Learning that your spouse cheated on you is one of the most painful experiences you could ever have. But thinking that the marriage may be over can be even more painful.
How can you know if the marriage is salvageable? How can you dare to hope that the two of you will recover?
There are a myriad of complex factors in every situation. But we have seen marriages recover in the following four situations.
You still love this person, even though he or she hurt you.
Love isn’t just an irrational emotion. It’s built on something. It’s built on knowing and being known, being accepted and being wanted. It has beautiful memories of meaningful moments. When you learn that your spouse cheated on you, your mind will start to relive some of the beautiful times you’ve had together. Relish those memories. Allow them to strengthen you for the tough time you are in now.
Love is a choice you made in the past and you have every right to make in the present and future. Well-meaning people may try to “help” you make up your mind about moving forward with your marriage. YOU are the one who will live with your choice. If you know you love your spouse, you know you love your spouse. You don’t have to convince anyone else of anything.
Love understands that people are more than the bad decisions they may make. If you know you love your spouse, there is much hope your marriage can be saved.
The unfaithful spouse asks for forgiveness.
When a spouse is unfaithful and the betrayed spouse finds out, the unfaithful spouse may feel helpless to know what to do next. He or she may experience extreme guilt and shame. He or she may feel completely helpless to make the faithful spouse feel better. He or she may feel utter despair at the prospect of having a good life ever again. He or she may say and do things that exacerbate the situation, even after disclosure or discovery of the affair.
Affair discovery or disclosure is a time of extremely intense emotion and further poor choices may be made in the aftermath. It will feel like riding an emotional roller coaster for all people involved.
But if the unfaithful spouse is willing to talk, there is hope. If the unfaithful spouse takes the blame, apologizes, and asks forgiveness with a broken and humble attitude, there is much hope that the marriage can be saved.
One thing that’s helpful to realize is that some people suck at apologizing. They are not good at taking the blame for the wrong without passing out a little blame at the same time. They are not good at assuming a humble attitude and sometimes sound defensive or just plain angry.
Chances are, the faithful spouse knows their partner well enough to know if apologizing is his or her strong suit. So even if the apology is lacking, the faithful spouse may be able to see through the mucked up apology and be able to understand if there is genuine intent or not. If there is genuineness in the apology, the skill of better apologizing can always be addressed in future coaching.
The unfaithful spouse is confused about what he/she wants for the future.
Obviously this scenario could be the trickiest to work through. However, it is completely possible to work through the confused feelings of the unfaithful spouse.
Let’s assume that the unfaithful spouse has already broken off the relationship with the third party. Yet he or she may not be able to see a future with his or her spouse. There are so many negative or ambivalent feelings toward the marriage that the unfaithful spouse simply isn’t sure it’s worth trying to restore. A relationship coach can help the couple clarify the underlying issues. Chances are they have gone back and forth for a long time over some of the same hurt feelings and grievances. It’s time for the marriage to get some outside help.
If the unfaithful spouse has not yet broken off the affair and is not willing to seek marriage coaching, the faithful spouse should seek help alone. It may be that a controlled separation is called for. Regardless, these are not waters that anyone should try to navigate alone.
Many marriages have been saved even when the unfaithful spouse wasn’t initially convinced that he or she wanted to remain in the marriage.
The betrayed spouse is confused about what he/she wants for the future.
The betrayed spouse can’t be expected to think clearly after he or she discovers the infidelity of his or her spouse. He or she is likely in shock and will need time to make decisions about the future. The best thing he or she can do is to take good care of his or her physical and mental health as much as possible. Sleep, nutrition, fresh air, beautiful surroundings, listening friends, and a strong faith in God can help to keep him or her grounded and as rational as possible.
Keep the lines of communication with your spouse open. Keep asking questions if you need to. Get relationship coaching. Avoid making any life-changing decisions for 3-6 months. Anyone who finds out his or her spouse has cheated on them needs time to make the choices that are best for his or her future.
Even if the answer about the future of the marriage isn’t readily discernible to the betrayed spouse, with guidance and time there is much hope for the survival of the marriage.
Your marriage isn’t over until it’s over. Even marriages that have seemed hopeless have reached tipping points that made all the difference. Give yourself time. Keep seeking wisdom. Take care of your emotional, spiritual and physical self. It isn’t always instantly clear what the future will look like, but your marriage and life are worth the patience and effort to proceed with hope.