengthening your marriage will help rebuilding to succeed, so will strengthening your spiritual bonds.

Some of the same principles listed above for strengthen the marriage apply toward strengthening the spiritual bonds. Talk to your pastor/priest/spiritual leader as it concerns your faith. If you fear the ostracizing of the unfaithful spouse, go to a neighboring spiritual leader you trust. Get some spiritual counseling in dealing with the affair constructively. Likewise, reading good spiritually enriching books together can be helpful as well.

9) Show thankfulness. A cooperative unfaithful spouse is a blessing for a hurt spouse. Too often the unfaithful spouse wants to hide from his responsibility, or sweep everything under the rug and not talk about it. Or he becomes so busy, he finds it easier to avoid dealing with the issues by not giving them or you time to focus on it. To have an unfaithful spouse who fully cooperates means healing can happen easier and faster for both of you. The more the unfaithful spouse feels you are appreciative of his efforts and struggles, the easier it will be for him to face the more difficult aspects of what he is dealing with.

10) Don't forget to focus on yourself. If the unfaithful spouse is fully cooperative, it means nothing if you get stuck in a bad place. Often hurt spouses get stuck because something has been swept under the rug and not dealt with. Frequently it is the unfaithful spouse that does this, but sometimes the unfaithful spouse can do everything right, but the hurt spouse can't get past a stage of grieving and fails to heal. Go back to the general steps and make sure you are doing them, and working through the stages of grief so that you can arrive at acceptance. Once that takes place, you are in sync with the unfaithful spouse and can take what they are doing in a more constructive manner. But if due to not guarding your thoughts, or remaining angry because you've been wronged, and unable to forgive enough to let go of the righteous indignation, rebuilding will be greatly hindered.

As mentioned previously, if you're going to rebuild, commit yourself to it. You'll have to trust that the unfaithful spouse is working on his end. What you don't want to happen is to get lax in your own efforts so that he heals and you don't. Then the marriage is still in danger and all the work of rebuilding will have been for naught.

Other steps could be added, but these should cover most of the bases on dealing with a cooperative unfaithful spouse so that you give both of you the best chance to succeed in the rebuilding efforts. Next up will be the steps in dealing with an uncooperative unfaithful spouse.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Healing Steps for the Hurt Spouse - General

This is a chapter excerpt from our book, Healing Infidelity: How to Build a Vibrant Marriage After an Affair. You'll find not only other helpful articles in that book, but our story of how my wife entered the affairs, how I found out, and how we successfully rebuilt.


While true that the unfaithful spouse carries the bulk of the work to rebuild from an affair, what types of things aid a hurt spouse in this? It is tempting to sit back and think the hurt spouse doesn't need to do anything to help heal from the hurt, that it is the unfaithful spouse who needs to change and fix everything. But this is not true. If rebuilding is to work, both spouses need to invest in the rebuilding 100%, or it will likely fail. That means the hurt spouse also has to be on board with making the necessary changes. In this section for the hurt spouse, we'll examine the actions and principles that the hurt spouse needs to heal from the affair.

I need to add some disclaimers before we start. One, everyone's situation is different. I will be, of necessity, speaking in more general terms. But something here may not apply to certain situations, or I may not list something that is needed in others. So take these as guides to check and make sure you are doing the things that will benefit you and your rebuilding efforts the most. Not as hard and fast rules to follow. Adapt, adjust, or throw out as needed.

Two, I've broken this up into three areas. A general area, when your unfaithful spouse is responsive and cooperating, and when he is not. The approach between the two are different, and when an unfaithful spouse becomes responsive, it may require a shift in approach if you determine it is genuine. But you will have some unfaithful spouses that are also cooperative at first, but later shut down. Some cooperate in certain areas, but not others. So depending on the situation, you may need to apply one set at one time, another at another time, and sometimes, a mixture. This chapter will be the general steps most hurt spouses will need to take into consideration.

1) First, realize you are not at fault for your spouse's affair. Many times an unfaithful spouse will attempt to say you are, and no doubt in their mind that is how they justified their decision to give into temptation, but the truth of the situation is the following. Despite whatever issues they had with the marriage or with you, cheating doesn't fix any of them. It only complicates and destroys things further. Therefore, the decision to cheat is never a good response to marital problems. Because of that, it is never your fault, no matter how bad of a spouse you've been or how difficult the marriage has been. Take responsibility for your part in the problems of the marriage, but not for their decision to cheat.

2) Don't automatically assume you have been rejected, and that there is something wrong with you. It is natural to feel they chose the other person over you. Because obviously as far as actions, that appears to be the case. It is usually a source of confusion to the hurt spouse why, if the unfaithful spouse says they love them, they could do something like this. How could they risk the marriage, the family, your sexual health, etc., on a fling? On a secret lover?

But the bottom line is this: in most cases, the unfaithful spouse never says to themselves, "You know what? I don't like X and Y, so I'll just go find someone else to have sex with." It happens, but the majority of cases is the unfaithful spouse becomes vulnerable due to their personal issues and needs, and gives into temptation without thinking about the consequences. As a matter of fact, the mind that is being tempted in this way is not rational at all. If it were, the person wouldn't do what their desires are wanting.

This state of mind is called a "fog" for good reasons, because the unfaithful spouse can't see anything other than what he wants right now. Though somewhere buried in the back of his mind he know this will hurt the marriage and his spouse, the strong desires he has, which may be sexual desires, ego stroking, attention, companionship, or a mixture of those, the desire for meeting those perceived "survival" needs blinds him to taking a serious accounting of the potential consequences. The stronger that desire is, up to an addiction, the less the later consequences play into the decision.

What happens for many unfaithful spouses is they give in at a moment of temptation without thinking through the consequences. As a result, they often come away feeling the victim, that it just happened, and so they start looking for reasons why. Often the finger is pointed at the spouse because he didn't do X, Y, or Z. They often don't feel like they consciously made a decision to cheat. What they miss is failing to recognize the decisions that led to the temptation to cheat, like choosing to flirt, believing it to be "innocent fun."

Often he didn't intentionally reject you by having an affair. He was tempted and let it happen. He gave in to his desires. That is often why he doesn't bring up his desires and needs with the spouse, because he doesn't identify them that way. Not too many unfaithful spouses wake up one morning and think to themselves, "Wow, I really have a need for intimate conversation with my spouse. I could talk to them about it, explain how desperately I need this, and we could go to marriage counseling. Or I could have an affair. Hum...the affair sounds like the best option." Usually those needs are ignored or erupt in anger and fights instead of constructive cooperation, and the unfaithful spouse isn't always directly aware they have become more vulnerable to temptation because of them.

So even if the unfaithful spouse says things like, "She made me feel better than you ever did, that's why I cheated," don't give into the lie that he chose her or him over you. Chances are the unfaithful spouse is coming up with reasons because he is too deep in the fog to believe it is his fault and accept blame for it. People cheat because of their own character shortcomings, not being able to deal with their problems in constructive ways. It is more a rejection of who they are than you.

"But she said she loved him, and she can't stop thinking about him." Yes, that happens. Unfaithful spouses all the time mistake infatuation for true love. They often get in it so deep they have a hard time realizing what they feel isn't love, but a feeling they enjoy and desire. Wearing the rose-colored glasses of infatuation, their love for their spouse will seem to pale in comparison on the passion level. But that isn't the fullness of love, and it cannot compete with real, unconditional love for each other if your relationship is based on more than passion and friendship, but a self-sacrificing love for each other.

In short, what he is often in love with isn't the affair partner, but in how the affair partner made him feel. He is in love with a feeling.

3) Realize that the healing process and rebuilding trust will take time. Two years minimum, maybe longer if the unfaithful spouse isn't fully cooperative, or you have trouble getting past issues. During that time, you'll have periods when you're making progress, and periods when it feels you've sunk back to day one. Even the best of rebuildings will experience periods of depression and a sense of loss on a recurring basis. Don't expect even two or three years down the road to be "past this." As time goes buy, assuming you both are dealing with the issues instead of shoving them under a rug, incidences of feeling the loss and the hurt will become less and less, duller and duller. But that takes at least two years or more, about the amount of time it takes for a couple to feel the changes in their life have become the "new normal." Even if the rebuilding goes well, don't expect the pain and hurt to be totally gone even at two years.

4) Know the stages of grief so you can work through each stage, avoid getting stuck, and find acceptance. You can read up on them in this article. Realize that these emotions and struggles are normal and needed to heal, as painful as they are. Bottling them up and ignoring them can prevent healing.

5) Work toward a healthy and strong sense of self. Affairs can be big blows to one's self-esteem and sense of knowing who you are. The affair changes the relationship significantly from what it was before. Both in how you look at your spouse, but also in how you perceive yourself through your spouse's eyes. It will never be what it was prior to the affair.

Get individual counseling, read good books, and keep the following in mind. While you may have blame for some marriage problems, you are not to blame for the affair. That is fully owned by the unfaithful spouse and his affair partner. The reason they cheated, no matter what he claims the reasons were, are due to his inappropriate responses to issues he is facing within himself. There is a character flaw in him that allowed, maybe even sought out, the affair as the way to deal with his needs. It is not a lack in you, it is a lack in him that is the problem.

Therefore, to get your view of your self through him is going to be a very distorted picture. Don't rely upon it. Assume his view of you will be filled with distortions and exaggerations. He has proven himself untrustworthy in hiding the affair from you, he will be untrustworthy in other areas until he takes ownership of his wrongs and gets out of the fog enough to think clearly.

6) For those of faith, seek out spiritual counseling from your pastor/priest, or spiritual leader, or even a close friend who you feel is strong in the faith. While generally this is a tragedy not readily shared, especially among church members, and there can be some shame felt even by the hurt spouse for the fact it happened to them, you will need someone who is not emotionally impacted by the affair to keep your feet on solid ground.

For those of faith, this can be a time of faith crisis. Why did God allow this to happen? Why did my prayers for him not get answered? Approached the wrong way, some could lose their faith in God over this. Or, they will find their faith a firm foundation in the midst of the raging sea of emotions, hurt, and struggles to rebuild. Having someone that can give input and guidance to what you are going through can make the difference between healing and letting the pain crush you. If nothing else, you need a listening ear. You don't want to carry this struggle alone. Also your spiritual life is just as important, if not more so, than your emotional life, because it will impact your emotional life and can be the difference between a successful rebuilding or ending in divorce.

A disclaimer. Not all pastors or priest are adequately trained in dealing with affairs. Don't expect them to be marriage counselors unless they have a degree or certification in that area. But hopefully they can provide spiritual guidance. Some have unhelpful ideas about marriage and affairs based on their interpretation of the Bible. If one pastor or priest isn't helping you, seek out another who can. Some communions have more resources to deal with these things, or the pastor will know good counselors you can contact.

7) For successful rebuilding, you will want to eventually reach a stage of empathy with the unfaithful spouse. This won't happen quickly, certainly not right away. You are going to be too focused on your own pain, and your anger at what they did won't allow much empathy to take place. But in due time, as you work through the stages of grief, and if rebuilding is going to be successful, eventually you'll need to get there.

Notice, I did not say sympathy for them. Two different things. Sympathy is "feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune." Empathy is "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another." Sympathy says you have pity on them and feel sorry for them. Empathy says you understand that their pain exists, even if you can't care about it or deal with it adequately right now. Empathy acknowledges that the other person has real needs, concerns, and difficulties in this journey as well. But for the hurt spouse to move past an obsession and focus on self and their own pain, they have to reach a place where they are able to understand the pain the unfaithful spouse is going through.

I’m not talking here about understanding the why or reasons for the affair. I'm talking about his hurts and pains. Believe me, he has them. Some of them are good at covering them up, even from themselves, and not focusing on them or dealing with them. While some unfaithful spouses are good at fooling themselves so that they seem to be immune to sorrow and repentance, they are just as damaged by the affair as their hurt spouse is. In some cases, even more so.

He has to deal with the reality that he committed an act against the one they love (if that's the case) and who he doesn't want to lose. He has been spiritually and emotionally damaged by living in the fog. As the Scriptures say, unlike other sins, fornication and adultery are sins against one's own body and person. He may try to cover up that pain by blame-shifting, gas-lighting, sweeping it under a rug and refusing to talk about it any longer, sticking his head in the sand by keeping busy, etc. to avoid facing up to it, but it is there.

He also has the initial pain, if the affair was ongoing when discovered, of breaking off a relationship he was enjoying, usually before he was ready to do so. One of the hardest things for the unfaithful spouse to do is break that relationship whether or not he felt he was "in love." Think back to an early relationship that broke up of your own, and how emotionally devastated you were.

Except here, there is the added hurdle to overcome, that he shouldn't talk about it or show those feelings to the hurt spouse because it further hurts them. So many unfaithful spouses struggle through that alone. Many cases, it leads them to reconnect with the affair partner. But the unfaithful spouse who successfully breaks that contact will experience a major loss. Though that is not what the hurt spouse wants to hear, that's the reality of the situation. He could no easier not feel that loss than if they had lost one of their parents to a car accident. It is one of the many negative consequences for being unfaithful.

For the unfaithful spouse who really puts forth the effort to fix themselves, he must endure the painful and slow process of facing his sins and misdeeds, owning them, staring their guilt in the eyes, repenting, and working on himself to ensure the sin doesn't happen again. Rebuilding for the unfaithful spouse is a painful process if he really invest himself in it. It too will take years, not weeks or months, before it is conquered. He will always live with the reality that he did this to the one he loves, and face her everyday with that knowledge.

Until you reach a stage of empathy for the unfaithful spouse, until you can find the ability to care for what they are going through, rebuilding will not happen. For what you are rebuilding to isn't just an existence with each other, but a rekindling of the love you have for each other. Without empathy, that will never happen.

8) Don't obsess over the affair partner. I know, it is natural to do so. Most hurt spouses at one point or another expresses anger over the other person who their spouses cheated with. They are convenient targets of hate, because you are not trying to rebuild with him. To express that blame and hatred to the spouse would be counter productive to the rebuilding. Also sometimes unfaithful spouses will not tell the truth about their affair partner, to deflect blame from themselves. "But Honey, she seduced me when I was depressed."

So often hurt spouses will want to meet the affair partner and tell them what for, or punch them, or destroy their property and lives. But this will not be productive. It will only destroy you and keep you from healing, and take your focus off where it needs to be: on your spouse.

The only concern you should have about the affair partner is to make sure your spouse has broken all contact with him and then treat him as if that person doesn't exist. The affair partner becomes invisible. The goal should be to get him out of your lives as cleanly, quickly, and as forcefully as possible. The more you stir things up with him, the more likely he is to reestablish contact with your unfaithful spouse and stay in the picture, and continue to seek after what he once had. Because the only way the unfaithful spouse can break the bond he has with the affair partner is to go for a long time with no contact. The more contact he has, the less likely he'll break that bond, and the more likely he'll return to the affair partner.

9) Guard your thoughts. This is something that is learned. Many hurt spouses have instances of flashbacks, can't get the picture of their spouse in bed with the affair partner out of their head, imagine all sorts of scenarios that probably never happened between the two, usually blown out of proportion. But these thoughts tend to be obsessive. They intrude into your daily life, sex life, and when something triggers your memories of the affair. At first, these will be strong and need to be faced. But at some point, they become obsessive and can prevent the hurt spouse from healing. To do that, the hurt spouse (and the unfaithful spouse for other reasons) needs to learn the art of guarding your thoughts.

One method is to use distraction. One simple way is to have a phrase you say to yourself when those thoughts arise. For the more religiously inclined, a simple one to remember is what is known in ancient Christianity as the "Jesus prayer." The simple form is, "Lord have mercy," which is a response in prayers at many churches. The fuller form of it is "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." But even if you are not religious, you can find a phrase that can help distract you. A saying like, "Que sara, sara." That is, "Whatever will be, will be."

A second form of distraction is music or talk radio. Get your mind engaged in a song or discussion so it won't wander to the wrong thoughts. Strike up a conversation with someone. Give someone a call.

Another form of distraction is to do something physical. Many use exercise of some form. But that alone may not occupy your mind, though it can help burn off some steam. My wife was instructed to use a rubber band around her wrist, and when thoughts she didn't need to be thinking of arose, to snap it so that the pain would distract her from her thoughts.

Another method is reclaiming. This is especially good for triggers. If there is something that tends to make you think of the affair and other obsessive thoughts, reclaim that event. For example, my wife met her primary affair partner at the local gym. I didn't go, obviously, or it wouldn't have happened. Once I discovered the affair, I had two options. I could forbid her to go to the gym any longer, for fear she'd met him there again and this would keep going, or I could start going there myself to ensure he and no one else would hit on her. I opted for the later, in part because I didn't want remembrances of the gym to be her private domain of good thoughts about the affair partner, and I wanted to claim that joy they shared for me and her. So I went. Yes, the first time or three were awkward. But now I don't ever think anything about it. Driving by the gym holds pleasant memories of us working out and swimming together instead of remembrances of "this is where they started their affair, worked out together, swam together." Seeing the gym isn't a trigger to the affair as it would have been had I taken the other route.

A third method is to substitute positive thoughts for the negative. When the obsessive thoughts arise, have ready some positive thoughts to direct your mind to. If, for instance, images of your spouse in the arms of the affair partner arise during sex, causing you to lose all interest, have ready images of you and your spouse to shove in front of them.

All these things take some practice. At first you'll forget and suddenly remember, "Oh, I'm not supposed to be thinking on these things," and you'll do one of the things above. At first, it will have to be a conscious decision. But after a few weeks of doing these, they'll start to become automatic and natural. What you are doing is retraining your mind to not go there. In the first weeks after discovery day, forget it. You can't avoid thinking about it day and night, all the time. But as you move on, and some of those thoughts won't leave, you have to work to get them out and learn how to guard your thoughts so you control them, and not them, you.

10) Interact with the unfaithful spouse in a straightforward, clear, and business-like manner. Yes, at first your emotions are going to be running wild. Everyone's does. You'll probably say things that you later wish you could take back. But once you settle down from the initial roller coaster ride, you'll want to accomplish the following things in communicating with your unfaithful spouse.

First, what your goals and expectations of him will be. Include as short but complete of a list as possible. Transparency and what that practically means. Financial. Availability to answer your questions, and maybe an agreed upon method to do that. That he will allow you to vent and relate your hurt without him becoming defensive or shutting down on you. Read books together like Not Just Friends. Go to marriage counseling, committing for two to three months at least. Communicate that rebuilding will take years, so he doesn't have the idea it will blow over in a month or two.

The above are examples, you may have more depending on the situation. But the important thing is to make it clear what he will need to do to meet your needs to heal from what he has done to you.

Second, list the consequences of these not happening. One thing you will need to do, despite beliefs in never divorcing, is to leave the divorce option on the table. For some unfaithful spouses, they have convinced themselves that you would never leave them, and it gives them motivation to just get through the initial fallout from the discovery before picking back up where they left off. For them to be shaken out of their fog thinking, they need to feel you could really leave them. But draw that line carefully. Make sure you are ready to do that should it go that far. Nothing worse than drawing a line in the sand, to back up and draw a new line when that one is crossed. Then the lines mean nothing.

So I would suggest breaking them down in stages as much as possible, both loosening up as he does better, and tightening down if he falters. So, for instance, maybe one consequence of either not being transparent and/or of breaking no contact is he is forced to hand in his smart phone and get an old fashion, no frills, basic phone with no texting ability. Or he allows spyware to be installed on his phone so you can fully monitor him. Then after a period of time has passed, say six months as an example, and he's been good, that gets taken off his phone or restored to being smart. Or you first take an extended trip to a relative, and if that doesn't reverse things, separate. If he falters again, divorce after a certain amount of time has passed without resolution. Break it down into progressively more restrictive stages as required, and back them down as he becomes more cooperative.

Third, write down something similar for yourself, dependent on him or her doing the above. Be transparent yourself. Good marriages are transparent without an affair. Maybe you'll wash his clothes and fix his dinner. Find out what his needs are and seek to meet them. Don't assume they are the same as yours, because they won't be in most cases. Certain ones can be taken away if he isn't cooperative. Not to be manipulative, but to reward behavior that will help rebuild, and discourage behavior that will end in divorce court. The idea is you are joining him to work on this together, not just him doing all the work.

The idea is to have good communication. Don't rely upon hints and "he should know what I want" type ideas. Be clear about your needs and wants. He can't be expected to meet them or change for them if you don't voice them clearly. The communication needs to happen in a calm, rational manner. Not threats, ultimatums, and screaming. You also need to be firm and confident. A no-nonsense manner of "this is the way it needs to be if we're to make it. Are you with me or not?" Also allow the unfaithful spouse to communicate clearly to you as well. Make it a discussion, not a lecture. Not all of your goals need to be given at one time. You may start with a basic list, but add to it over time as new things pop up. Think in terms of short-term needs and where you want the relationship to be over time.

11) Get help through counseling and good books. Too many spouses have a lone-ranger attitude. I know, because that was me. Until Lenita's infidelity, I'd never been to a counselor for anything. Despite there were times we should have done so in the past. However, I knew this time I wanted to leave no stone unturned in our efforts to rebuild. I knew we had one good shot at healing. I knew we were in over our heads. We were treading new territory and needed a guide to avoid as many pitfalls as possible.

Since you are reading this book, it is likely you already have sensed the same thing. But perhaps someone shoved this book into your hands and you've reluctantly read it, though by this point you have no doubt discovered the value of this type of help or you would probably not still be reading by this point.

Books can be a major source of help in rebuilding both yourselves and your relationship. I'd recommend the following book to begin your healing journey.

Getting Past the Affair: A Program to Help You Cope, Heal, and Move On -- Together or Apart by Douglas K. Snyder. The strength of this book is it gives you some practical steps to take in dealing with the affair, including the initial days and weeks after discovery day. It is based upon a sound understanding of the dynamics in rebuilding relationships, and can help if rebuilding doesn't succeed as expected or isn't the ultimate choice of either spouse. Also includes steps for the unfaithful spouse as well as the hurt one. For these reasons, I recommend reading this book first to get some immediate guidance and direction, including finer points on what we've talked about here.

While books like these and the one you are reading now are helpful, they can only be of a general help. The author(s) cannot cover every conceivable circumstance, nor address your specific situation. A person reading these books still needs to take the general principles and apply them to his relationship.

Because of this, it is also strongly suggested to obtain individual and marriage counseling as soon as possible. Both spouses need to evaluate how these events have affected them based on their history, how to rebuild their sense of self-identity, and what will be the best approach, given their specific circumstances, to proceed with rebuilding the marriage.

Once, I attempted to change the ball-joint on an AMC Pacer. I followed the instructions in a book, but a frozen bolt refused to come lose. It was then I read in the book, "This is not a 'backyard mechanic' type job." I thought, "Now they tell me!"

In the same way, rebuilding a marriage and yourself after an affair is not a do-it-yourself task. If you go it alone, chances of success go way down.

When you look for a therapist in your area, search for those with experience in helping with infidelity. Once attending sessions, if it is clear they are enabling rug-sweeping, blame-shifting, or other tactics which divert you from dealing with the issues, feel free to change counselors until you find one that can truly help you. Not all counselors are created equal, or in some cases, you just don't mesh well with a given counselor through no fault of either person.

These are some of the general steps. I could continue on and get more detailed, but this gives a broad overview of the general steps that can help a hurt spouse deal with the aftermath of an affair. Next we'll look at the steps a hurt spouse can take in dealing with a cooperative unfaithful spouse.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Healing Steps for the Unfaithful Spouse

This is a chapter excerpt from our book, Healing Infidelity: How to Build a Vibrant Marriage After an Affair. You'll find not only other helpful articles in that book, but our story of how my wife entered the affairs, how I found out, and how we successfully rebuilt.


This chapter is for those unfaithful spouses who wish to rebuild their marriages after having committed an act of infidelity. Many unfaithful spouses who have ended an affair and want to save their marriage don't always know what they need to do, what approach they should have, or understand fully the damage to the hurt spouse. Usually, the “natural” reaction is the wrong one to successfully rebuild. My wife, Lenita, who is an unfaithful spouse and has successfully rebuilt our marriage, wrote an article on what the unfaithful spouse needs to do to help the hurt spouse heal. I'm taking the core outline from that article to write this chapter.

This chapter assumes that you have told your hurt spouse about the affair and that he knows the general details of the affair. Now you are asking: what are the ways in which you can best help you and your hurt spouse heal and save the marriage, if indeed that is your goal? Here are the main areas that need your attention to potentially succeed.

1) Be prepared to invest yourself 100% and more into the rebuilding of the marriage. That means two major points. One, rebuilding will not be easy, especially for the unfaithful spouse. To help your spouse heal means facing the pain of what you've done, examining it, and dealing with it until the wound has healed. These are hard things for anyone to do. Unless you are totally committed to doing whatever it takes, you will tend to falter when, for instance, you debate whether to tell your spouse about that chance encounter with the affair partner or not.

Two, realize this will take years, not weeks. Too often the unfaithful spouse wants to put it all behind them. He doesn't want it thrown into his face regularly. That is understandable. But keep in mind that while you have known this secret for weeks, months, or even years, for the spouse it is fresh and new information that has to be processed, the loss grieved over, and the trust that has been violated to be rebuilt over several months. To do that, he needs to talk about it, deal with it, and process it to the point of satisfaction that he can move past it. That will not happen quickly. Doing the following will help it to happen as quickly as possible, but even in the best of circumstances, don't expect everything to be "back to normal" until a minimum of two years. In some cases it may take even longer. No two individuals are the same. But unless you realize you are in it for the long haul, it will be easy to get discouraged when after three or four months, he is still bringing up issues about the affair. He has to deal with the affair, and if he isn't allowed to, then he is prevented from healing.

2) Develop an attitude of healing. Lenita listed several examples of what that attitude needed to be:

I will own up to what I have done and place none of the blame on anyone else.

I will never try to 'gag' you but will listen bravely without flinching away and answer/discuss anything you need to, anytime you need to.

I will be humble.

I will show you my heart.

I will understand that I must be responsible for helping you heal and that I must work diligently to heal myself.

I will not be defensive concerning the affair or the affair partner.

Without these attitudes, the chances of rebuilding are slim. This is because for healing the marriage to take place, the bulk of the work will be with the unfaithful spouse. The bottom line is you have hurt your spouse, and now it is your job to heal that hurt. You are the only one who can heal your spouse, because only you can rebuild the trust that has been stolen from them. To not do the above is the equivalent of shutting the door on the marriage. If you said to point #1, "Yes, I am committed," then this needs to be the first place you take a stand. Because if you approach it with any other attitude, the following steps will not only be harder, but you'll not implement them as fully as you should to really heal your spouse.

3) Break all contact with the affair partner. Until the hurt spouse feels secure that there is no more contact of any kind going on between you and your affair partner, for him, the affair isn't over. As long as that door is still open, however slightly, the hurt spouse will live in fear that if the affair hasn't restarted, it is only a matter of time until it does. Contact means the emotional bonds are still alive. Only complete and utter no contact will allow the hurt spouse the ability to start healing. To not do so magnifies the odds against any rebuilding efforts being permanent.

Unfortunately, this is one step many unfaithful spouses find hard to follow through on. Especially if they were caught while the affair was ongoing. It usually means a sudden end to a relationship that at that moment, neither of you were ready to end. Maybe one goodby phone call and then to never speak or see them again sounds harsh and drastic. When someone has fallen in love with another person, even if inappropriately, to stop all contact is the equivalent to saying to the affair partner, "I don't love you, leave me alone and never talk to me again," when that is the exact opposite of how you feel. Yet if you want the affair to be over for your spouse so that healing of the marriage can begin, this is a necessity.

Remind yourself that if you are experiencing the sudden loss of a relationship with someone you were with for a few days, weeks, or months, how much more is your spouse going through when they are feeling the loss of a relationship they've had for years with you? At this point, you have to chose and invest yourself in whichever path you wish to go. In either case, that means cutting off all contact with the other you are leaving. No matter how much you love him. Bottom line: this is one of the hard consequences of allowing yourself to have an affair.

"But I work with the affair partner. How do I deal with that?" You may find your spouse is one of the rare ones who can deal with that situation, but with 99% of the hurt spouses, even if they acknowledge the financial stress of losing a job you've held for years, maybe nearing retirement, and the unpredictability of finding new work, the chances of successfully rebuilding the marriage goes down drastically if continued contact of any kind is retained.

Until contact is cut off, the affair is still going for the hurt spouse, even if in truth it isn't. The hurt spouse has no means to know you are being faithful even while making frequent contact at work. He has no way to know you aren't meeting in a closet or room or car. He has no assurance that you aren't sharing lunches together and discussing personal issues. Rebuilding trust in a situation like that is next to impossible. It's like telling someone to put out the fire with water while you continue to blast it with a flame thrower.

As Lenita often told me when she faced something painful, "I asked for this, you didn't." When you allowed an affair to happen, you put at risk everything. Your marriage, your children, your job, your stability. There may come a point that you have to sacrifice your job security for marital security. That can be one of the costs of having and affair. Which will you chose?

There may be solutions. You can ask for a transfer from your department if the company is large enough. Preferably to another building. Your spouse would even by happy in most cases to hear the transfer meant a move to another town. But if that doesn't work out, and there is no choice but to either quit or stay in contact with the person, it may mean making that hard choice to find another job. We again go back to points #1 and #2. It may mean less money, or financial hardships. That's when you have to ask what is more important to you? Your marriage or your job? If it comes down to a decision between the two, and no compromise can be worked out, it may mean making a decision of which one to sacrifice. No contact is that important.

No contact also extends to mementos you have from your affair partner. Pictures, written letters, emails, or other items bought for you all constitute links to the affair partner. These should be deleted or thrown away to complete non-contact. Both because they can be triggers to the hurt spouse, but also triggers for you, causing you to recall him or her and the "good" times. The goal of no contact is to let the affair partner fade into the past, so you can focus on your spouse, your marriage, and your family.

4) Become totally transparent. What is meant by this is to open yourself up in all ways that relate to rebuilding trust in the aftermath of the affair, so that your spouse can see everything he needs to see to feel secure that contact is not still ongoing, and that you are being truthful.

Think of it like this. The hurt spouse just discovered that you've broken your wedding vows to him, and in most cases lied about it, hid it from him. You've stolen something precious to him: his trust in you and his security in your love for him. Any "secret," any request for "privacy" to him is translated that you have something more to hide about the affair. He has no reason to trust you at this point.

It will take months of constantly discovering that you are telling the truth to begin to trust that you are actually doing that. The only way he can see you telling the truth is by being transparent.

There is a saying, that trust takes a lifetime to build, but seconds to destroy. Trust is the glue that holds a marriage together. By opening yourselves to each other in the most intimate of ways, you have made yourself vulnerable to being hurt. Trust means "I trust you enough not to hurt me. So I open my soul to you." The moment that perceived truth is broken by being hurt, the natural reaction is to pull back and not trust. After many positive examples of truth-telling, gradually he will start to trust again. Even then, it will never be the same innocent trust he had prior to the affair. Like an accident victim, he will tend to flinch inwardly when anything that even looks like the same threat darkens his path. That will be with him to some degree for the rest of his life. The only way to rebuild that trust is to no longer hide anything from your spouse that would be of concern to him or her.

What does “no longer hide anything” mean? We're not talking telling him what you ate for lunch, or all the thoughts that go through your mind everyday. Rather, there are two questions you can ask yourself that will determine if it is something you should tell him: “If I were him, would I want to know this?” and “Is this something I don't want him to know?” If you answer “yes” to either of those questions, then to be transparent, you should tell him.

On the practical side, transparency translates into actions like giving your spouse the user names and passwords to all social media accounts you have. All email accounts. All cell phone's and their bills. When your spouse asks to look at them, you readily give them over without the need to "erase" anything. Likewise, one of the best trust rebuilding activities you can do is to tell him things he could have never discovered himself. For instance, my wife told me about any and all encounters with her affair partner, who for some months kept attempting to contact her. Most of those I would have never known about if she hadn't told me. But she wanted to be totally transparent with me. Having her tell me that aided in my rebuilding of trust in her.

Some spouses expect a level of privacy and are unwilling to give this up. However, this is unhealthy, even for a marriage that has not gone through an affair. Even more so once one spouse has hurt the other by having an affair. Some secrets a spouse has are harmless. Maybe you were called a nickname by family or friends when little, and you've never told your spouse out of embarrassment. Understandable. However, once a couple is married, the old saying, “No man is an island” takes on an increased meaning. Any activity you do can affect the marriage and relationship, and each spouse has the right to know about it. That right supersedes any rights to privacy a spouse may think they have. Bottom line, if you have information you don't want your spouse to know that affects the marriage in any way, financially, socially, emotionally, sexually, or spiritually, you don't have the right to keep that from him, and he has every right to find out, even spying, if he has probable cause.

Without consistent transparency, you severally limit the ability of the hurt spouse to rebuild trust in you and the marriage, and drastically lower the chance of success in rebuilding.

5) Avoid "rug sweeping" at all costs. There are two ways and motivations for wanting to take the issues generated by the affair and sweep them under the proverbial rug so you don't have to look at them or deal with them.

One, what you did is painful to face. It is easier to say, "Okay, that's in the past now. It's over. Time to move on," and clam up about the affair, expecting him to do the same. We've already discussed in the previous steps why this is dangerous. It prevents the hurt spouse from dealing with and healing from what has been done to him. He is not able to find closure. It also causes him to sense that you are continuing to hide something from him. Making it near impossible to rebuild trust again. Doing this will ensure the marriage will fail at some point because the hurt spouse will not heal.

Two, it also ensures that you, the unfaithful spouse, will not heal. You will help your hurt spouse heal in large part by healing yourself. He needs to know that you are working to not only discover what character issues as a person allowed you to treat any problems and fulfill any unmet needs in the marriage in such a destructive way, but that you are also working to fix those issues, to make the changes in yourself to prevent another occurrence from happening again.

If you refuse to face your issues and instead keep them out of sight, you will not heal. Indeed, by ignoring the need to face these issues and do the hard work to emotionally and spiritually heal yourself from this destructive event, the likelihood of it happening again is substantially higher. Your spouse knows this instinctively. If you are hiding from the issues, the fear that it will happen again is much greater than if he sees you wrestling with what you've done to him and yourself, and working to fix it.

6) Take advantage of counseling. Being willing to not only go to individual counseling to help you sort through your issues related to the affair, but also marital counseling, is a key component of healing for both of you. Especially important if your skills at communication are less than ideal. A counselor can help to facilitate constructive communication and conflict resolution. But even if you have good communication and you felt your marriage before the affair was good, this is still important.

For us, our marriage counselor helped point us in the right directions. Our first thought was my wife was dealing with a sexual addiction. But we didn't understand that term in its full clinical sense. Our counselor pointed us to where we needed to work on our marriage. I realized after the fact that claiming Lenita had a sexual addition was more a way to blame it on something rather than her bad choices. Self-diagnosis isn't a good idea. An objective, informed guide is much better for seeing where you are at and helping you through the maze of feelings and options you'll encounter.

That said, not all counselors are created equal. Many are not that experienced in dealing with infidelity. I've heard more than my share of stories where a counselor gave out bad advice. Sometimes enabling the unfaithful partner to violate many of the needed tasks listed above. If you have a counselor who does that, feel free to change. Not merely because they ask you to do hard things, but because they aren't helping one or both of you to heal. Get a second opinion. Find out if they have experience counseling couples involved in affairs. There is too much on the line to stick with someone out of some sense of loyalty to them if they are not helping either of you to heal.

7) Read books on dealing with the aftermath of affairs and marriage. For the unfaithful spouse, the following is required reading. Get a copy of How To Help Your Spouse Heal From Your Affair: A Compact Manual For The Unfaithful by Linda MacDonald. Read it, follow it. It is not a big book, but goes into much more detail than we can in this article. It is very practical, blunt, and tells you exactly what you as an unfaithful spouse needs to do to help you and your spouse heal. You don't need to have the hurt spouse read this book, though he certainly can if he wants. This book is for the unfaithful spouse, and is spot on in guiding you to what is needed if you wish to save the marriage.

After that book, I have three more highly recommended books for both of you to read. The first is Getting Past the Affair: A Program to Help You Cope, Heal, and Move On -- Together or Apart by Douglas K. Snyder. This book will take both of you through a process of healing, step by step. Very practical on issues like communication, and based on sound principles.

The second is Not "Just Friends" by Shirley Glass. This is the best book for gaining insight both into what happened in the affair for both parties, and the steps each needs to take to help heal from it. It is down to earth, easy to read, and very practical. The author has years of work in the field, and her understanding of the reasons why this happens and what needs to be done to change it are on target. Both spouses will greatly benefit reading this book.

The other is His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage by Willard F. Harley. This book attacks another issue that commonly plagues marriages that have gone through affairs: the need to show each other love in a way they understand it. Some people might balk at the idea of working on the marriage until the affair issues have been dealt with. But what Mr. Harley found out in his own counseling practice, is that the success of rebuilding was greatly increased when both spouses were able to effectively communicate the feeling of love to the other person.

If you think about it, it makes sense. The more in love you feel with your spouse, the more motivation you'll have to face all the hard tasks of rebuilding. Likewise, the more your spouse feels you love them, the more likely he'll be able to not only get past the damage of the affair easier, but also motivated to have empathy and forgiveness for what you did. Honest feelings of love become the oil in a marriage racked by an affair that speeds healing and makes all the efforts you do to rebuild that much more effective.

These last three books we suggest you read as a couple. Preferably reading to one another. This not only provides opportunity to bond and participate in an activity together, but provides many chances to explore the events of the affair in a non-threatening manner, and see them through the light of another person. You'll find out your "unique" experience isn't all that unique.

Once done with these, seek out other books. Not just about affairs, but marriage enrichment in general as well. It will keep you both focused in building and maintaining a healthy relationship.

8) Don't neglect the spiritual dimension of healing. One of the advantages those of faith have is ways to deal with the moral and ethical guilt created by an affair. Often disciplines and perspectives can help a person not only deal with the guilt of what he's done, but the spiritual attitudes and practices that will aid in the healing process.

My wife, being a Christian, acknowledged her growing distance from God leading up to the affairs. She mentioned how she kept God in a closet much of the time during her affairs, and how hard it was to approach Him after it was all discovered. Then, as she emerged from the fog and faced the reality of what she'd done to me and herself, the immense guilt overtook her for months.

During all this time, our priest was instrumental in her spiritual recovery. This was key because it directly influenced her recovery in all other areas of the marriage. It also allayed one of my big fears upon discovering her sin, that we'd spend eternity apart from each other if she didn't change course. Key also is the fact that seeing her struggle spiritually enabled me to see she was working on all parts of her life, not just emotional or practical boundaries, but making herself stronger spiritually, which reinforced in me the sense that she was doing all she could to fix herself.

If you are or have held a faith, this is the key time to bring yourself back to that faith for support and strength and help in dealing with all the hard issues you have to face. You need to hear from God, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more," just as the adulterous woman heard that from Jesus. You'll never hear that by avoiding God. Only by coming to Him in repentance and humility. But dealing with this can be a long road. There are many consequences to work through. As Scripture also says, the sin of adultery is, at its heart, a sin against your own body, your own self. Healing that will require spiritual aid as well as the other steps discussed above.

One practice I gave my wife was to memorize Psalm 51 and say it everyday. If you don't know, Psalm 51 is often referred to as the psalm of repentance. In the case of adultery, it is on target, because this is a psalm King David wrote upon being convicted of not only committing adultery with another man's wife, but having him killed so he could have the man's wife for himself. I knew she would need the constant reminder not only that she could repent and be forgiven by God and me for what she'd done, but the humble attitude needed to rest in God's forgiveness. It became one of the spiritual crutches that helped her through the months when the guilt weighted heavily on her soul as she worked to accept His forgiveness.

9) Work to fall out of love with the affair partner(s). If you felt you loved your affair partner, this is a hard one and will take many months to accomplish. But it is important for the following reasons.

One, the relationship was immoral and should have never started to begin with. It is important that the unfaithful spouse do all they can to erase the improper relationship from their lives. Your love for the affair partner is an affront to your spouse.

Two, no one can love two people and give 100% to only one. The love for the affair partner(s) is love stolen from your spouse who you pledged it to.

Three, as long as you remain in love with the affair partner(s), you are susceptible to temptation to reignite the fires of that relationship. Time alone will not kill off love. You can be ten years of no contact, and if the love never died, it can fire back up into another affair.

At first, it will be hard to do the following, but as you establish no contact successfully, and you gain some distance from the affair, you'll want to make sure you do the following.

One, make sure no contact is fully established, including getting rid of any items or messages or pictures associated with the affair partner. These items serve as remembrances, and provide a link to keep the flame alive.

Two, as you emerge from the fog induced by infatuation, make a list of all the negative things you ignored about the affair partner. In Lenita's case, he had more of an anger problem than I do. I'm very emotionally stable, and she is highly sensitive to anyone being angry to her. He would have, at some point, crushed her love and self-esteem. But in the midst of the affair, she didn't think about it and he remained on his best behavior.

Three, practice guarding your thoughts using distraction and other techniques as described in the "Healing Steps for the Hurt Spouse" chapter. You can't so easily stop thoughts of them from popping into your mind, but you can work to not dwell on them. They slip out as soon as they arrive. The less you think about them, the faster you fall out of love with him.

Four, focus and work on loving your spouse as fully as you can using the resources mentioned in the "read books" step. Investing yourself into loving your spouse will not only regenerate feelings of love for him, but also make feelings you had for your affair partner pale in comparison.

There are many other details we could go into, but the books listed will have more of that than we could ever hope to squeeze into one chapter. But the above are the core issues to deal with to help your hurt spouse heal and save your marriage. It is a lot of work and will take a long time, but the reward can be very worth it both in terms of your own healing and growth as a person, as well as a fuller and richer marriage, despite the negative affects of the affair.