Adultery affects approximately 50 percent of married individuals, according to Dr. Willard Harley, relationship expert and author of “His Needs, Her Needs.” A June 2011 ABCNews.com story reveals that men and women cheat at about the same rate, although women often cheat to gain emotional connection and men often cheat to gain sex. If you cheat, your marriage could fail, but repenting and hard work may save your marriage.
1. Confession and Forgiveness
Confessing your adultery and asking your spouse for forgiveness is important to the repentance process. Be completely honest about what you did, taking responsibility for your behavior, rather than blaming your spouse for your choices. Use “I” messages such as “I felt neglected and don't feel like we have an emotional connection. I'm sure that isn't your intent and I'm sorry that I used that as an excuse to cheat.” A sincere apology can pave the way for reconciliation if the cheater apologizes for breaking trust and the victim apologizes for not meeting the cheater's emotional needs, notes Harley. However, there is no guarantee honesty and an apology will be accepted by the offended spouse, according to clinical psychologist Jennifer Brobst. Some will decide the breech of trust is so great that trust can never be rebuilt.
2. Breaking the Connection
A full and complete break with the affair partner is necessary to rebuild the marriage. You might go through withdrawal symptoms similar to those suffered by substance abuse addicts, tempting you to fall back into a relationship with the affair partner. Breaking off the connection could require you to find a new job, move to another location, rid your home of anything that reminds of the affair partner and let your partner know where you are every minute of the day. Harley suggests that you spend three weeks with your spouse on a continual basis after confessing the affair, to reduce the chances of returning to the affair partner, and then commit to spend 15 hours together each week.
3. Committing Again
Maintaining the marriage means both spouses must commit to the marriage. Commit to making your partner happy, avoiding angry or disrespectful behavior, pursuing activities that you both enthusiastically agree to and meeting each other’s top five basic emotional needs. Top emotional needs may include expressing affection and admiration, honesty and openness, communication, domestic and financial support, recreational support, family time, sexual activity and being sexually attractive to your spouse. Couples should work together to identify the most important emotional needs and actions, then meet those needs on a consistent basis, advises Harley.
4. Getting Help
Many couples need professional help to get past the betrayal and hurt of infidelity. A licensed therapist can help identify where your marriage is strong and where it’s weak, provide support for your recovery with suggested reading and homework assignments and improve communication. You need to be honest with your therapist, to get the most out of therapy. Even if you aren’t successful in rebuilding your marriage, the therapist can help you rebuild your emotional foundation and avoid repeating similar mistakes in another relationship.
- Marriage Builders: Coping with Infidelity, Part 3 -- Restoring the Marital Relationship
- ABCNews.com: Equal Opportunity Cheating: Women and Men Cheat at Same Rate
- Marriage Builders: Four Rules to Guide Marital Recovery After an Affair
- Theravive: Life After An Affair: Adultery Help
- Mayo Clinic: Infidelity: Mending Your Marriage After an Affair
- Marriage Builders: How to Survive Infidelity
- His Needs, Her Needs; Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr.
- The Love Busters; Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr.
- Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images