I don’t love labels we give each other. I have read a blog written by someone who was caught being unfaithful, and he labeled himself an Adulterer –with a capital A. We are not our behaviors. We are people who choose all sorts of behaviors, good and bad, consciously and unconsciously.
If your intentional choice is to save your relationship, turn away from the behavior of infidelity, and to return to the behavior of faithfulness…
I submit these ideas for consideration. We’ve done some of these, and it helped. I wish we could do some of these, as I believe it would help.
Carefully confess it all. If your partner is asking questions, they want to know. Be intentional to avoid hiding, lying, or falsely minimizing what you’ve done. Have courage to answer every question with patience. Open the wound all the way, get all the infection out, so that it can start to heal.
It could be helpful to set aside a day and time to sit down and answer every question:
- Without interruptions from the outside world
- Without blaming anyone for your own choices
- With the help of a counselor, therapist, or psychologist if needed
- With breaks in the conversation, if/when needed by either partner
- With courage –this will be hard, for BOTH of you, and you’re choosing to be forthcoming
- With patience and compassion
Get a support system in place for yourself, ASAP. It sounds like a really tough thing to accomplish — finding people who will love you, try not to judge you, and who would want to get called to support duty as often as needed. We do know that you, too, are hurting. We know this. Your partner will need to receive comforting, so he or she isn’t going to be in a position to support you. Your support system should be safe people, who are capable of confidentiality. It helps when your support team knows each other. Choose people who will call you on your shit when what you’re saying needs the call out. Choose people who are good listeners, and have the life experience or innate capacity to give you sage advice. Don’t lean on people your partner will lean on. That’s not fair.
Encourage your partner to get a support system in place for themselves, ASAP. All the the same points above, except, I’d add they will need a whole host of people because there are too many bad days ahead. If your partner has the tendency to isolate, letting people in could be hard to do. It’s humiliating to tell people that your partner has had an affair. But this is not the time to let tendencies or pride stand in the way of getting emotional support.
Become an open book. Trust has been destroyed. You did this. You’ve got to live with the consequences if your desire is to save the relationship. Trust is earned, and it isn’t earned overnight.
- Share your user names and passwords to your non-work email and social media accounts, cell phone passwords, and cell phone bills.
- Be willing to show your partner what you’re doing as often and for as long as they ask. Work on your computer where your partner can easily see your computer screen/monitor.
- Limit the amount of time you’re on your phone to text and surf. It’s super hard to not get triggered when someone is knee deep into their cell phone.
- Block the affair partner from everything — social media, cell phone, and email if possible.
- If you have a home office, leave the door wide open unless absolutely necessary to have it closed.
- Say where you’re going, and how long you will be gone. Go where you said you’d go, and return when you said you would…or earlier. Use an app to share your location.
Meet your commitments. Your word has to mean something now because you’ve given your word to never do this again. That means YOU are responsible to track and keep your commitments, big and small. If you say you will pay a bill, pay it. If you say you will do laundry, do it. If you say you will pick up the kids on time, pick them up on time. And, you’re still allowed to be human. So, yeah you will miss a commitment from time to time. You should be the first person to bring that up. It sounds like this: “I forgot to [x]. I know it’s important, so I’ll take care of it right away. I’m really sorry.” (Notice there are no excuses in there.)
Check in, often. You’re just not going to believe how often your partner is going to have a sad day. So many sad days lie ahead; some in a row, and some out of the blue when things seem to be going well. “Are you having a hard day? Can I help?” Offer hugs. Offer hand-holding. Offer comfort in all the loving ways your partner wants it. Ask if they’d like to talk about anything, or if anything in particular has triggered them. Don’t shy away when your partner seems angry. Open communication and compassion are critical to healing.
And, the list of “avoids”:
- Avoid movies and TV shows where adultery is the theme. You’d be surprised how often this might happen. It’s awful.
- Avoid having the audacity to say the following:
- “We’ve already gone over this!”
- “How many times am I going to have to apologize…”
- “When will this be over?”
- “You’re not being fair.”
- Avoid any contact with the affair partner. They’re going to have to fend for themselves.
- Avoid blaming relationship problems on the affair — you chose the wrong path, period.
- Avoid talking about your needs not being met, until in a counseling setting.
- Avoid being defensive.
- Avoid getting angry over your partner’s words and emotions. They’re hurting, and they wouldn’t wish this on you in a million years.
- Avoid any hesitancy to get relationship/marriage counseling. If your partner wants it, you’re lucky. It will be hard, but it helps.
Just a reminder for the reader that I’m not a doctor, therapist or counselor. I don’t even have years of therapy under my belt (yet). This is just what has or would help me. Proceed with caution!
What has helped you? Comments welcomed.