If you made the mistake of cheating and got caught, you may now be asking the question, “now what?”
Your marriage does not necessarily have to end because you had an affair. Even though admitting an affair to your spouse will cause much heartache and anger, your marriage can survive. This will only happen if you truly regret your decision to cheat and if you are not just having regrets that you got caught. If you decide to confess an affair, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons, not just to get rid of your own guilt.
Some people use affairs as a way to end the marriage. There is such immense unhappiness that an affair has developed to fill the void. Regardless of the reasons, some marriages will be salvageable and some might come to an end.
There are a number of reasons why a relationship might not survive an affair. When the betrayal is too painful or when both partners are not committed to mending the damage, it is likely that the marriage will end. Deciding the relationship is not salvageable after infidelity can be a painful but sometimes necessary conclusion.
If you both decide to try to save your marriage, there are steps you must take. To rebuild your marriage and heal the hurt and mistrust your spouse feels after you cheated, you will have several particulars that you need to accomplish:
This sounds simple enough, but you would be surprised how hard it is for people to end the affair once and for all. Your marriage cannot survive if you choose to continue to engage in infidelity. Do not have any contact whatsoever with the other person.
Quit making excuses for the affair. Do not try to justify your adultery. There is no justification for cheating. While there may have been a number of factors that contributed to your behavior, you need to remember that you chose your actions.
Do not blame your spouse. You had a choice. You could have ended your marriage before cheating, but you decided to have an affair. That’s on your shoulders alone. Apologize to your spouse. Blaming your partner for your own actions makes it more difficult for your spouse to rebuild the trust that it will take for your marriage to survive the affair.
Make a Decision
Decide if you want to stay married. Find out if your spouse wants to stay married. If you both want to save your marriage, then your marriage isn’t doomed. You both have a common goal. Both of you need to be committed to doing the work it will take to rebuild the trust and communication needed for your relationship to keep going.
You must be honest, with both yourself and with your spouse if you want to move forward. You will have to untangle the web of lies that were likely woven in order to cover up an affair. Now is the time for complete transparency, directness, and openness in order to help your relationship get to solid ground. Honesty in relationships is associated with lower conflict, but it is important for both partners to agree on these standards and talk about them often.
Keep Your Promises
If you say you are going to be somewhere, be there. If you say you are going to do something, do it. Be dependable and don’t break your promises. You can’t help your spouse rebuild trust if you are not dependable and reliable.
Your spouse’s trust level is low. Be open to let your spouse know where you are, who you are with, and so on. Do not be secretive or evasive. Hiding things from your partner will only deepen their mistrust in you and your commitment to the relationship. It is normal for your partner to feel betrayed and to be mistrustful. Acknowledge your spouse’s feelings and work toward rebuilding the trust that you have betrayed.
Research has shown that not being able to talk to one another is one of the most commonly cited reasons why marriages fail.3 Be willing to listen and talk to your partner.
Give Your Spouse Some Space
It is okay to take a “timeout” if emotions are running high or one of you is emotionally triggered. This does not mean you or your spouse will take off for an extended period of time. It just means that things need to cool down before you can be around each other again or talk about difficult topics.
Spend Time With Your Spouse
Along with letting your spouse have some alone time, you need to have together time too. Plan date nights and, when your spouse is ready, consider taking a getaway away together.
Do not expect your spouse to trust you again right away. It will take time to regain your spouse’s trust.
Agree to Get Professional Help
If your spouse wants to see a marriage counselor, say yes. Saying “no” shows you really aren’t serious about rebuilding your marriage. You need to be open to discussing and identifying issues and problems in your own personal life and in your marriage. Emotionally-focused couples therapy is a good modality for working through the pain of infidelity and to help rebuild new ways of interacting with each other.
While there is not a great deal of research on outcomes for couples who seek therapy after an affair, some evidence suggests that those who seek professional help often have optimistic results and are able to repair their relationship.
Accept the End of Your Marriage as You Know It
Even if you stay together, your marriage as you knew it ended with the affair. Build your new marriage together with honesty and love and look to your future together, not to the past.
Be Willing to Forgive
You need to forgive yourself. This doesn’t mean you can let yourself off the hook, but you don’t need to carry buckets of guilt for the rest of your life.
In one study looking at how couples rebuild their marriage after an affair, researchers found that while the process was difficult, forgiveness played a critical role. Other actions such as social support, changed couple dynamics, and counseling also played important roles.
A Word From Johnnywriter
You (or you both) may have been unhappy in your marriage for a long time. Cheating is not the answer as it is sure to make things worse, even if it felt good in the beginning. It is the courageous choice to see if you can honor your vows and do the necessary work to heal your relationship and move forward.