How to Heal After Infidelity: 2 Strategies That Could Save Your Marriage
By Bonnie Eaker Weil, Ph.D.

When adultery shatters their relationship, both partners lose something. The betrayed feel as if they will never be able to trust or love wholeheartedly again. The betrayers feel they will never again find such flawless, undemanding love.

Both sides must mourn these losses before they can change and move on. Like any grief, the sorrow for a dead relationship goes through stages: denial, anger, guilt and acceptance. All stages must be experienced before couples can find forgiveness and rebirth. The process requires great courage, determination and stamina -- but the reward is lasting Real-Life-Love. You cannot ignore or obliterate these feelings. You cannot forgive and reform your life while you are ruled by resentment, bitterness and hurt. You can't deny your emptiness, although a sad number of people try to do so.

What the Deceived Must Do

Allow yourself to regret the end of your old untarnished relationship. Do not, however, dwell in the past, sighing about how wonderful things used to be. Obviously, matters were not perfect, or no affair would have taken place!

Acknowledge both the good and bad aspects of the marriage and your contribution to each. Understand that your spouse is hurting too. It can be extraordinarily hard to abandon an affair. At the very least, your mate will miss the excitement and the uncomplicated passion and enjoyment -- the feel-good, chocolate-cake aspects of extramarital love. What's more, an unfaithful partner will feel guilt and sorrow for the pain inflicted on the spurned lover.

In most cases, a straying partner will feel agonizingly torn by love for both of you. When he protects the lover, he is really protecting a disowned part of himself. He perceives this as a last chance to redo his childhood and that's why severing this relationship may indeed feel like losing an arm or a leg.

I am not suggesting the betrayed excuse the affair -- just that they work to understand what caused it so that they may progress toward forgiveness and rebirth.

To revitalize the relationship, both parties must look back at their family patterns and forward to a new kind of loving. If you have always been a pursuer, for example, you will have to learn to distance yourself to recapture a runaway -- as my parents and many of my patients did. Remember, there are aspects of a runaway hidden in you too. If you pull back, you will be amazed to find the adulterer pursuing you.

The betrayed party must walk a thin line and be willing to show your partner the door, but not shut it in his face. Be firm about the need to give up the lover, but make sure he knows how much you love him. He needs to see that you are wiling to work and to fight for the marriage and that you believe you will succeed. Deep down, he is terrified to choose the other, whom he doesn't know that well, and lose you forever.

Since you are not focusing on the adulterer, you will be lonely -- reconnecting with your family of origin is a must and will help compensate for your pain.

What the Betrayer Must Do

First of all, you must renounce the adulterous affair in order to rebuild the marriage. No change in the relationship can occur as long as one partner keeps running to an escape hatch.

Let yourself feel your loss. Holding onto the promise of a perfect, utopian union will intensify your feelings of emptiness and anxiety. Face the damage you have done to the trust of not only your mate, but your children, parents, siblings and friends.

You must mourn both your dead romance and your battered relationship, and grieve over the childhood wounds that led you into this mess.

This is difficult depressing work, yet the adulterous partner must recognize the pain and uncertainty that has been inflicted and take responsibility. It is certainly cheaper and less painful than divorce, in any case -- and you're never really divorced when children are involved.

Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil is internationally acclaimed and one of America's best-known relationship experts; named by New York Magazine as one of the city's top therapists. For more information on Dr. Weil, visit:




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