An oft-repeated recommendation to anyone who’s been affected by infidelity is to get counseling.
And for many couples, counseling can be a sound resource to help them decide whether or not to reconcile or end the relationship.
But for many couples, counseling isn’t an option.
In some cases, it would present a financial hardship, adding more stress to an already stressful situation. In other cases, feelings of shame or humiliation may prevent a couple from wanting to discuss their problems with someone else.
Or, maybe a couple with a very independent style prefers to go it alone because that is what best fits their lifestyle. In any event, it is possible for marriage to survive infidelity without counseling.
Mike and Michelle have been struggling since her affair was revealed three months ago. He keeps wondering why she did it, where she did it, and with whom, and it’s eating him alive; he’s devastated.
She feels crushing guilt for putting her husband through this. Neither can move forward because they are both dwelling on what happened. They need to get perspective in order to move forward.
Mike and Michelle can’t change what happened, but they can both change how they look at the infidelity. They can use this “bad” thing as a spark to ignite a “good” thing.
Find The Purpose
When a relationship is affected by infidelity, it is immensely painful. One way to take healing into your own hands is to dedicate yourself giving pain a purpose. By attributing some value to your experience, it can become more of a lesson learned than a “that terrible thing that happened to me.”
Ask yourselves what can you take away from the experience that makes you a better person? Use this insight to help you both heal and grow, both individually and together.
Commit to a New Beginning
A couple that makes a conscious decision to commit themselves to starting over can begin to move forward. Simply choosing to survive the affair can help a couple start over – really start over, as in, from the beginning.
“Date” your spouse again. Offer to be an “open book” to your spouse. Rebuild that trust and intimacy that was lost. Do little things for each other, like buy flowers or make a favorite meal. Small actions can make a big impact when two people are trying to find their footing again as a couple after infidelity.
It would not shock anyone to think that a spouse who’s been cheated on isn’t feeling very loving towards their partner. And the spouse who did the cheating may have feelings of their own that make affection towards their spouse difficult, such as guilt, anger, or resentment.
Those negative feelings – justified or not – hold you back from moving forward. And while it could never be suggested that overcoming an affair is quick, easy, or painless, behaving like you love – or at least care – about your partner can go a long way to helping couples heal.
In short, act loving to feel loving. No one is suggesting that this behavior will magically fix the problems in a marriage, but it can be much easier to address differences and work together toward a shared goal if you at the very least genuinely feel like your spouse cares about you.
Honor Your Feelings
Infidelity naturally stirs up all kinds of feelings, and they can be utterly overwhelming. If they are ignored and swept under the rug, they could have a damaging long-term effect on the marriage, to say nothing of a person’s physical and mental health.
Give yourself space to think about the affair. It is important to give in to those feelings, wallow in them if need be, and honor them.
And then stop.
Compartmentalizing your thinking can be a useful tool for managing feelings after an affair. While these emotions must be recognized in order to be dealt with, “scheduling” time for reflection can keep the process from overtaking other important areas of life.
This strategy can help a couple keep their focus on moving forward instead of getting mired in the affair, no matter how long ago it happened.
Working Without a Counselor
There’s no hard and fast rule about couples engaging with the services of a professional counselor after a marriage has been rocked by an affair. It is certainly possible for a couple to honestly and effectively acknowledge and move on from infidelity on their own.
In doing so, both the person who cheated and the person who didn’t need to be fair and honest, while purposefully seeking the “bright side” of things, and actively working to show their partner their best sides, at all times.
These activities, and more along these lines, could help a couple preserve their relationship, surviving and thriving, in the face of infidelity.