Infidelity in a marriage can produce unbearable feelings of betrayal, devastation and shame. The impression that you were the one and only in your spouse's eyes may be diminished or gone. You may desire to rebuild trust and save your marriage but are at a loss as to how to go about doing that. Hope is essential to overcoming infidelity and saving your marriage. Janis Spring, clinical psychologist and author of "After the Affair," says the biggest roadblock in overcoming infidelity is the loss of hope.
1. Acknowledge and Agree
Acknowledge and agree to work through the problems in your marriage that led to the infidelity. Spring notes that when couples are able and willing to do this, they have a strong chance at saving their marriage. This is a difficult process, with many ups and downs, and may require you both to see a therapist. The person who was cheated on and the person who had the affair need to have their thoughts and feelings heard and validated in order to move forward in a healthy manner.
Although it is essential to communicate with your spouse in order to repair your marriage, it is next to impossible to do so if you are emotionally charged. In "Healing from Infidelity and Depression," therapist Rona Subotnik recommends clearing emotional toxicity from the environment before attempting to discuss matters concerning the affair. To begin, set aside a specific time each week to talk to each other about the issues surrounding the infidelity. Limit your time on each subject to 10 or 15 minutes, and keep your meetings to an hour each. If you find that your feelings become too intense, take a break from each other and come back to the discussion at a later time.
Generally, both people in the marriage feel pain. It can be difficult for you to empathize with your spouse after she cheated on you. Even with therapy, it may be difficult for you to accept and understand how the problems in your marriage led to this. In her book, "How Can I Forgive You?" Spring encourages acceptance of the infidelity rather than focusing on forgiving your spouse. You may discover you're unable to forgive the infidelity but are able to find comfort, work through your intense emotions, rebuild trust and remain married. Through acceptance, you can express your thoughts and feelings regarding the affair in a healthy manner.
4. Moving On
Although it may seem impossible to imagine now, at some point you will decide if you are able to let it rest and trust your spouse despite his infidelity. Accepting the infidelity will give you the mindset to look at the situation, forgive yourself for what you did to contribute to the marital problems and decide how to move forward. Continue to identify your feelings when they arise and share them with your spouse. Avoid ruminating. Remaining married should be a positive experience; use the infidelity to grow and learn from.