Learning how to communicate again after experiencing infidelity is one of the most difficult obstacles one can experience in a lifetime. However, its worth putting in the work because a couple can never experience a deep connection emotionally if they cannot express themselves and feel understood. Infidelity is painful and creates so much uncertainty, pain, shame, and fear for couples. But while some partners feel an even greater wedge between them as a result of an extramarital affair, others may experience a deep (albeit uncomfortable) shift in their relationship that ultimately brings them closer together.
Strategies to Overcome Cheating in Your Marriage
Only you can know what’s right for you if your relationship is affected by infidelity. But if you and your spouse choose to navigate the stormy waters together after an affair has been revealed, these 5 tips might help.
- Take a step back and look for patterns.
There are certain situations in which attempting to stay in a marriage after an affair is unsafe. This includes situations in which one or both partners has an active addiction, is physically, verbally, and/or psychologically abusive, repeatedly steps out of the marriage (serial adultery), or engages in reckless behaviors that could cause harm (e.g., unprotected sex with multiple partners and drug or alcohol abuse).
So, before deciding to repair the painful damage caused by an extramarital affair, be sure to take the broader scope of the marriage into context and seek help right away if you are concerned for your safety.
- Establish a few ground rules.
The partner who committed adultery should feel genuine regret for their actions. Consider it a prerequisite for meaningful growth and transformation beyond this painful chapter in the marriage. You can glean whether your partner has remorse over what they did by having frank and honest discussions—and by trusting your own gut.
As for the partner who was cheated on, it’s important to express feelings freely and honestly but without resorting to insults, name-calling, or threats. If your goal is to save your marriage, then trying to belittle or hurt your spouse can backfire and even further erode the trust between you.
- Agree to full transparency but without demanding gratuitous details.
When thinking about how to talk to your spouse after cheating or being cheated on, the focus should always be on honesty. And while there’s no excuse for infidelity, it is helpful to understand the context in which the decision to cheat was made.
Was the adulterer facing unmet needs in their marriage? Has the couple been struggling with poor communication? Are there mental health issues involved? Your willingness to ask these difficult questions honestly is key to helping couples move past infidelity and learn how to avoid this situation again.
That said, people should generally avoid trying to get out all the nitty-gritty details about the affair partner and the affair itself. While it may scratch the curiosity itch, disclosing these details doesn’t always help move the discussion along in a constructive way and can lead to a renewed sense of pain all over again.
- Be patient but diligent.
Healing from betrayal takes time. Resist the temptation to bring up every single grievance from your past and instead focus on the matter at hand. Anticipate roadblocks and imperfect moments and be judicious about how many people you choose to tell about the affair. If your goal is to move past the affair and stay in your marriage, then the two of you should accept that rebuilding trust is a lengthy process. Take good care of your own mental and physical well-being and see if you can give each other some grace as you move through this together.
- Team up with a licensed marriage counselor.
Couples experiencing infidelity struggle with big emotions—including the sense of overwhelm in trying to unpack the origins of an affair and the ways in which future affairs can be avoided. A licensed marriage counselor can be an incredibly helpful resource because he or she can offer couples an objective and alternative perspective, tools and skills to communicate more effectively, and a safe, neutral space to discuss these big feelings.
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Has Your Marriage Been Impacted by Infidelity?
If you and your spouse would like help recovering from infidelity, contact The Marriage Restoration Project today to book a free clarity call with our Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin.