It is never easy to make your marriage work again after infidelity. But it is possible.
I recently came across this story online. I’ve withheld names (and even website) to protect the couple involved (although it was posted to a public forum).
Here’s the story…
I found out about my husband’s affair on Nov. 4th, 2019 and it has been going on since Oct. 23rd, 2018. The last time they ever had sex was Oct. 23rd, 2019. I had my suspensions, but I wasn’t for sure because he was being secretive with his phone and some other bedroom issues that never had come up before.
Anyway, the OW [other woman] was supposed to be a friend of his and I knew she had feeling for him but he told me he was handling it and now I know what he meant by it. For a year he made me think I was paranoid and basically making me go crazy.
After I found out about the affair, I kept finding out bits by bits and the more that happen the more I have become bitter and mean (ICE QUEEN).
I also just found out that he was having an EA [emotional affair] with his girlfriend. So not only did he have an affair with OW he also had a girlfriend on the side. (That was more EA then Physical Affair) Him and his girlfriend never had sex (Yeah Right).
I honestly don’t believe that because I can’t trust anything that he says right now. My love and loyalty is running out. I really don’t feel like I have a husband anymore. I just feel like that marriage was a joke. Yeah, he may have loved me the first 6 months but after he starting have an affair with the OW that is when my marriage stopped.
We are in marriage counseling for couples and single, but he needs to start telling me everything at once not over a 2 months’ time.
His family isn’t helping at all they are making things worse by blaming me and not him. I have been loyal for the last 7 years. I haven’t looked at another guy since we got together but he flirts with other women and he talks sweet to them yet all I get is yelling and fighting. I am about to go nuts
My heart breaks for this woman.
She is not alone. I hear or read similar situations weekly.
Studies show that psychological traumas like discovering an affair have the capacity to affect brain functioning long after the event occurs.
Is there a solution? Help?
What is the ‘right thing to do’ in a situation where infidelity has damaged the marriage?
This is Part 1 of how to deal with infidelity. You can read Part 2 here. In this article we will talk about how to make your marriage work again. You’ll discover 6 reasons for infidelity and 5 things you need to change immediately.
How to Make Your Marriage Work After an Affair
Infidelity is always painful. The emotional rejection amplifies deeper insecurities produced by unfaithfulness. It’s painful. Probably deeper than any other relationship pain. Partly because our marriage partner is supposed to be the one person we can be expect to be true.
To be able to start over and rebuild you need to understand ‘WHY’ your spouse cheated.
It’s a tough question to face, but to move forward (even if you don’t reconcile) you need to know why. This means having difficult conversations.
I’ll break this down into two categories: The big causes and the little behaviors.
The big causes revolve around deeper relationship problems. Things that have been neglected or ignored throughout the marriage.
The little behaviors are character problems. Habits and behaviors that led to the affair.
First up, let’s tackle the big causes.
What are the underlying relationship struggles that gave place to infidelity?
While men are more likely to have an affair over women, the gap appears to be closing in the past decade.
Here are the Top 6 Reasons for Infidelity:
These are in no certain order. And, to be honest, if you asked a dozen marriage therapist and relationship counselors, you would get twelve different ‘reasons.’
What I’ve attempted to do is look at the issue from a 30,000 foot perspective. Why I researched causes for infidelity, I began to see a pattern. It’s this pattern that I find important.
Here’s my list of six reasons that continue to rise to the top.
1. Trouble at Home
Every marriage has rough spots. These do not need to be detrimental to the relationship.
Knowing how to deal with problems at home is more important than trying to create a ‘problem free marriage.’ Like I said, we all have issues.
The Dam Effect
We currently live in a lake community. There is a beautiful river that runs near us. In 1948 a dam was built that created the lake we live near.
The dam caused water to back up and fill in the low places, thus creating the lake.
The dam keeps the water (at least a portion of it) from flowing downstream.
I use this image for a reason.
Marriage trouble can ‘back up’ and cause problems when the flow of the relationship is interrupted.
Just like the river water, problems flow into our lives. As long as we allow the river to keep moving (the problems don’t stay around too long), we maintain a healthy relationship.
However, when we allow things to clog in our relationship, problems become trouble.
This is one of the major causes of broken trust in a marriage.
Problems become trouble when we:
- Fail to Communicate
- Judge and Criticize
- Argue instead of Discuss
- Bottle our Emotions
The list could go on and on. But you get the point.
Failure to deal with problems properly leads to trouble. Trouble opens the door to emotional affairs and infidelity. When we feel dissatisfied at home, we fantasize about a better life with someone else. This is deadly.
Psychologist Guy Winch says:
Rejection destabilizes our “Need to Belong.” We all have a fundamental need to belong to a group. When we get rejected, this need becomes destabilized and the disconnection we feel adds to our emotional pain.
Rejection makes us feel disconnected. Since we all seek a sense of belonging and connection, people tend to look elsewhere if our spouse is the source of our rejection.
3. Lack of Respect
This is expressed in several ways.
- Mocking Your Partner
- Judging Your Spouse Harshly
- Criticizing Your Mate
- Looking Down On Your Partner
- Ignoring Your Spouse
Any one of these can hurt the relationship and open the door for infidelity. Even if it is only an emotional connection with someone.
Mark Whisman (psychology professor at Colorado University Boulder) says:
“With respect to relationship factors, the association between lower relationship satisfaction and extramarital sex is a well-established finding,”
When there is distance in the relationship, there is greater potential for problems.
Studies show that the most common reason why couples develop serious difficulties is that one or both partners withdraw due to feelings of hurt, anger, and resentment.
Distance can be both physical (lack of sexual intimacy) and emotional (feeling like you are doing life alone).
A narcissist is someone who:
- Lives with a Sense of Entitlement
- Crave Admiration
- Believe the are Superior to Others
- Lack Empathy
- Take Advantage of Others
- Are Extremely Controlling
- Lack Accountability
These are just a few characteristics of a narcissist.
Their sense of entitlement often causes them to demean and bully others. And, because they live in a fantasy world of their own creation, AND they can’t see how their behavior hurts others, they tend to be unfaithful.
The opening story above has strong indicators a narcissist is involved.
6. Bad Role Model
I was fortunate to grow up in a healthy family environment. Not everyone has that opportunity.
If you grew up in a divided (divorced home due to infidelity) you are more likely to view marriage differently. This is not always the case, but your exposure to a parent that was unfaithful can taint your view of relationships.
This is a leading cause of marital infidelity.
I want you to notice that ‘lust’ is not on this first list. According to researchers, sex (or lack of sex at home) is not the major issue that triggers affairs.
Sure, it plays a role. But there are deeper underlying issues at play. If we fail to realize these triggers, we will fail to create a marriage capable of restoration.
Let’s face it. The foundation has to be solid before we can start constructing the interior of the house. (Excuse the building analogy, but it’s important to understand what’s behind the real cause of infidelity).
Now let’s look at some behavior issues that can lead to infidelity.
5 Things That Have to Change If You’ve Been Unfaithful
It’s time to face a few hard facts. If you have broken your spouses trust, you need to change a few things in your life.
Here’s five big things that you must stop immediately:
This is a sign of immaturity and the need for attention.
Flirting only produces insecurity in your spouse and sends the wrong signals to everyone involved.
I often hear people say, ‘It’s just innocent banter. We’re just fooling around. Playing. Don’t be so serious.’
But there is nothing innocent about it when someone gets hurt. It is a serious matter.
The excuse of ‘just joking around’ or ‘playing’ is disingenuous.Flirting is not only a sign of immaturity and the need for attention. It produces insecurity in your spouse and sends the wrong signals to everyone involved. Click To Tweet
2. Internet Addiction
Social media is cited as one of the major ‘causes’ of cheating. [Bad behavior and lack of respect is the real cause; social media just provides the opportunity].
I believe the major issues above are the underlying reasons, social media makes it easier to fall into the trap of infidelity.
The effects of pornography on individuals is well documented.
According to the Family Research Council:
Married men who are involved in pornography feel less satisfied with their conjugal relations and less emotionally attached to their wives. Wives notice and are upset by the difference.
Both spouses perceive pornography viewing as tantamount to infidelity.
Men who view pornography regularly have a higher tolerance for abnormal sexuality, including rape, sexual aggression, and sexual promiscuity.
Prolonged consumption of pornography by men produces stronger notions of women as commodities or as “sex objects.”
Ironically, pornography produces an increase in sexual dissatisfaction and an emotional disconnect from your spouse.
For more information on how pornography damages your relationship, read ‘The Negative Effects of Pornography on Marriage.’
4. Blaming Your Spouse
I’ve seen this over and over (mostly from narcissist); they try to make their spouse feel like what they did was not their fault. If things were different at home they would not have cheated.
While sometimes an eroding relationship can set the stage for failure, it should never be used as an excuse for bad behavior.
5. Keeping Secrets
We talk about this in 7 Things That Destroy Emotional Safety in Marriage.
The game has changed and you must be willing to be open about phone calls, texts, emails and social media (see above).
If you expect our relationship to be restored you must be transparent. Trust has to be reestablished. This takes time. And a lot of openness.
Remember, restoring your marriage is not just about being forgiven. It is about healing the wound you caused in your spouse.
If you cannot commit to that, your marriage will never work.
Now that we’ve seen the major factors that contribute to emotional and physical affairs, how can a couple rebuild if they are separated?
How to Make Your Marriage Work After Separation
Separation doesn’t mean it’s over. It does mean hard work lies ahead.
If you are contemplating separation, I recommend two things:
First, determine if that is really the course your want to take.
Here’s a video from Dr. Lee Baucom, a relationship counselor and coach, on why separation may not be the best thing for you.
Second, download our ‘Separation Checklist’ to make sure you cover your bases.
How to Make Your Marriage Work Without Counseling
Is counseling the only way to go in restoring your marriage?
Is it always the best route?
Not necessarily. Counseling can help, but there are a few things you should know before you jump into counseling.
The most important factor is to make sure you have a professional who specializes in couples therapy and couples reconciliation.
Unfortunately, most couples go to the internet to find a counselor in their area (and one that is the cheapest), but often they are not trained in couples therapy.
Dealing with marriage problems is very different from other forms of counseling.
In this video, Dr. Baucom discusses the role of counseling.
3 Things You Can Do To Move Forward
For more details on how to restore your marriage, read ‘How To Deal With Infidelity.’
1. Get Real With Yourself
You need to ask yourself some tough questions.
Socrates has been attributed with the axiom: Know Thyself!
You do this by facing your situation head on; do not stick your head in the sand and pretend it will get better.
In the end, you only hurt yourself by doing this.
- Can I forgive and move forward?
- How do I really feel about my spouse now?
- How do I feel about myself now?
- Can I let this go if I see genuine change?
- What do I need to experience to know I can move forward?
- What do I want from my spouse?
These questions are just the tip of the iceberg; but they will help you think about what happened, but also, how you feel about what happened.
2. Get Real With Your Partner
Once you discover the real impact this has on you (by addresses the questions above), you can move on to the second stage – having a heart to heart with your spouse.
I realize some spouses will never want to discuss the issue. There is not much you can do about this. At that point you have to decide what you can live with and what is a deal breaker.
I will tell you this: For your marriage to be restored and healed, you must talk about what happened. You can’t move forward without this.
Note: How much detail you want to know is a personal preference. Some spouses want all the details so they can decide how to move forward. For others, it’s enough to know they cheated. They do not care about the specifics. It’s up to you.
Bottom line: You must be able to share your feelings openly with your spouse. To feel heard, respected and cared for is vital for a healthy marriage.
Questions to ask:
- Does your spouse show remorse? Or are they mad you are making a big deal out of this?
- Do they continue to live in secrecy – hiding their phone, text and emails from you?
- Are they transparent?
- Are they willing to live by your ‘rules’ as you heal?
Note: Please don’t use their failure as a way to manipulate. This may be a temptation. But refuse to hold them hostage. This is not about punishment. It is about rebuilding trust.
Figure out what do you need to say to them. Then say it!
Find out what you need to hear, know and feel from them. Then ask for it.
This will help you process your pain.
3. Take Time To Heal
Healing is a process. It will not come over night.
Taking a vacation to reconnect will not heal the marriage. Trust has been violated. It has to be rebuilt.
Getting away to reconnect is important. Just remember, what happened to you violated a sacred trust. This cannot be fixed with a new honeymoon experience. That may come AFTER you have reestablished trust. But not before. Keep that in mind.
Get personal counseling.
I don’t always recommend marriage counseling right of the bat.
But I do advise personal counseling to help you work through your grief and process your pain.
Find someone who specializes in trauma if possible.
There are no easy answers to how to make your marriage work again. But it is possible.
Wrapping It Up
Check out Part 2 in this series, ‘How To Deal with Infidelity.’
I’d love to get your feedback.
Have you been through a broken relationship?
What did you do to find healing?
Leave a comment below.
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