You Can Rebuild Your Marriage After An Affair
Written By: Mark Smith
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This is an extremely difficult issue that we deal with quite regularly. I will cover 4 extremely important principles concerning the issue of extra marital affairs.
1. There are absolutely NO victims in marriages, even if your spouse cheats on you! This is by far the most important concept that you will need to come to grips with. You will certainly feel victimized initially. Family and friends will certainly view you as a poor unfairly betrayed victim. Affairs do not occur in highly emotionally and sexually intimate marriages. They do occur with startling regularity in marriages that are distant, emotionally cutoff and lacking in intimacy and commitment.
Who did you chose to be solely in charge of loving you? Our marital choices are based on our unconscious "radar system" which attracts us to partners who basically will give us the same type and quality of love that we grew up with. If you had some form of abandonment from parents during your childhood - a father who died or abandoned the family when you were very young, a mother who wasn't there for you, or if you are adopted, there is a very strong chance that you will unconsciously select a marital partner who will abandon and betray you by having an affair once the honeymoon is over with. It just might be who they are. We are responsible for the choices that we have made in our lives. Our learning about the affair is our invitation to work really hard on our issues and ourselves and to learn what it all means about us. If you get this insight then the recovery process will be in full swing. If you don't then you will be mired in a dark, bitter, nasty, depressing and powerless place for a long time.
2. Playing the victim role will destroy whatever chance you had left of saving your marriage. Victimy reactions have caused more divorces than affairs ever caused. I try to explain it like this - if you go away on a vacation and you not only leave your front door unlocked, but you also leave it standing wide open, if you return home to discover that your DVD player has been stolen the you have not been victimized. You invited it. If you have a pretty young wife and you check out of the marriage in your insecure pursuit of "success", if you stop meeting her emotional needs then somebody is liable to some along and start to meet those needs in your stead. You need to own your part.
3. It is natural to try to grovel and to cling to the betraying spouse, but it is the exactly the wrong thing to do. The knowledge that your spouse has been with somebody else brings up powerful feelings of abandonment. These strong feelings many times sort of override our judgment in terms of what the next step should be. Non-emotional men usually become an absolute mess, but they then attempt to process the whole matter in 2 to 3 days, which is not healthy. They can't stand the pain so they skip the grieving process and arrive prematurely at a stance of "let's forgive and forget". However, clinging, pursuing and prematurely forgiving are all wrong moves at that point. You need to feel your anger (without getting victimy). I tell my clients that they need to take an invisible tape measure out of their pockets, measure just how far their spouses have backed up and then back up form them an equal distance. It means treating yourself with dignity, value and respect. Dr. James Dobson has a very helpful book on the subject of how to handle your spouse's affair in his book "Love Must Be Tough". Get a copy of it and read it through about five times. It will encourage you to set healthy and appropriate boundaries rather than weakly giving in to your spouse's inappropriate behavior.
4. Therapy is an absolute must. If your spouse is truly penitent, and if they desperately want to work on the marriage, then therapy together as soon as possible is a foregone conclusion. You have to fix the underlying problems that caused the affair to begin with. "I'm sorry and I promise to never do it again" just won't cut it. Your marriage is crying for professional intervention. The affair isn't the problem; it is a symptom of a bigger problem. If you stick your head back in the sand and just move on without fixing anything it will happen again. The pain of your marital crisis is the perfect opportunity to get into therapy and to fix whatever needs fixed.
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