Finding out your spouse cheated is devastating, but learning how to rekindle the marriage will ultimately be something you’ll want to work for.
You may not feel that way at first, but if you’re like most couples who go through the nightmare of infidelity…you’ll want to rebuild.
Here’s how to do that.
First, stop believing the myths.
Most couples go through an initial stage of believing the myth that infidelity is a relationship killer. For some it does spell the end but for the majority of couples who experience cheating, nothing could be further from the truth.
Even when cheating occurs over and over again, a marriage can be saved.
That’s not to say it’s an easy path- healing from infidelity is hard work and it’s a process that takes place over time with lots of learning involved. But there’s a big difference between something that’s impossible and something which simply offers a challenge.
Next, understand your reactions.
If you’re wondering how to rekindle your marriage, then it’s a safe guess that you’re beyond the initial shock of learning about the cheating. But it’s OK if you’re not: therapists say that the strain that infidelity poses on a marriage causes a form of temporary insanity.
Much like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the effects of finding out your spouse cheated on you can make you lose your mind, at least temporarily. You can’t eat, can’t sleep, and certainly can’t keep your attention span focused on your job or any other facets of your normal life.
Nothing seems real, and you can easily become disconnected from each part of your life: your job, your family, your friends- everything is viewed through the dark lenses of the cheating that’s wrecked everything.
It’s important to know that all these feelings are 100% authentic and normal. There’s actually research that compares the effects of cheating on the betrayed spouse to actual PTSD. Both leave a person disoriented and often depressed and anxious.
For this reason, immediately seeking out a divorce attorney when you find out about an affair is premature. That brings us to the next step…
Then, make sure the it’s the end of the affair(s).
The reason it’s a mistake to file divorce papers right away is that most affairs fizzle out and die. And if they don’t fizzle and die on their own, you can work with your spouse to decide to end them.
Affairs are exciting at first because of the novelty, and they’re quite addictive as well. They make people feel renewed and excited about life. But usually that wears off as soon as the two realize everyone comes with both the good and the bad.
In other words, lovers eventually bring their emotional baggage, their quirks, their issues and problems into the affair. That’s the number one killer of infatuation!
If this hasn’t already happened with the cheating spouse, then it’s up to him or her to actively end the affair before you can work together on how to rekindle your marriage.
Then, open all lines of communication and keep them there.
Questions will need to be asked, and answers will need to be given. It’s time for the cheater to become an open book- about the facts of the affairs as well as the emotions felt.
If multiple affairs occurred, it’s no different. As long as the affairs are over with and the couple wants this to work, it’s the same process. But you will have to ask if there’s an addiction problem …an addiction to sex, that is. There’s even an addiction to romance, which can also exhibit itself in multiple affairs.
Keep in mind that many have gone before you.
Sadly, infidelity happens to both happy and unhappy marriages. Countless couples have gone through this too and have felt the same way you do now. That may not make you feel any better when you’re caught in the throes of anger and shock after first learning of the cheating. However, after you’ve gained control of your emotions you’ll be able to find some comfort in numbers.
Here are some more numbers for you, more encouraging this time:
80% of couples who have extramarital affairs actually stay married.
-Wall Street Journal columnist Elizabeth Bernstein
Ms. Bernstein reported that uplifted fact in a 2012 article in the Wall Street Journal. Her take on the matter was that other factors play a bigger role in determining whether a couple stays together. These factors include how long the affair lasted and how emotionally involved the cheating spouse actually become during the affair(s).
Find a system for getting back on track.
Rekindling your marriage is not going to happen overnight, and it’s not going to be easy. Those are certainly not reasons to give up but they are reasons to find help.
Help doesn’t always come in the forms we immediately think of. What comes to mind for many couples is probably what they’ve heard on TV, in books, online, and from friends & family: see a therapist.
That can lead you down a path you may not want to take, though. Many therapists are prone to funneling their clients into divorce as a way of finding personal happiness. Counselors are traditionally trained to preserve and protect individual happiness at the expense of relationships.
There’s a system for surviving infidelity and rekindling your marriage, and it can be learned many ways. A therapist or counselor is not the only path to saving your marriage.
Plenty of self-help books and programs exist for couples in your situation- and if you really want to save your marriage you can make them work for you.
Finally, aim for forgiveness.
Ask any couple who’s been through this and survived, and they’ll tell you that forgetting about the cheating in their marriage never happens (how could you be expected to forget something so traumatic?)
The trauma of how you felt when you discovered the cheating is actual pain…and that does fade with time. You can heal pain, you can dampen negative thoughts, and you will eventually be able to cope with the memories.
Forgiveness is required, however. Holding a grudge will tie both you and your spouse to the worst thing that ever happened to your relationship, and then there’s no chance for survival. But once you forgive, love can begin to flourish again and happiness together is yours.