How to Make Your Relationship Thrive After an Affair
Affairs happen for many different reasons. The no. 1 reason is when a couple hasn’t met each other’s essential emotional needs, and instead of meeting this as a challenge, one partner gives up hope and goes outside of the relationship.
For the betrayed spouse this can feel like the ultimate betrayal. Some couples separate at this point. But if you and your partner want to save your marriage after an affair, there’s a lot that you can do. What I’m about to suggest is quite a narrow path, but practising for many years, if you follow these steps, your relationship will stand the best chance of not only recovering, but becoming better than ever before.
1) Stop the affair. This must happen before anything else.
2) Break contact with the ex-lover, forever. Practically, one of the best ways to do this is to write a letter saying how much upset the affair has caused the betrayed partner and how thoughtless and selfish the straying spouse was, and that the straying spouse is stopping all contact, forever.
It is good if both partners look over and agree the letter before it’s sent. Never say anything blaming nor cruel. Just be factual, accountable, and make sure they know that your partner is the No. 1 priority in your life, and the affair is ended forever. Then send the letter.
If it is impossible to stop seeing the person, say they straying spouse and ex-lover work together, it is vital to limit contact, and absolutely cease all social interactions, like lunch or dinner.
Also if it is possible, change offices or working environments. One person I coached had his post moved to France rather than stay in London, for the sake of his marriage.
Another reason to stop all contact is that as long as contact continues, even if there is no affair, the affair continues in the mind of the betrayed spouse. This in itself can cause a lot of psychological pain, as through proximity the straying spouses contact with their ex-lover maintains a perceived threat to the relationship. It shows great emotional intelligence and great integrity to stop all contact. Paradoxically both emotional intelligence and integrity are powerful attraction switches and qualities we develop the more use them.
3) Create Genuine 24/7 transparency. Give each other access to your phones, computer passwords, emails, and day to day activities and whereabouts. It is likely the straying spouse has been living a secret life and this goes a long way to reassuring the partner this has stopped and the straying spouse really means what they say – and is really putting the relationship as their No. 1 priority.
4) Continue to put lots of deposits into each other’s love banks daily. This may be a challenge for the straying spouse, who may feel a great deal of loss and may even begin to feel depressed. However, one of the best ways to get out of depression is by giving, and having a purpose greater than oneself.
For the betrayed spouse, putting deposits into the straying spouses love bank is essential. Although highly anti-intuitive this change in mindset from blame to contribution is something absolutely imperative and beneficial in itself for the well-being of the betrayed spouse’s own heart and in healing the relationship!
5) Both spouses must Move from Blame to Exploration. So that instead of hurting each other, as many couples do when faced with the discovery of an affair, through exploration you can begin to reach out for each other.
Though this experience is often life-shaking, one of the most laudable purposes both spouses can adopt is in learning from this experience and using it to meet each other in a more genuine way than ever before.
Moving from retribution and blame to exploration and consolidation can help two people move from conflict to beginning to work as a team.
Many couples who have never experienced an affair would give their eye teeth to really meet each other and work as team. That may be many couples dream! If it is yours’, changing mindsets from blame to exploration is one of the very best ways that can make this a reality.
6) Discover and meet each other’s core needs. You need to discover not only your partner’s needs, but the ways in which they need them to be met. People sometimes ask, “Why should I?” The truth is you should because as part of a couple if you want to live happily you need to think systemically. We can benefit from the truth of the saying, “If I do something good for you, it is good for the relationship, and therefore good for me.”
7) Make it your goal to Create a more passionate and better relationship than ever before. This is by far the most important step that underpins everything.
Many couples who come to me say that although they wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone, after going through the process they feel closer than ever before. This is because an affair can act as the trigger that gets couples to meet each others’ most important needs, and wanting to save their relationship gives them the fuel to grow as people and learn the skills through reading, therapy, or counselling, to take their relationship to the next level.
8) To Succeed in Saving Your Relationship You Must Adopt These Two Principles of Change:
A)If you want your partner to change, you must change too!
I have seen repentant partners’ willing to change – and even as they show sincere willing – the other partner immediately objects by reciting the story of how it has been in the past, how it is now, and how it is never going to change. This creates a stuckness. I immediately say to them if they want their partner to change, and they are showing willingness to change right before our eyes – you need to stop yourself – and when you do, you must allow the change in.
I tell them they have to allow their partner the opportunity to create something different. When we see their partner show genuine willingness before our eyes, don’t recite how it has been up until now – recognize it and welcome it and do it warmly and emotionally and mean it! Whatever has been before, Now is the only moment we have. And now is when change is happening.
This is one of the most powerful agents of change that any of us can be. Even when we see the first signs of change, we need to welcome it!
If your partner expresses the willingness to change, you may be doubtful they are changing, you may want proof that it will not be like before, words may not be enough for you, but if you really want to save your relationship let them and help them, don’t punish them for it!
Give them and yourself a chance. And if you need support to get unstuck, change your mindset, and create a way forwards you can believe in, you may want to find a successful marriage coach or counsellor who will unpack your mis-communication, help you learn the skills to understand your partner, meet their needs, and vice versa, and help keep you both on track.
But remember, only you can make the call as to the level of support you need.
B)If your partner makes the change you want, Celebrate!
When your partner does change, Celebrate it! Celebration is far more powerful than nagging, punishing, blaming, or anything else you can think of!
If you Celebrate the positive changes your partner is making – you and your partner will both find it much easier to grow in love. Even when you see the first signs of willingness, welcome it! This is one of the greatest lessons you can learn out of any challenge life has to offer and yourself become an instrument of positive change in your relationship!
9) Do You, not your partner. By that I mean, take responsibility for yourself. You are where all your power lies. By learning to self-soothe your own anxieties, self-validate and remain in touch with yourself, hold onto the best of yourself and hold your shape in a relationship in a loving way – and stay connected to your partner, who is very different than you – whatever state they are in – you are doing your part!
Finally, the most constructive attitude you can take is that the reason for the affair is to help you come together in a more real, intimate, and fulfilling way than ever before.
You are both likely to have strong emotions. You might want to sit with this idea, that the wisest thing to do is to use all your emotions, all your frustrations, pains, and desires, and take the energy from these emotions as your fuel for your purpose to create a better life and relationship.
John is the Affairs Couple Counsellor and Relationship Coach couples seek out exclusively to heal and repair their relationship after the heartbreak of affairs.
Call John today on 0800 024 86 47 or +44 (0) 785 44 55 286