Married couples whose lives have been disrupted by infidelity face a certain fact: their marriage will never be the same. Whether that leads to divorce or to a stronger marriage in the end, is in large part determined by how much effort and patience go into saving the marriage.
Partners who devote themselves to redefining their marriage after infidelity stand a fighting chance of ending up with an even better marriage than they had before.
One thing both professionals and those who have been there before you agree on is that you will need to alter your habits. Both spouses will need to change the old ways of behavior that no longer work if they are to become happy and whole again.
Use these fifty mind-hacks to replace old habits with a new way of thinking, and you’ll be well on your way to emerging from your crisis and on to pursuing a happier, stronger marriage.
#1. Use Affirmations Effectively
If affirmations don’t work for you, consider the fact that you may be investing your energy and hope into (a) unrealistic ones you don’t really believe in or (b) generic affirmations that are too vague and broad-ranging. The key to making affirmations work is two-fold:
- Be specific. Take your affirmation from pie-in-the-sky platitude to something you can achieve
- Make sure you believe in the message at a gut level
Anyone can say: “I have a happy, strong marriage and I trust my partner”, but that is not really an affirmation—it’s wishful thinking. On the other hand, telling yourself daily: “We can survive this crisis” can be a powerful boost to your confidence and outlook, if you pair it with a plan of action.
#2. Change your Glass
Are you a “glass-half-empty” person? If so, call yourself on these negative, doom-and-gloom self-messages. Say: “Oops, that’s a glass-half-empty thought. Let’s turn this around and transform this thought into glass-half-full.”
It may feel contrived and your heart may not be in this little exercise at first, especially in light of the recent stress in your marriage—but if you persevere, you will soon discover that deliberately changing glass-half-empty thoughts to glass-half-full ones increases:
#3. Cut Toxic People Out of Your Life
As human beings, we can’t help but be influenced by what the people around us say and do. Inevitably, toxic people come into our lives—people who drag us down instead of building us up (or at least, not harming us!).
If someone drains you of energy, makes you lose confidence or feel worse about yourself, cut off contact. This is easier said than done, since we all want to be loved or at least liked. Try applying a checklist. Ask yourself: “Does that person…
- Talk only about themselves?
- Focus solely on what I can do for them?
- Make me feel stressed or heavy at the thought of interacting with them?
- Suck me into a negative mind-frame?
- Make me doubt my abilities?”
If you answered yes to even one of these, time to either change your responses—or cut the cord.
#4. Reframe Negative Thoughts
The damage may be done. A cheating incident in your marriage has left you with poor self-esteem or poor processing habits, and the belief that you can’t save your marriage. You may even have adopted a mentality of doom, causing you to think “I’ll never get this marriage back together, I may as well give up: a happy marriage is not for me”.
No matter how completely the infidelity has turned your marriage upside down and messed with your head space, you can make the decision to change that—starting today. One successful technique that psychologists use is called “re-framing”. Here’s how to do it:
- Take a negative, habitual thought
- Filter it in an objective manner through the light of reality
- Replace your negative thought with a positive but realistic, corrected version
You can do this with any type of thought—business or personal. (For example, change “I always screw up” with: “I don’t always screw up. Sometimes I make mistakes, like everybody else—but I learn from them.”)
#5. Avoid “All-or-Nothing” Thinking
A particular type of highly destructive self-talk is known in psychological circles as “all-or-nothing thinking”. To ensure you don’t do it, watch out particularly for the words “always” or “never” in self-talk: For example, “I always fail at everything I do” or “I’ll never be able to trust him/her again.”
All-or-nothing thinking is just another way of beating yourself up, and strips away both personal power and confidence. If you catch yourself making an all-or-nothing statement, reframe it instantly to a more realistic, empowering thought.
(E.g.: “Lots of people learn how to rebuild trust: I can choose to remain stubborn or I can just take my time, work on it every day with my spouse—and never give up until that trust comes back.”)
#6. Avoid Catastrophizing
Are you a catastrophizer? Is every setback that happens the end of the world? Do you scream things like “our marriage is FINISHED” if you have a small setback, instead of simply admitting that sometimes progress is slow? Yes, this is just another form of beating yourself up.
Even if you do experience a disaster—(for example, you awake one night in panic, having dreamed that you got caught re-handed in an affair, causing all the self-doubt and anxiety to come rushing back)—realize that in the large scheme of things, this is frustrating but not really the end of your world.
Treat it as a learning experience. (Example: “Dreams are not real- they’re just the mind’s way of processing my emotions.”)
#7. Ask Lots of Questions
The only way your marriage will survive and thrive is if both you and your spouse ask each other a lot of questions. That’s how you’ll find out why the affair happened in the first place…and that’s what you need to discover if you’re going to eliminate the reasons infidelity entered your life.
#8. Set a Limit on Worry Time
If you are a chronic worrywart or a particular task or event is causing you to worry, table it. Set aside a specific time to worry (e.g. “I’m going to think about this from 10:15 a.m. to 10:40”). Then when you start to fret about it, tell yourself: “It’s not worry time yet—I’ll put that aside till later”.
#9. Realize that Respect is Important at All Times
Remember: even if you were the “victim” in the cheating events, your spouse’s feelings are to be respected at all times. Let him or her speak when you’re discussing the affair. Hear him/her out, and really try to see things from a different perspective. It’s a sign of respect, and also an admittance that it really takes two to mess up a marriage.
#10. Recognize that Feelings May Follow Actions—Not Precede Them
Most people give up too easily when they are attempting to change mental habits. This happens because they expect their feelings to change instantly. The more negativity or powerlessness is ingrained in our habitual thoughts, the longer it takes to “break” that response. Go through exercises such as reframing anyway and one day before too long, you’ll find your feelings will eventually follow.
#11. See Failure as a Learning Opportunity
This is no trite platitude. The most successful marriages aren’t the ones that are perfect all the time: They are the ones that experience potholes but they get up, take notes of what didn’t work, discuss—and keep going. True failure is never trying to save your marriage in the first place.
#12. Focus Outward
Our worst worries, fear and paralysis behaviors and mindsets occur when we are focused inward—on ourselves. Focus outward instead: On how you are going to help your spouse understand why you cheated (if you were the cheater); or how much it will help not just you but your spouse as well if you change your negative emotions and begin to focus on hope.
#13. Find your Passion
Even if you’re stuck on an issue with your spouse which you can’t instantly solve (such as why the affair took place), look for what you are truly passionate about within your marriage: What in this current relationship makes you happy, instills you with hope and confidence, and brings satisfaction?
Find a way to tap into that. Tweak your routines,do things together you both love—and most important, adjust your overall everyday habits so that you are more closely following the path that inspires you towards your goals for a happy marriage.
#14. Realize that You are Already a Success
You are still together. You have both picked yourself up and dusted yourself off so many times, it has become a habit. And if you’ve unsuccessfully tried strategy after strategy, don’t be discouraged. You’re in the company of truly great marriages like President Bill Clinton and Hilary Clinton.
Even if you have a string of failures behind you, this only means you’ve already proven you have the Number One trait of all truly successful marriages: Tenacity. You never give up. So keep on keeping on—and congratulate yourself for being on the right track.
#15. Avoid Analysis Paralysis
Did you know that over-analyzing can be another form of procrastination—or at the very least, avoidance behavior? Especially if it is stopping you from branching out or taking any sort of risk. To get past this, get into the habit of setting cut-off dates.
(“On Tuesday the sixteenth, no matter how unprepared I feel, I’m just going to get up the courage to ask my spouse why he/she had an affair”) Giving yourself a definite cut-off date and making a commitment to stick to it can help focus your thinking and spur you into action.
#16. Beware of the Feedback Loop
Are you addicted to collecting feedback and opinions before taking each step? Do you ask everyone in your family, members of your Facebook Group and the membership site you belong to? (If you added “the mailman, my hairdresser, my son’s two best friends and the family dog”, the answer is definitely “yes!”) Cut this number drastically.
Pre-select only the people who have given you professionally-valid and knowledgeable advice: Who can be honest without cutting you down—those who provide constructive criticism you can use to improve, rather than those who might just be interested in seeing you get revenge or leave your spouse.
Asking too many people indiscriminately for feedback can actually signal a huge lack of confidence. Limit the number to under half a dozen—and chose them with care. (Think “good listener” more than “feedback provider”.)
#17. Cultivate Self-awareness
Being self-aware doesn’t mean beating yourself up or giving yourself negative messages: It means assessing yourself as objectively as you would assess anyone else. Get into the habit of asking yourself questions like:
- What am I doing well?
- What do I have trouble with?
- What could I do better? How?
- What am I doing too much of?
- How does my spouse see me?
- How do I see myself?
Done properly, not only can this help you succeed—it’s also very insightful as you uncover each possibility.
#18. Learn to Develop Radar
This is a particular component of the self-awareness process: “Radar” occurs when a little alarm bell goes off in your brain or gut, telling you (if you catch it and actually stop to listen to it) that something is either wildly exciting and therefore full of potential/right for you… or completely off-kilter.
Most people are so caught up in worry or activity that they ignore these barely-noticeable frissons—but you should learn to count them as invaluable micro-clues to staying on course for success.
#19. Be Secretly Prepared
Even the most spontaneous marriages are secretly full of well-planned techniques for dealing with barriers. Setbacks and curveballs rarely rattle them because they have set in place systems and habits to deal with every eventuality.
These are the couples who know the signs of a breakdown in communication, and have learned techniques for avoiding them, or at the very least for getting themselves back on track when it happens. Being ready for for communication breakdowns doesn’t mean you’re inviting them to happen: It means being prepared for more than one scenario and giving yourself the freedom to take risks.
#20. Act on the Easy Stuff
Reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed by doing anything that is going to be easy and straightforward for the both of you. You’ll feel much more relaxed and accomplished if you can get some small successes under your belts. Find common ground on anything, even if it’s that you both love chocolate cake.
#21. Change your Environment While Discussing
Getting tired? Feeling stale? If so, try changing your environment—not just by going for a walk or doing a little gardening, but physically taking your conversation to another location. Instead of the living room couch, talk on the patio during summertime. Try a café during colder seasons.
#22. Know your Triggers
If you find yourself shutting down , don’t worry so much about the cause: Find your triggers. What sends you into Avoidance-Land? Is it a particular topic you are sensitive about? The fact that you keep having bouts of jealousy? A particularly unpleasant memory?
One that reminds you of the other man or other woman? Sometimes when we identify causes and triggers, we are able to deflate the bogeyman. (“Hey, the affair is over. So what if this waitress talks like her?”).
Most important, however: Recognizing and naming a trigger takes away its power. We then feel empowered to make proactive choices and deal with what is making us want to shut down communications.
#23. Reward yourself
This isn’t a new concept—yet too many couples seem to forget about it due to worrying and focusing on rescuing their marriage. The most successful marriages, however, know how to enjoy the perks of marriage.
Choose yours carefully and fit them in. (So you can’t afford a weekend at a luxury resort right now—but maybe you can invest in a “reading afternoon” or a bunch of fresh flowers every weekend.) When you see tangible evidence of your hard work bring about a reward, it is much easier to feel balanced, accomplished, happier—and more confident. So consider this a necessary investment!
#24. Upgrade your Bedroom
When you’re both ready, renovating your bedroom can be a wonderfully uplifting- and powerfully symbolic- way to make a fresh start. Ditch the old sheets and buy a nice new set, or treat yourselves to a new mattress- comparing something like whether a leesa vs casper mattress is better
or simply go whole hog and go for a total redecorating scheme.
#25. Set Ground Rules—for Yourself!
If you constantly find yourself reactively responding to family or friends who don’t seem to understand you are building your marriage back from the ground up and that it takes a lot of time with your spouse, set ground rules: Not just for your nearest and dearest, but for yourself.
For example, set aside “us time” and tell the worst offenders you won’t be available during that time period every day. Then respect your own rules if they don’t get it. Don’t answer the door. Don’t pick up the phone if you see their names on Call Display.
Don’t answer emails or Facebook PMs. Concentrate on your spouse and the hard work at hand. If you stick to your guns, they will eventually realize you mean what you say: But if you make exceptions, you’ve only yourself to blame when they don’t understand why can’t hang out (If you don’t respect yourself and your marriage, they won’t!)
#26. Identify your Weak Points—and Plan Around them
Knowing your weaknesses is the first step to managing—and overcoming—their negative effects. The key is to identify them without judging yourself. For example, if you know that you will get distracted watching TV when you should really be working hard on quality time with your spouse to save your marriage, cancel your cable subscription for a month or two and stay focused.
#27. Break it Down into Bite-sized Chunks
This is especially true for any task that overwhelms you. If the thought of discussing your marriage and taking responsibility has you running to clean the silverware, just so you won’t have to face it, then break that task down into “baby steps”.
Set daily goals that are easily manageable, no matter how overwhelmed you feel: For example, think of just one tiny thing you might have done in the past that caused a breakdown in your marriage. Add this to the conversation and focus on the one event rather than trying to figure out all at once why someone cheated.
#28. Keep Talking and Keep Listening, Even When it Seems to be Taking Forever to Heal
Find ways to keep the conversation going. You can’t speed up the healing process, because that would downplay how important it is. Just be patient, and if you were the cheater, just be prepared to do a lot of listening…your spouse will have a lot to say, and it might be a long time before they get it all out. Just keep listening no matter how long it takes.
#29. Learn to Accept Help From Friends & Family
Make the most of family and friends who love to do tasks you hate. If they understand how hard you and your spouse are working, you might be able to enlist their help.
A break from chores, errands and duties might just be the ticket for you and your spouse to get some quality time in to work on your marriage. And don’t forget to thank and reward those who help you out.
#30. Plan for Professional Help
No one can do everything alone (even though many people pretend they do). Even healthy marriages sometimes enlist professional therapy for a new perspective on issues they’re facing.
#31. Honor your Communication Style
Sometimes the reason we find communication so difficult or find that systems others praise just don’t work for us lies in the fact that we have a different communication style. Approach conversations from different angles and try to foster a positive style of communicating.
#32. Drastically Trim To-do Lists
Speaking of lists, we tend to put too many items on our daily to-do lists; then get discouraged and disheartened when we continually don’t accomplish most of them. From now on, focus only on your top three priorities.
Don’t add any more issues to cover until you’ve finished those three. (After that, it’s totally optional!) And recognize that if you get a minimum one baby step forward each day, you have legitimate grounds to celebrate!
#33. Take Walks Together
Taking a walk together not only helps bring oxygen to cells and restore circulation to the body, it also helps refresh and clear the mind. Talking about heavy issues gets a whole lot easier when your body is moving and your mind is fresher.
#34. Drop the Blame Model
Don’t spend every conversation with your spouse trying to assign blame for what happened. Blaming each other won’t save your marriage. Instead, get into the habit of analyzing daily how you can convert your experience into building blocks for a stronger marriage.
#35. Adopt a “Motto of the Month”
Set a big but achievable goal for each month. Find a quote or motto that sums up what that goal is all about. Print out or write your motto for the month and pin it up in a visible spot: For example, over your desk.
Refer to it often, and repeat it to yourselves aloud at least three times a day. Adopting a motto related to your main monthly goal can help keep you focused and on target—as well as inspired.
#36. Be Grateful for the Small Things
Even if your life is in a shambles, you can usually find three things per day that you both are grateful for. Get into the habit of starting your morning out by choosing three things you are grateful for that day—no matter how basic or “silly” these three things may be–and naming them aloud.
Smile when you say “Today I am grateful for…”, even if you don’t feel like it: Smiling will help shift your mindset and raise your energy.
#37. Ask Yourself What you Want to Remember About Today
Another way to get focused very quickly in a positive way is to decide what you want to remember about “today”. What is really important about this one day in time, which will never come again. If you focus on this sincerely, and do it, the results may surprise—and uplift—you.
#38. Hang Out with Positive People
There’s a second part to getting rid of toxic people in your life: Actively replace them positive people instead. If you rid yourself of the overly-critical or doom-and-gloomers, you’ll quickly find yourself attracting more of the same type if you don’t seek out positive people to connect with.
Hanging out with positive people will raise your energy and vibrations—and toxic people will no longer be attracted to you.
#39. Creating More of What you Want
Every time you find yourself particularly enjoying something—anything at all, from the smallest breakthrough to the wonderful feeling of making significant progress—get into the habit of asking yourselves: “How can we create more of this?” In order to create more of something, you need to let go of something else; so the second part of this question is: “How do we get rid of …?”
In order to create more of what you want, you need to focus on it, live it, breathe it—and plan for more. It doesn’t just happen on its own. So go after what you love—and what makes you feel excited to be alive.
#40. Learn to Like Yourself
In addition to waking up every morning and counting aloud three things you feel grateful for, name three things you like about yourself. Try these two little exercises for a month, and see what a difference it makes to your mood and confidence level.
#41. Ask Yourself Positive, Proactive Questions
If you start out your self-questioning with “why”, you are most likely a pessimist. “Why” can signify helplessness—not a feeling you want to encourage. Change your self-questioning openers to “what” and “how”, to shift to a more proactive, self-empowered headspace. (Example: Change “why can’t I move beyond anger?” to: “What do I need to do, to make sure I am making progress towards letting go of anger?”)
#42. Understand Why You’re Still a Perfectionist
Ever wondered why you can’t lose your perfectionist ways? Most likely, you had a parent or teacher who dinned it into you that perfectionism was next to godliness. This is an underlying conviction you may not realize you’re stuck with. Give yourself permission to acknowledge that this way of thinking is actually a cognitive distortion.
Perfectionism is the very opposite of a good marriage, which is all about embracing the adventure of life. Doing your best doesn’t mean it has to be perfect: So don’t re-hash that subject if you’ve already covered it sufficiently—just finish it and let it go with your blessing.
#43. Follow the WTWTCH Formula
Are you afraid to take risks? Do you have “roadblocks” that are limiting your potential? For some, it can be a fear of admitting mistakes in your marriage. For others, dealing with low self esteem issues that affect your relationship.
It can even be as small as not asking a question that you’d love to ask. Instead of concentrating on your fear, ask yourself: “What’s the worst that could happen?” Once in a blue moon, yes, you’ll realize that things are definitely risky to the point of death-defying—but more often than not, the answer is something like: “Well, I might gain insight if I own up to a few mistakes”.
#44. Stay Connected
There’s a tendency among those hashing out deeply personal issues like saving their marriage to become accidental shut-ins; especially at first, when struggling to learn every facet of the affair. But humans are social animals: It’s important to make connections and stay connected—not just in your social life, but in your business life too.
Schedule a weekly or monthly meeting with old friends or your family so you can stay connected. Having the support and company of others not only helps us find answers to questions, it sandpapers our rough corners and helps us realize who we are in connection to our world.
#45. Show Empathy, No Matter How Emotional Your Spouse May Get
This is for the cheater, mostly. Your spouse will show emotions- strong emotion. He/She has the right to be angry or devastated and you must learn to show empathy while they express these strong emotions during your discussions.
#46. Lose the Word “Should”
There was a saying back in the nineties: “Don’t `should’ on me, and I won’t `should’ on you”. And it’s still as relevant today as it was then. “Should” is a word all about powerlessness. It’s soaked in guilt, regret and failure.
It’s all about making yourself do what you actually hate doing (and often what others think you “should” do). And that’s not what a marriage—or success—is all about. Throw the word “should” away if you want to feel happier. Either do it—or don’t.
#47. Drop Three Things per Day Not Pertinent to Saving Your Marriage
We talked earlier about focusing only on three top priorities: Now take that one step further, and look for three things it would be a relief to drop every day, if they’re not relevant to saving your marriage. This is a time for focusing on your marriage, not fulfilling other social obligations.
There will be time for that later but right now you must focus on the task at hand: saving your marriage! Don’t want to throw a wedding shower for a friend- find someone else to do it! Not ready to make the rounds of Holiday parties together- don’t! Hate to do housework? Hire a cleaning lady and focus on surviving infidelity instead.
#48. Narrow your Focus
Overwhelmed by distractions or multi-tasking? Try focusing only on one single task or responsibility at a time, ignoring everything else.
#49. Nurture Your Relationships
If you want to be truly in touch with life, don’t lose touch with the people that matter to you. Make time for close friends. Remember to thank and appreciate them for supporting you. Begin and end the day by hugging and kissing your your children.
And if you don’t have any other humans to hug, be sure to make time for your dog or cat! Truly successful, happy marriages aren’t all about work: They know the importance of nurturing and maintaining the relationships that make a life well-rounded and complete.
When so much emphasis is on doing, achieving, producing in the post-infidelity landscape, many couples forget to really stop and listen. Listen to each other. Listen to yourself. Make notes of things that strike you (it’s guaranteed you may not remember them later, if you don’t). Follow up on things promised or concerns expressed. The most successful couples know how to listen—and follow through.
Finally, realize that these mind-hacks are not something you “should” do. Pick and choose, adapting them to your marriage personality. They are here for you to pick up and use, like instruments, so you can fine-tune your marriage and your life to finally create true happiness and a stronger marriage.
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